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.
“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).
“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).
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.
“The first basic truth is that Soul, the real you,” explains McLendon, “is eternally happy. Soul is joyous in the knowledge that its Creator loves it. Your prime duty here on earth is to reflect that love in your present life. Soul lacks nothing. Soul is complete. When your vibrations are in harmony with Spirit, love and well-being are magnetically drawn to act through you. You become a conduit for expansion… You must intentionally become what you desire” (pgs 32-33).
“It’s not even accurate to call it the past, for the events related in these pages didn’t occur in the past. The details that have been preserved are already abundant. Sealed in floating bottles, they will hopefully reach the new universe and endure there” (p 11).
“And he remembered as one remembers a dream long past how O-lan rested from her work a little while and fed the child richly and the white rich milk ran out of her breast and spilled upon the ground. And this seemed too long past ever to have been” (p 301).
“But lately, don’t ask why, I’ve no taste for comedy, no inclination to exercise, even if I had the space, no delight in fire or earth, in words that once revealed a golden world of majestical stars, the beauty of poetic apprehension, the infinite joy of reason. These admirable radio talks and bulletins, the excellent podcasts that moved me, seem at best hot air, at worst a vaporous stench. The brave polity I’m soon to join, the noble congregation of humanity, its customs, gods and angels, its fiery ideas and brilliant ferment, no longer thrill me. A weight bears down heavily on the canopy that wraps my little frame. There’s hardly enough of me to form one small animal, still less to express a man. My dispositions is to stillborn sterility, then to dust” (p 91).
“When I got to the sixth veil, I went over to the Shiva statue, simulated an orgasm, and cast myself to the ground while removing the seventh and final veil.
“For a few moments I did not hear a single sound from the audience—from where I was lying, I could not see anyone, and they seemed petrified or horrified. Then came the first ‘Bravo,’ spoken by a female voice, and soon the whole room rose for a standing ovation. I got up with one arm covering my breasts and the other extended to cover my sex” (pgs 59-60).