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Shanghai Noir

The Dancing Girl and the Turtle: publication date 01.04.2017

This lovely swan marks the start of a water route through the Nieuwkoopse Plassen. That's a nature reserve here in Holland that once was an old bog where turf was harvested for fuel. Now it's a gorgeous maze of narrow waterways flush with blackberries and lakes where water lilies bloom.

I spent the afternoon on the water with my writer friends Jackie and Tori. There we were in our three woman canoe unable to steer to save our lives. We got lost straight off but we kept our cool. An old geezer called us the Three Graces. It was fun.

There are many reasons I'm grateful to be living in the Netherlands and this is one of them. Another is the fact that I learned to speak Dutch. My primary motive at the time was to be able to eavesdrop on conversations. Dutch is certainly not a practical language given how few people speak it. But to learn another language is to meet a different side of yourself. Tori says she's funnier in Persian because, like Yiddish, it lends itself to well to obfuscation.

More and more people are learning English as a second language with a much more pragmatic motive in mind. In countries ranging from Korea to South Sudan, command of the English language is seen as aspirational. You have to wonder, though, with all the time and energy devoted to English, what's going on with all the other languages. That's the topic of this week's blog post: Mother Tongues.

When you're out on the water for hours with a bunch of writers, tongues will wag. About what you're writing and above all what you're reading. So I told Jackie and Tori I'd just finished reading Portnoy's Complaint and Jackie told me that probably wasn't the best introduction to Philip Roth. Well, too late. Maybe you can guess what I thought of Roth's bestseller by the title of my book review: The Putz.

For those of you who are in the Netherlands, I've got some great news. Starting October 2, I'll be teaching a Level I writing class at the International Writers' Collective. Woo hoo! It's a morning class from 10am to 12pm on Tuesdays. It'll run for eight weeks and I'm really excited. See you there?

Violent Femmes
Reading with Your Ears
Finding Nemo (aka the Perfect Critique Group)
Angel Island

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