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Shanghai Noir

The Dancing Girl and the Turtle: publication date 01.04.2017

Email backlogs bother me. I worry about all those unanswered messages, the reminders of things I should have done. This must be a hangover from my former life as a lawyer because these days my inbox is mostly full with literary journals. All the same, it makes me nervous when the virtual pile of unread magazines gets to be monumental and then I force myself to read. That moment of "duty" led to this week's blog post: Curve of the Land.

Because the August stories of the week in Narrative Magazine were packed with fiction and non-fiction about place. Because essays like Melanie Viet's Landskein spoke to me of the pleasures of gardening ("In the short growing season, I squeeze time from the sun with my hands.") And because thinking about the importance of place made me remember the magnificent Granta 119: Britain published in the spring of 2012. 

The Curve of the Land is about oil fields and city streets, a sheep shed and a path that is both land and water (pictured above). It's about the importance of setting in the writing of fiction and non-fiction, too. If a story is to be credible, the setting must feel real just as the characters must all be three-dimensional That, of course, doesn't mean that a novel can only be set in a real place, as the Wonderlands of Lewis Carroll and Haruki Murakami so aptly prove.

Sometimes the setting can be the whole point of the book, as is the case in The Line Becomes a River. Author Francisco Cantú has been drawing rave reviews and live protests for his memoir of the time when he was a Border Patrol agent. You can read my review of his wonderful book in La Migra.

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