At Harpers Bazaar, Alexandra Chang interviews Amy Tan on a recently documentary made about her life, as well as the enduring legacy of her debut novel, The Joy Luck Club. “When I started writing The Joy Luck Club, for some of the stories, I imagined what my mother was trying to say to me,” Tan explains. “One of the stories, ‘Magpies,’ was about the girl who goes to live with her mother and this rich man her mother has married as his fourth wife, who later kills herself after her son was born. That is probably the most factually true story. That was the one where I tried to very much imagine my mother’s voice telling me this story and what it means. It’s been a constant learning experience about the importance of the imagined listener. It has to be somebody who knows what I’m capable of understanding and then helping me to understand.
It’s about an hour away from 5 o’clock over here, so that gives you plenty of time to read Chris Newgent’s “No-Bull Bourbon Review” on Hobart’s website. “A true bourbon,” Newgent writes, “is a bourbon with a story worth remembering.” Agreed. And so would Walker Percy.
If the description “a comic thriller about mermaids, the natural world and ruthless capitalism” isn’t enough to pique your interest, you might be inspired to pick up Lydia Millet’s latest by the title of Laura Miller’s review, which describes Millet as “the P.G. Wodehouse of environmental writing.” At Salon, the book critic goes into the many reasons she enjoys Millet’s work, among them the author’s knack for deploying humor at appropriate times. FYI, Millet wrote an article for The Millions recently.
Great news for food lovers and over-thinkers everywhere: Gastronomica, the James Beard Award winning journal that takes a highminded approach to food and taste, recently began publishing writing online. Start with this lovely long article on the competition between Chinese and French black truffles. Or with a slightly cheeky revision of Pierre Bourdieu’s food space, if that’s more your, um, cup of tea.
Andrew Marantz reviews R. Kelly’s “breezy” and “revealing” memoir, Soulacoaster: The Diary of Me, for The New Yorker’s book blog, Page-Turner. This might be what they meant when they said they were “rebooting” the Book Bench. (Related: hear Gary Oldman read some passages from the book.)
After earning herself a “test run” writer’s residency aboard an Amtrak train, Jessica Gross reflects on the virtues and benefits of writing by railcar. Meanwhile, Alexander Chee announces he’ll be writing on the rails from New York City to Portland this Spring. You can read some more information about the program over here.