A “Book of Records” (or shī shū, the Book of Songs and the Book of History, see p 187) sounds odd to call Madeleine Thien’s long awaited criticism on her family history, on her culture, and on her heritage, but Do Not Say We Have Nothing incorporates a bit of everything from Madeleine’s life: she was born in Canada while her mother is a Hong Kong Chinese and her father is a Malaysian Chinese. In the book, Canada, Hong Kong, and China are the main settings while time crosses several generations in a story where two young girls must deal with tragedy and loss.
“You are the creator of reality, and yet you have no idea how you do it—the process is effortless… In ancient India, the Vedic sages declared Aham Brahmasmi, which can be translated as ‘I am the Universe’ or ‘I am everything.’ They arrived at this knowledge by diving deep into their own awareness, where astonishing discoveries were made…
“We have an agenda, which is to show that this is a participatory universe that depends for its very existence on human beings…
“A conscious universe responds to how we think and feel. It gains its shape, color, sound, and texture from us. Therefore, we feel the best name for it is the human universe, and it is the real universe, the only one we have” (pgs 3-4).
“The painting that had impressed them, entitled Say Hello to My Little Friend, was an acrylic rendering of a marmoset doing cocaine. In the painting the small primate hunched on a coffee table in front of a pile of white powder, some of which it had been divided into lines. The animal clasped a razor blade in its little hand. Its head was tilted back, its snout was dusted with powder, and its gaping mouth exposed two needle-like lower incisors” (pgs 65-67).
“A friend who had visited Baghdad’s Green Zone said that Harvard Business School felt eerily familiar. Whatever hell befell the rest of Iraq, the Green Zone was made luxurious with palm trees, swimming pools, and functioning electricity. Its occupants cocooned themselves from the unfolding horror so that they could focus on the broader mission of rebuilding a country. So, too, HBS smacks of an ivory tower, cut off from the world outside” (p 50).
30 Principles to Live By
1. Don’t criticize, condemn or complain (p 17)
2. Give honest and sincere appreciation (p 31)
3. Arouse in the other person an eager want (p 50)
4. Become genuinely interested in other people (p 65)
5. Smile (p 74)
“On some subjects—for instance, writers’ workshops—one is tempted to pull punches or rest satisfied with oversimplified answers; but I’m assuming, as the primary reader of this book, an intensely serious beginning novelist who wants the strict truth (as I perceive it) for his life’s sake, so that he can plan his days of technique, theory, and attitude; and become as quickly and efficiently as possible a master of his craft” (p xxii).
“The iron horse still rumbled through the tunnel when she woke. Lumbly’s words returned to her: If you want to see what this nation is all about, you have to ride the rails. Look outside as you speed through, and you’ll find the true face of America. It was a joke, then, from the start. There was only darkness outside the windows on her journeys, and only ever would be darkness” (pgs. 262-263).
“The whole process—sitting at your desk, focusing your mind like a laser beam, imagining something out of a blank horizon, creating a story, selecting the right words, one by one, keeping the whole flow of the story on track—requires far more energy, over a long period, than most people ever imagine. You might not move your body around, but there’s grueling, dynamic labor going on inside you. Everybody uses their mind when they think. But a writer puts on an outfit called narrative and thinks with his entire being; and for the novelist that process requires putting into play all your physical reserve, often to the point of overexertion” (pgs 78-80).
“Norse Mythology (2017) by Neil Gaiman, the British writer, is a bit of a disappointment since much of his 2017 text has been found to closely resemble in structure and delivery (as you will soon see) many videos on Norse mythology posted on the video-sharing website called YouTube. In addition, written as though his book would be for young adults, many of the stories Gaiman chooses to write about are often not suitable for readers under the age of eighteen due to sexual content and extreme acts of violence.”
We are, however, all too familiar with the penchant judges and editors have for writers located in the coastal regions of the United States. From the list, the affiliated universities relating to the winners’ education and/or employment were found to be primarily located in the eastern coastal region of the United States: namely the New England Region and the Eastern Coastal Region which had an incredible 92 associated wins, the bulk of those coming from institutions in the state of New York (thought provoking); California, on the west coast, had an accredited 7 wins. Predictably and regrettably, since New York State and its institutions had the most associated wins by far for any state or region, the Pulitzer Prize in Novel/Fiction becomes, without question, the least diverse of all the book awards inside the United States of America.