I Love a Broad Margin to My Life

Maxine Hong Kingston, Knopf, $24.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-307-27019-1
Told in free verse reminiscent of one of Kingston's idols, Walt Whitman, this uncommon memoir of the artist at 65 is informed by the wide margins on the pages of the Chinese editions of her works (margins her father used to write in). Kingston revisits characters, like Wittman Ah Sing, the monkey from her first novel, and themes from her books: her pacifist, feminist activism; the challenge of stereotypes; East and West. Though this homage to aging, with wisdom gained through a freewheeling reflection on family, the past, fate (karma, we're reminded, means "work," not "doom"), and self-reliance (which is a translation of Kingston's Chinese name, Ting Ting), often rambles, it also has the cohesion and intricate logic of a musical composition. The artist is a mental traveler, presenting her life as a dreamlike journey that culminates in a listing of "my dead," some 50 names, which both pulls Kingston toward oblivion ("Each one who dies, I want to go with you") and inspires seven reasons to live. The desire to create recedes ("I regret always writing, writing") as the memoirist sees herself becoming "reader of the world," a "surprise world" that frees her from the need to create it with words. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 11/15/2010
Release date: 01/01/2011
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-1-84655-246-5
Open Ebook - 167 pages - 978-0-307-59533-1
Paperback - 229 pages - 978-0-307-45459-1
Open Ebook - 240 pages - 978-1-4464-6854-8
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