Of Quotes

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  1. We travel, some of us forever, to seek other states, other lives, other souls.
  2. I can play a lot of different instruments adequately but nothing really well.
  3. I do suffer from depression, I suppose. Which isn’t that unusual. You know, a lot of people do.
  4. I don’t listen to a lot of new stuff. I just like the old stuff. It’s all quite dramatic and atmospheric. You’d have an entire story in song. I never listen to, like, white music – I couldn’t sing you a Zeppelin or Floyd song.
  5. I like pin-up girls. I’m more of a boy than a girl. I’m not a lesbian, though – not before a sambuca anyway.
  6. I listen to music that is of our time and I just get angry.
  7. I made an album I’m very proud of, and that’s about it.
  8. I read a lot when I’m travelling and always have a couple of books on the go.
  9. I saw a picture of myself when I came out of the hospital. I didn’t recognize myself.
  10. I was gutted to leave my boyfriend at home when I started my tour, but taking my pillow was like taking a little bit of him with me.
  11. I’m not frightened of appearing vulnerable.
  12. I’m of the school of thought where if you can’t sort something out for yourself then no one can help you.
  13. I’m of the school of thought where, if you can’t sort something out for yourself, no one can help you. Rehab is great for some people but not others.
  14. I’ve never been a boyfriend kind of girl.
  15. My justification is that most people my age spend a lot of time thinking about what they’re going to do for the next five or ten years. The time they spend thinking about their life, I just spend drinking.
  16. When you’re around kids you can be a little kid yourself and pretend that life is magic and you don’t have to be one of those sweaty people going to work every day.
  17. At the beginning of my career as a writer, I felt I knew nothing of Chinese culture. I was writing about emotional confusion with my mother related to our different beliefs. Hers was based in family history, which I didn’t know anything about. I always felt hesitant in talking about Chinese culture and American culture.
  18. Chinese artists have been subversive over thousands of years, taking what they think of the government and embedding it in their art. There might be censorship of not going as far as they might.
  19. I also thought of playing improvisational jazz and I did take lessons for a while. At first I tried to write fiction by making up things that were completely alien to my life.
  20. I am an American, steeped in American values. But I know on an emotional level what it means to be of the Chinese culture.
  21. I don’t steer clear of genres. I simply haven’t steered myself toward some of them.
  22. I felt ashamed of being different and ashamed of feeling that way.
  23. I grew up with Bible stories, which are like fairy tales, because my father was a minister. We heard verses and prayers every day. I liked the gorier Bible stories. I did have a book of Chinese fairy tales. All the people except the elders looked like Italians. But we were not a family that had fiction books.
  24. I have survivor skills. Some of that is superficial – what I present to people outwardly – but what makes people resilient is the ability to find humour and irony in situations that would otherwise overpower you.
  25. I just feel very lucky to be able to write fiction because I think, otherwise, I would have had to spend a fortune on a psychiatrist – and I still wouldn’t get 1/100th of what I get writing fiction.
  26. I read academic books on courtesan culture at the turn-of-the century in Shanghai such as Gail Hershatter’s ‘The Gender of Memory’. The diaries were mostly in the form of letters from courtesans to a lover who had disappeared or taken their savings.
  27. I think I’ve always been somebody, since the deaths of my father and brother, who was afraid to hope. So, I was more prepared for failure and for rejection than for success.
  28. I wanted to write stories for myself. At first it was purely an aesthetic thing about craft. I just wanted to become good at the art of something. And writing was very private.
  29. I was intelligent enough to make up my own mind. I not only had freedom of choice, I had freedom of expression.
  30. I went to an exhibition at San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum about Shanghai, about how courtesans had been influential in bringing western culture to Shanghai. I bought a book and in it saw this striking group of women in a photograph called ‘The Ten Beauties of Shanghai’.
  31. I’m open to reading almost anything – fiction, nonfiction – as long as I know from the first sentence or two that this is a voice I want to listen to for a good long while. It has much to do with imagery and language, a particular perspective, the assured knowledge of the particular universe the writer has created.
  32. I’m usually woken by a vibration on my up-band. It’s the gradual vibration for about ten seconds, and then the chimes of my blue light. It’s just a way to wake gently. It all gently puts me into awake-mode. I play music off of my Sonos playlist. ‘The Rachmaninoff Concerto 3 in D-minor’, 1st movement.
  33. In a second-class courtesan house, the courtship was much briefer. It could even be one night; usually it went on a little bit longer. But as the years went by, that period of courtship was shorter and shorter.
  34. Luck is in every part of China. Many Chinese stores and restaurants have the word ‘luck’ in their names. The idea is that, just by using the word ‘luck’ in names of things, you can attract more of it. I think that’s true in my life as well. You attract luck because you go after it.
  35. Mothers have this huge influence, and I feel like they’re always teaching us from the day we’re born what to be afraid of, what to be cautious of, what we should like, and what we should look like.
  36. My breakfast is usually a wholegrain cereal or porridge, with walnuts sprinkled in it, berries, a tablespoon of honey, and chia seeds. I have coffee and a little cherry juice with seltzer. I have a seat by the window, and I look out at the view.
  37. My favorite anything is always relative to the context of present time, place and mood. When I finish a book and want to immediately find another by the same author and no other, that author is elevated to my favorite.
  38. My mother believed in curses, karma, good luck, bad luck, feng shui. Her amorphous set of beliefs showed me you can pick and choose the qualities of your philosophy, based on what works for you.
  39. My mother left behind three daughters when she went to America and started a new life. I certainly felt abandoned when my father died of a brain tumour; I felt he had abandoned me to this terrible, volatile mother and I had no protection.
  40. My mother said I was a clingy kid until I was about four. I also remember that from the age of eight she and I fought almost every day.
  41. My mother’s openness has remained inspiring to me. I strive to be a skeptic, in the best sense of that word: I question everything, and yet I’m open to everything. And I don’t have immovable beliefs. My values shift and grow with my experiences – and as my context changes, so does what I believe.
  42. My older brother and I read all the time. My father read, but only things related to religion. One year, he did read a set of stories that was called something like ‘365 Stories’ out loud to us. They followed a family for the year, a page a day. They were about kids with simple problems – like a wheel coming off their bicycle.
  43. My parents told me I would become a doctor and then in my spare time I would become a concert pianist. So, both my day job and my spare time were sort of taken care of.
  44. My writing often contains souvenirs of the day – a song I heard, a bird I saw – which I then put into the novel.
  45. No one can travel your own road for you; you must travel it for yourself. My faith in this stems from my childhood. I grew up in a family with a system of religious beliefs handed down to me.
  46. No one in my family was a reader of literary fiction. So, I didn’t have encouragement, but I didn’t have discouragement, because I don’t think anybody knew what that meant.
  47. Our uniqueness makes us special, makes perception valuable – but it can also make us lonely. This loneliness is different from being ‘alone’: You can be lonely even surrounded by people. The feeling I’m talking about stems from the sense that we can never fully share the truth of who we are. I experienced this acutely at an early age.
  48. That’s part of the character of Shanghainese people. They’re good negotiators, they’re very persistent, and you grow up in an atmosphere like that – very competitive. That becomes part of your personality: Shanghai personality becomes part of yours. Just like New Yorkers – they’re often like that.
  49. There are a lot of people who think that’s what’s needed to be successful is always being right, always being careful, always picking the right path.
  50. Until the age of five, my parents spoke to me in Chinese or a combination of Chinese and English, but they didn’t force me to speak Mandarin. In retrospect, this was sad, because they believed that my chance of doing well in America hinged on my fluency in English. Later, as an adult, I wanted to learn Chinese.