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Peacock by Bouke de Vries. Photo credit: Karen Kao

Shanghai Noir

The Dancing Girl and the Turtle: publication date 01.04.2017

Back in the day, I was a networking animal. I would attend cocktail parties, weekend conferences, whatever it took to rub elbows with clients and potential clients. You need a certain kind of personality to do this kind of thing. A thick skin helps.

The peacock pictured above is the work of Bouke de Vries. He's a Dutch ceramicist who went online and to auctions to acquire shards of Chinese porcelain. He then assembled those relics into this old and new, East meets West work of art. You can find this peacock at the Ceramics Museum Princessehof in Leeuwarden, the Netherlands and its human equivalents at any business networking event.

I thought those days were behind me but last week I found myself networking at a craft talk. This is an informal group of writers who meet monthly to talk about all things craft. I'm not referring to macrame or hand-thrown pots but point of view, narrative arc and voice.

Out of that discussion came the inspiration for this week's blog post: Skin in the Game. It seems that US publishers have turned to sensitivity readers to decide when a manuscript might be offensive to a marginalized group. Is this censorship creep or a stop-gap measure en route to an ideal world of books filled with diverse voices?

One such voice is that of Iraqi writer Ahmed Saadawi. His novel, Frankenstein in Baghdad, is about a corpse that comes alive in US-occupied Iraq, ready to seek justice for the innocent. Thanks to the translation into English by Jonathan Wright, this book is now on the shortlist for the Man Booker International prize. Dark, cynical, surreal in a way that only war can be, Body Parts is my review of this magnificent book.

You'll be seeing this review sometime soon on the website of Boekhandel van Rossum. And in the form of a #bookstagram when and if I figure out how it works. To be continued.

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