We are pleased to announce a new review of Yang Shen called “The Taiping Up Close” just posted on the Yang Shen Amazon page by the accomplished essayist, novelist and literary critic David Cahill (author of Lust and Philosophy, The Exact Unknown). David approaches our book as a reader, but also as a writer with particularly keen ideas on how to write and what to write about. He disdains “certain formulaic constraints geared to profitability (the first page that “grabs” you, the compelling storyline, heart-wrenching sympathetic characters, and the like),” so we have been waiting on tender hooks for his discussion of Yang Shen, not expecting to leave unscathed, but still eager for insights we can carry forward into Books II and III. Our language finds praise, but our execution is judged less that of a literary artist than of an obsessive-compulsive uncertain when to compress or cull (as in “too many notes, Mozart!”). Read David’s review and see if you agree it should be taken to heart.
The Isham Cook blog simultaneously posts a longer version of the Amazon review about Yang Shen, titled Living the Taiping: Interview with James Lande, that contains a lengthy Q&A with us that delves into the genesis of the novel. After placing the Taiping Rebellion in the context of other catastrophic conflicts, and mulling over how it is possible for so many people to die at one time, Isham Cook to our gratification selects three passages as exemplary prose before moving on to the Q&A discussion of the research and writing for Yang Shen. There is even a brief burlesque that speculates on what might have happened if Fokie Tom, instead of being hulled, had captured Essex and had his way with the female passengers, ala Isham Cook.