Existential Migration

My friend Sree (a Malaysian/Australian writer I recently met in the Philippines) just forwarded a link to a book that seems to encapsulate what I’ve been struggling with for much of my adult life: existential migration. Here’s a snippet from the website of Greg Madison, author of The End of Belonging:

“Unlike economic migration, simple wanderlust, exile, or variations of forced migration, ‘existential migration’ is conceived as a chosen attempt to express something fundamental about existence by leaving one’s homeland and becoming a foreigner.

This concept arose from interviews with voluntary migrants from around the world now living in London. The study generated impressively consistent themes such as the importance of trying to fulfil individual potentials, the importance of freedom and independence, openness to experiences of the mystery of life, and the valuing of difference and foreignness as a stimulus to personal awareness and broadening perspectives.

Among this population there is a marked preference for the strange and foreign over the familiar or conventional. As well as the new concept of existential migration, the research proposes a novel definition of home as interaction; that the ‘feeling …

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Amexica Review

As you may have heard, the Los Angeles Review of Books–a.k.a. “the first major, full-service book review to launch in the 21st century”–has recently gone live. For the past month, they have been posting an essay a day about everything from MFA octopi to social Darwinism to the Tall Redhead Syndrome. Last week, they posted my review of Ed Vulliamy’s Amexica: War Along the Borderlines. Here’s a taste:

It starts with a headless body dangling from an underpass called Bridge of Dreams. A bed sheet unfurls beside it, sending a message from one drug cartel to another. Hours before firemen come to cut down the corpse, venerated British journalist Ed Vulliamy arrives on the scene. He takes everything in, noting how the straps beneath its armpits “creak”; how its feet “flap in the wind.” Yet he is equally transfixed by the crowd that has gathered in “unsurprised silence.” They gawk “at this hideous, buckled thing, perhaps fearing, if they leave, they might take with them the curse of that which was done.”

Readers of Vulliamy’s Amexica: …

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A Year in Books

Last night, I fulfilled one of my (admittedly geeky) New Year’s resolutions for 2010: I read 60 books in a year. Welcome to grad school! Granted, not all of those books were for class, but the bulk were at least inspired by my pursuit of a MFA degree and/or teaching career. My absolute favorites:

* Land of Green Plums by Herta Muller, the most remarkable book about communism/ totalitarianism imaginable. It was considered a major upset when Muller won the Nobel in 2009, but I can’t fathom a more worthy contribution to world literature. A must-read.

* Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, a graphic memoir about a lesbian who learns her father is gay only days before he gets struck and killed by a truck. Bechdel spoke at NonfictioNow a couple of months ago and totally stole the show. This is a phenomenal read.

* The Emigrants by W. S. Sebald, a knock-out novel consisting of four devastating portraits of Jewish emigres

* Bluets by Maggie Nelson, a slender book of meditative essays on the color blue. Way sexy.

* Trespassing by Uzma …

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Travels with Herodotus

Just finished reading my first book of the year — Travels with Herodotus, by Ryszard Kapuscinski — and I have to gush. Kapuscinski was the ultimate rock star foreign correspondent: He spent four decades reporting on riots, revolutions, and coups in Asia, Latin America, and Africa (surviving 40 jailings and four death sentences along the way).

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