It’s a common saying among actors that the script does most of the work. Which raises an interesting question: is it possible for a great writer to make art out of a bad story? At The Kenyon Review’s blog, Amit Majmudar says it is, using Shakespeare as proof. Related: five experts on the Bard’s greatest plays.
I didn’t expect to find a Chinese poem more ornate than Su Hui’s palindromic, pre-oulipan “Xuanji Tu,” but apparently I underestimated myself. Here’s “Lion-Eating Poet in the Stone Den,” a 92-character poem by Yuen Ren Chao which relies on the tonal variations of a single sound (shi) to tell the story of a “lion addict” with a taste for big cats. For a really crazy experience, I recommend listening to the poem being read aloud.
In most portrayals of Cold War espionage, both Communist and capitalist spies appear wedded to their respective ideologies. Yet real spies, as the FBI knows, often have more nebulous motivations. In the Times Book Review, Ben MacIntyre reads the latest by Ha Jin, which centers on a Chinese spy embedded in suburban Virginia.