Those of us interested in mystery series, crime novels, and police procedurals are usually on the lookout for the next series by a newcomer that is goThose of us interested in mystery series, crime novels, and police procedurals are usually on the lookout for the next series by a newcomer that is going to excite us. A Korean-American private investigator called Juniper Song headlining a series set in L.A. looked promising, and I jumped in at book #3 in the series to see what Steph Cha had done with the form.
The voice in this novel is young, smart, and challenging. Song widens our eyes with her opener:
“When I was twenty-two, I sold three sets of eggs for a total of $48,000. I was broke, bored, and quietly depressed, and had no strength to fight the call of easy money… …Apparently, [Asian-American egg donors] commanded high premiums for rarity on the market…”
Everything about Song’s story as it unfolds in this installment of her adventures is current, relevant, and raises important issues designed to make us think…think not only about her perspective as an Asian-American woman but also about corporate law, the Armenian genocide of the early 20th century, online shaming and stalking, and surrogacy in childbearing. There is a lot going on, but Cha manages it handily.
The fictional private eye Philip Marlowe and his creator, Raymond Chandler, are mentioned explicitly in this novel more than once, drawing our eye to parallels Cha hopes to highlight. There is a hard-boiled, noirish feel to this piece, despite its clear generational separation from those earlier novels. The comparisons are still a bit aspirational, as there were areas in this novel that did not measure up to the more limited word count of the Marlowe detections.
What did work was the somewhat world-weary tone Song takes in the beginning, which is plenty hard to pull off for a twenty-something with a degree from Yale. Somehow Song manages to make us believe she is one of those disaffected bright young things who is simply bored with the more usual job prospects she could be seeking out. Cha perhaps plays a bit with our stereotypes and expectations about terribly bright Asians here, but she has my sympathies for this approach, and I could laugh soundlessly with her. Besides, intelligence can be used to make most jobs interesting, and in this case, she would have missed out on private detection if she had been more aggressive uncovering well-paid employment opportunities.
What also paralleled Marlowe and worked well was the consistently moral standpoint from which Song conducted her investigations and follow-ups. She had to make some tough decisions about people that may not have been completely straightforward, but her real-life judgments about truth and honesty asked a complicated question about where those two things got everyone in the end.
The final half of the book was beautifully fluent, well thought-out, and moved at a pace befitting the more usual form of a crime novel or police procedural. The first half was workman-like, explanatory, and needed tightening. Young women were the focus of this novel, but sometimes their thought processes, chatty conversations, and questionable choices are simply not interesting enough to hold our attention.
Overall, the attempt to raise important, thoughtful issues in a crime novel and its unusual point of view through the eyes of a Korean-American elevated this genre novel beyond its peers. Though I liked the idea of a brainy woman pulling off an escape from some pretty rough characters in this novel, it did occur to me that her lack of physical prowess might be a hard sell down the line. Perhaps Juniper needs to take some exercise in the form of self-protection skills that might be more useful to her than the gun she yearns to carry....more
The 2016 Preface to this collection of stories invokes Edgar Allen Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Dorothy Sayers, and Agatha Christie. James mentions that sThe 2016 Preface to this collection of stories invokes Edgar Allen Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Dorothy Sayers, and Agatha Christie. James mentions that short story mysteries are challenging to write because the author must give their psychological studies an immediate point, without all the space that a novel presents, all in service to the surprise and satisfaction of the reader. Agatha Christie is explicitly mentioned in at least one story, but it is Sayers and Conan Doyle who I think are evoked most completely. This collection brings together four very short detective stories all centered on the Christmas season and, no matter when James actually wrote her preface, there can be no doubt that these are a substantial Christmas gift to her readers.
I listened to the Penguin Random House (Faber Audio) production of this book, and enjoyed them absolutely. The stories are not new: one was written in 1969, another in 1979, 1995, 1996. It may be possible to find the stories elsewhere, but I am going to recommend you listen to these. Altogether the reading is about 3 hours, and the time spent listening places you way back in time, out of your daily life and into the early 20th Century, recalling a time when the mystery greats were stalking the earth.
Born in 1920, James centers her first story, "The Mistletoe Murders", about the time she in real life married Ernest Connor Bantry White, an army doctor, in 1941. Her husband White developed a psychological illness during World War II, and James subsequently had to support the family which included two young daughters. She did not begin writing until the 1950s, but from the time of the war she worked in hospital administration for a London hospital board, a job she held until her husband died in the mid-1960’s, two years after her first novel featuring Adam Dalgliesh, called Cover her Face, was published. James then took a position as a civil servant within the criminal section of the Home Office. [info courtesy of Wikipedia].
There are two Dalgliesh stories in this collection, both deliciously demonstrating his unrivaled talent for observation and deduction, which prompts one character in “The Twelve Clues of Christmas” to compare him to Ms. Marple. Dalgliesh was of course a man in a man’s world and was recognized as a great detective by his own colleagues and those of the local constables. It is reassuring for me to find in this story the understanding of the staff of a local CID is quite up to the standards of the Met, though they allow Dalgliesh to strut his stuff before they take the case in hand themselves, on Christmas Day.
Each of these stories have James’ special intelligence and quiet control about them. If I had to choose a favorite from among these, it might be the first story, “The Mistletoe Murders,” which reveals the abyss most creepily, the dark river flowing beneath the surface of our world.
This CD set or audio download is a great Christmas treat for parents or anyone who appreciates stories told in the vein of those earlier great mystery story-tellers, Conan Doyle, Sayers, Christie, and Poe. The reading is done most ably by TV and film star Jenny Agutter and Daniel Weyman, narrator of the complete series of Dalgliesh novels. Publication date is set for October 25, 2016. Of course the set will be available in e-reader and paper formats as well. Don’t miss these little gems....more
For months now nearly every piece of fiction I’ve read has a character in it that reminds me of America’s presidential candidate, the infamous DonaldFor months now nearly every piece of fiction I’ve read has a character in it that reminds me of America’s presidential candidate, the infamous Donald Trump, perhaps because he is larger than life. Earlier this year, the New York Times commissioned short stories about the election, and then published this one by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in their newspaper available to read anytime by subscribers. I have just learned that Penguin Random House is publishing an audio version that will available for download October 25th.
Adichie mentioned in an interview that she patterned the story on Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, but my sense of Adichie’s story is far more Shakespearean, or Greek tragedy-ish. (Not having read Mrs. Dalloway recently, perhaps I am missing an obvious parallel.) Adichie makes the Trump women “clever as foxes,” which was my impression as well. Not only do they work hard at their beauty, which anyone with any sense will realize is an obvious advantage they are by now well-skilled at controlling, but they are astonishingly resilient and forgiving, which only comes from understanding, which comes with a certain amount of knowing. Clever as foxes.
I recommend this read or listen for the opportunity to imagine the whole big familial tragedy of Trump’s run for president. Thanks to Adichie to making the effort to add her imagination and skill (and the twist).
The PRH audio version is quite good, getting Melania’s accent down almost perfectly, though the reader, January Savoy, hammers the American accent pretty hard when it comes time for Janelle or Ivanka to speak. Anyway, the whole thing is amusing. You will be surprised at the twist in the story, and it all takes less than a half hour....more
Somewhere in the middle of this book I experienced a moment of unrestrained joy. It came from the novelist’s art. He was able to twist me around, follSomewhere in the middle of this book I experienced a moment of unrestrained joy. It came from the novelist’s art. He was able to twist me around, following the unexamined actions and attitudes of a confused 30-year-old struggling architect from Spain who had just been dumped by his girlfriend. Much of the joy came from the novelist showing me his chagrin at the heart and soul and underdeveloped mind of a young man under duress.
The young man travels to Germany with his girlfriend to defend his landscape architecture project for an international prize before a jury. The novel opens with his girlfriend dumping him by email, an email missent to him. He becomes disoriented, and a day later he is fumbling through the streets of Munich with his suitcase. It hits us viscerally. We’ve been there. But almost immediately the young man turns his anger and disappointment on his competitors in the landscape competition, which compromises our affection for him. He is taken home by a 63-year-old conference organizer, and proceeds to insist himself on her sexually.
The whole bedroom scene is etched in spell-binding detail, down to the uncomfortable moment he fingers the underpants of a woman not expecting a moment of intimacy. She fairly clearly (they are both drunk) resists his advances, but finally concludes that resistance is futile. The result is a conclusion each think of as a “pity fuck,” the young man chortling over the details to his friends later.
It is a gorgeously written, naked, painful, seeing moment. We watch as the callow young man stumbles into a job that suits him, and it is somewhere here that I experience the joy I spoke of. It comes when we realize the novel is not really about Beto, the young man. The meaning of the novel comes from Helga, the older woman, and her fears and understanding about the passing of time, and how life changes and fades one’s ambitions. The pity fuck was all on her side, and eventually the young man begins to see her, the German mütter, with her heavy breasts hanging to her waist and her dry cunt and her understanding and acceptance of all that life is.
Every review I have seen of this novel mentions David Trueba’s unforgettable earlier novel, Four Friends (or Cuatro amigos) and compares this one unfavorably. I haven’t read Trueba’s earlier work, but just reading this novel makes me think he is something very special indeed. It isn’t just the young male viewpoint in this novel, but how Trueba brings us along to admiration and acceptance and real feeling for both characters. The idiocy and dignity of human beings capable of compassion is equally on display.
Trueba is a novelist as well as a well-respected actor, screenwriter, and film director in Spain. His brother Fernando won a Best Foreign Language Oscar in 1994 for the film Belle Epoque, and David's film, Living is Easy with Eyes Closed, was nominated in 2015 for Best Foreign Language Film. The movie, about John Lennon's roadtrip in Spain, swept the prestigious Goya Awards the year before. The synergy of David Trueba’s set of skills creates, in screenplays or in novels, quick, sharply-focussed images that we recognize from pain and distress or joy in our own lives. A prop, a bottle of vodka with a blade of grass resting at the bottom, is the “gun” in this novel, the object that once brandished, means something consequential is about to take place.
The paperback copy of this novel has included several color plates that are so sudden and so unexpected that one actually experiences a kind of gratitude. One plate is a photograph of a postcard of an unnamed bay in Mallorca on a glorious, sunny day, the photo showing the rooftops of several gargantuan summer homes for vacationing Europeans and a few boats dotting an aqua inlet. The other plates are relevant to the story and imbue the work with a richness and glamour. There is also an excellent, absurd pen-and-ink drawing of Beto as he stands before the sum total of his life to that time.
This is a hilarious, painful, meaningful novel that has a sophisticated European feel, despite the ordinariness of the lives of the characters. I am delighted to be introduced to the work of David Trueba. I’ll be looking for his films, and of course the much-lauded Cuatro amigos. Many thanks to Other Press for finding this and sharing the wealth. ...more
How impoverished would the world be without the French? Olivier Magny, whose qualification to expound upon the French way of life is without qualificaHow impoverished would the world be without the French? Olivier Magny, whose qualification to expound upon the French way of life is without qualification (he was born in France, grew up in France, and runs a business in France), pokes some fun (love of Nutella, love of rap music, inability to dance) but mixes in surprisingly astute social and political commentary on the nature and attitudes of the French for those of us who do not travel there frequently. Arising from the success of Magny’s blog and an earlier book called Stuff Parisians Like, this book carries his cultural introductions further and deeper.
Magny shares some of what he considers the most beautiful places in France, pointing out the wide range of regions and styles: “Whether you’re drawn to beautiful beaches, mountains, hills, plains, lakes, river, cold water or warm water, dry weather or wet weather, arid vegetation or lush forests, chances are France has it somewhere.” Which makes us especially curious when he tells us that Anglo-Saxons, comprising Great Britain and America, and often New Zealand, Australia, and Canada, are lumped into one category of human that the French have no need, nor any desire, to examine in detail. Les Anglo-Saxons are to blame for most of the drinking and warmongering in the world, but also have admirable business practices, good universities, and research. By analogy, perhaps we shouldn’t be lumping “the French” in anything like a monolithic category.
"Since the inception of Vatican II, France went from being…the first child of the Catholic Church to being one of the least religious countries on earth. Among the general public, the Church went from being viewed as a profoundly respected and heeded institution to being an inaudible and questionable organization…the tremendous surge of Islam is a response to the collapse of the Catholic Church…While official reports continue to claim that Catholicism is still the number one religion in France—which happens to be impossible to prove since the French state is prohibited from keeping such statistics—there is no doubt that if it is still the case (which is unlikely), it won’t be for long."
In another section, Magny tries to explain the rise of the far-right nationalist party in France. Many Western countries are experiencing the same phenomenon, and the phrases Magny uses to describe “the switch over to the extreme right” has many parallels in the U.S. We are not alone, then, in our population's severe disaffection with politicians in government, and the media’s horrorstricken and ineffectual analyses. Magny's discussion deepens our understanding of how flattening the wealth pyramid has worked out in France.
This book is meaty, considering the essays max out at three or four pages for each topic, and is unfailingly interesting. After a few more serious topics including immigration, police, and three(!) sections on taxes, Magny returns to a lighter note, discussing the haircuts of older women, pessimism, divorce, TV debates, how speaking English is now cool, and the comment thread in online communication. Absolutely surprising was the low rate (to me) of daily wine consumption in France and the fact that younger French are being influenced by America’s fascination with wine to drink it in greater amounts. And the omnipresence of yogurt in every refrigerator.
Most of us remember a hunger for French panache and elegance in design and style, but Magny tells us that has changed in France these days. “Aiming high has become suspicious,” and therefore folks are looking more for value and convenience. It is an absolute change in focus, quality, and lifestyle that changes the meaning of France for many of us. “France is the worst country to make money in, but is the best one to spend it in.” This statement opens the door to yet another discussion of taxes and how “very few people are sitting on a very large stack of cash. Savings and generational wealth are almost unheard-of in France.”
This extraordinary collection of essays is completely engrossing to someone tangentially acquainted with France and its systems. Magny must have some critics. The more we know the more we'd be able to critique this work. Can all France's problems be laid at the feet of a leftist mentality in education and government? The best thing this book does is make us look, really look at France with a questioning eye. We aren't tourists anymore.
Magny takes a stab at examining the real roots of cultural change. Many essays include suggestions for further online research into French taxes, governance, music, film, and TV celebrities, suggestions given with the equivalent of a Gallic shrug: “If you don’t believe me, check it out for yourselves and make up your own mind.” Thought-provoking and much deeper in tone than I was expecting from a book of this type, the book should spur some discussion and counter theories by others who have some experience living and working in France.
Intriguing, easy to read, and worth seeking out. Makes great conversation starters if one is going to France....more
This novel in the Tana French series about Irish murder detective Antoinette Conway is universally loved and considered among her best in a long lineThis novel in the Tana French series about Irish murder detective Antoinette Conway is universally loved and considered among her best in a long line of terrific mystery novels. Why? There is little action in this novel. It is a novel of psychologies and pathologies.
The writing brings us deeply into the internal politics of a murder squad and expresses the difficulty of a woman operating in a rough environment hung with grisly soul-destroying murders. The male camaraderie inside the squad means that little concession is made for women with different histories, priorities, manners, and habits. Other women detectives Antoinette had known didn’t want to fight the scum-stain perps outside and their own colleagues inside. Antoinette is in the middle of making that very decision for herself during the period of the novel.
Antoinette is driven and bright, but she also has a chip on her shoulder that may lead her to attribute motives to colleagues inappropriately. Certainly she has been hazed by older detectives, so she has some cause for paranoia, but not everyone wants her to fail. In this novel she is chosen along with Stephen, a man everyone likes, to handle a case that looks straightforward…and turns out anything but.
French does the thought processes and conversation and hidden meanings so well that even from this distance we feel the cut of the sly put-downs and deflections, and the terror of facing very experienced actors in the interview rooms. The older male detectives in this novel reveal that they couldn't care less why a suspect might commit a crime, and are just happy to put someone down for the crime if it increases their solve-rate, whether or not it makes perfect sense.
Antoinette pursues the psychological in all her interviews. Cops conducting interviews must mask their feelings and intentions and the suspect must survive insinuation or barrage on their most closely held secrets. It is hurtful on both sides. One can only be steeped in slime for so long before it feels like it covers everything.
It’s French’s language that is so entrancing: her fresh insults and filthy descriptions of perps and coworkers stun us into laughter, making the old story of murder feel new. She also leads us astray several times, mentioning red herrings that we hang onto long past the time we should have jettisoned them.
Antoinette is able to twist us around her finger because we trust her vision. She can be cruel, dismissive, and suspicious but she goes after bad guys like a rottweiler. We'd want her on our side, but we wouldn't want her suspecting us of doing wrong. Readers convince themselves she is the honest and upstanding cop, unwilling to close ranks with male colleagues she doesn’t trust even as we begin to wonder if she isn’t being unreasonable. How can one person have so much going on inside? French almost loses our sympathy for Antoinette with her anger and admissions of her self-deceptions.
In this case, a young woman Aislinn has a makeover into a slim, slick magazine image of herself and ends up dead. The case has the appearance of an off-the-shelf “domestic.” Antoinette and Stephen initially feel disrespected when they are specifically chosen for the assignment, but their wide-open instincts turn up pieces that do not fit in a point-and-solve case.
One element of the story that left me feeling unsure was the thread that involved Antoinette’s father. A big piece of Antoinette’s identity involves her dark (what used to be called swarthy) skin and largish nose, presumably from her father’s side, and the notion of Antoinette as fatherless child who struggled with belonging.
Her father appears in this novel, and we are meant to notice his accent and clothes are high-tone British, and his facial features resemble his daughter's, but we get nothing of him as a person. French clearly left this thread for another day, but why introduce him at all? And why doesn’t the mere sight of him inspire a quenchless curiosity in Antoinette? He clearly wants to make contact, though in a queer and underhanded way. Is he a spook? Will French take Antoinette on a wider world tour in future novels and expand her reach into international intrigue? Is he the trespasser of the title? Or is the trespasser one on the squad?
I listened to the Penguin Audio production of this book, read by Hilda Fay. The Irish accents are the beauty of the listening experience, and I wouldn't have wanted to miss them. The fresh insults Antoinette thinks up to describe a person she disdains can be particularly toothsome in Irish brogue. And Fay does Breslin's greasy speaking style to perfection. Highly recommended. -----------------
This sure is a pretty book. For creatives and artists, it is positively inspirational. The book is mostly photographs of things which form patterns inThis sure is a pretty book. For creatives and artists, it is positively inspirational. The book is mostly photographs of things which form patterns in nature, and the photographs are colorized to make the patterns stand out. My favorite pictures are fine grains on flat surfaces that form different patterns when disturbed by sound waves. The astonishing wave patterns have been named Chladni figures.
The other thing I thought one of the coolest thing I've ever seen is a picture of Fingal's Cave on the Isle of Staffa in Scotland. Cracks have formed highly regular six-sided posts of basalt. Something similar can be found at a place in California called Devil's Postpile: columnar cracks in the side of a hill. Unbelievably cool.
There is a little commentary that goes along with the photos, but I found it inadequate. I'm sure there is a lot of science and math that should go along with understanding all the causes, etc., but I'd still like to see what's probably happening, for instance, when there are regular patterns on drying clay. No matter, I'll keep looking....more
What an ugly and dark book this is, then. It probably is a good thing this is not Moshfegh’s first contribution to the world of arts and letters, thouWhat an ugly and dark book this is, then. It probably is a good thing this is not Moshfegh’s first contribution to the world of arts and letters, though this is apparently a debut novel. She’d won awards and recognition for her short stories and a novella in the past, and has received all sorts of recognition with this work.
Yes, I see the resemblance to Shirley Jackson. Was it at that level of skill? Probably. The language is very fluent…glossy and smooth…even if the subject matter is shocking, very shocking, in what it reveals of the inner lives of what Moshfegh calls “ordinary folk.” Grotesque. Depressed. Depressing. But Shirley Jackson caught something we didn’t want to see. I think Moshfegh may have captured something that wasn’t there.
By that I mean that the first section of the novel is so unrelieved in its blackness that it is missing truth. Moshfegh injects a sick humor into the observations of Eileen, but it only makes us squirm uncomfortably. The view from a damaged psyche ignores wider truths also present in the world.
When I read others’ reviews I can see that none of them were able to quite prepare me for this novel because Moshfegh writes what others cannot. Even the publisher description doesn’t come close to conveying the greasy residue of choices not made, the stench of dead dreams. But how adroitly Moshfegh gives us to understand her escape—not for a moment was I confused when she finally slipped the bonds of her early life and dodged into the traffic of what was to come.
(view spoiler)[Eileen quickly jettisons her fascination with the prison guard, Randy, when Rebecca, the Harvard psych grad, comes on the scene. Eileen describing the efforts she makes to attract Rebecca are cringe-worthy, right down to her stealing a tube of too-bright red lipstick and the golden blanket of the baby Jesus from the town creche. She is radically twisted…until she hears a growing-up story even more grotesque than her own. That seems to set her straight. (hide spoiler)]
The first time I read this interview with Moshfegh published in The Guardian, I had a bad reaction to the author. The second time I read it, I’d already finished the book, and had a different reaction. Moshfegh sounds like an arrogant thing, but she has some reason. She is an extravagantly talented writer. I’d need to see her other work before I come to the conclusion that she has some way to go to be happy. Money and fame won’t fix whatever it is she lacks.
Actually, I kind of agree with both positive and negative reviews of this book, including this one in the Irish Times, which eviscerates it. The beginning portion was self-indulgently (too) long and the whole could have been reduced to a short story. Revising my star rating to reflect my utter hatred of the first portion, though I was terribly impressed with the latter half. Her next one better not go anyway near this level of disaffection or I'm out. No one can live like that.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Emotions are funny things…some flit through us at the speed of light, barely registering on our face or consciousness, while others linger, hovering oEmotions are funny things…some flit through us at the speed of light, barely registering on our face or consciousness, while others linger, hovering over us, coloring our perceptions of each new day. Descartes thought here were six basic emotions: wonder, love, hatred, desire, joy, and sadness, but most of us can name several more of which we have intimate knowledge.
There are emotions that we experience only once or twice in a lifetime and yet someone somewhere has probably identified and named that particular feeling. It is reassuring and something joyous, I think, to discover that some strong emotion is shared. Tiffany Watt Smith does not attempt a comprehensive catalog, but she makes the excellent point that we need more words for our feelings rather than trying to narrow the breadth and width of human experience into discrete and limited categories. It is a marvelous, revelatory read.
Watt Smith worked in theatre before beginning an academic career. Somehow that seems entirely appropriate to emotion-spotting. An actor with a range of experiences may need some prompting on how they should feel about a certain scene, and the words help to place them in a context. Or perhaps the actors are teaching us as audience an emotion we instinctively recognize but have never been able to put into words.
The book is filled with a sense of good humor. Even in definitions of those feelings we would be happy to do without, like disappointment and despair, Watt Smith does not leave us feeling bereft. She always puts in a little upswing at the end which shows us the way out, or makes us smile in relief and pleasure that we are not there now.
I particularly liked her discussion of compassion in which she recognizes that
”For Tibetan Buddhists, the wish to free a person from suffering is ideally experienced in equanimity, with a quiet confidence. For many of us, however, compassion is considerably more anxious territory…requiring a person to discover very vulnerable parts of themselves…Only the wisest can bend themselves to another’s pain without being rendered numb and helpless themselves: the “compassion fatigue” we hear about in the caring professions today.”
Her discussion of contempt puts me in mind of Donald Trump, as do many things these days. Contempt is a performative emotion in that it turns a spectator into a participant, inviting a conversation. One can watch a spectacle, but once one acts or speaks in contempt, one is provoking a response.
Disgust is a prime candidate for a “universal” emotion as it is instantaneous and involuntary, though Watt Smith points out that often “something out of place” is often the culprit to feelings of involuntary disgust: a hair in one’s soup, soup on one’s beard or clothing, or simply a disagreeable smell where we don’t expect to find it.
There is a word which has no equivalent in English, though I have seen the emotion described in a novel by a woman of Bangladeshi descent, called maya-lage. Watt Smith calls it fago in this book, which is a type of love and pity felt for those in need, mixed with sadness, sorrow, and compassion. It is the feeling one gets contemplating the fate of those who experience an earthquake, or other natural disaster.
I can’t recommend this book more highly for all of us, but especially for those in the creative professions. It is filled with irresistible descriptions of feelings we may have experienced but for which we had no words, and may inspire attempts to capture those emotions as they cross the mind-body divide. The author goes around the world seeking words that express a human state. It is completely absorbing. One doesn’t have to read the entries in order—one is encouraged to skip around.
You will not want to miss those definitions which appear in countries we just visit—that a nationality has created a word for a sensation may mean the emotion is important in a certain culture, like han, a feeling of sadness and hope at the same time…a yearning for things to be different (Korea), or torschlusspanik, a German word for the agitated, fretful feeling that time is running out, or “gate-closing panic.” I am quite sure the Chinese must have similar expression somewhere, knowing what I do about their culture. I must mention the extraordinary capture of a national characteristic in the term greng jai: “the feeling of being reluctant to accept another’s offer of help because of the bother it would cause them.” Greng jai is a Thai phrase.