Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Book Excerpt - My Splendid Concubine by Lloyd Lofthouse


My Splendid Concubine
by Lloyd Lofthouse
Today A Book Blogger's Diary is a stop on the virtual blog tour of My Splendid Concubine by Lloyd Lofthouse, courtesy Pump Up Your Book Promotion.

About The Author

As a field radio operator, Lloyd Lofthouse was a walking target in Vietnam in 1966. He has skied in blizzards at forty below zero and climbed mountains in hip deep snow.

Lloyd earned a BA in journalism after fighting in Vietnam as a U.S. Marine. Later, while working days as an English teacher at a high school in California, he earned an MFA in writing. He enjoyed a job as a maitre d’ in a multimillion-dollar nightclub and tried his hand successfully at counting cards in Las Vegas for a few years. He now lives near San Francisco with his wife, with a second home in Shanghai, China. Lloyd says that snapshots of his life appear like multicolored ribbons flowing through many of his poems.

This link takes you to Lloyd's 'Vietnam Experience' page filled with photos. He took many of them. Since Lloyd still has to edit the photos so they load faster, this page may load slow for older computers.

This link will take you to a media piece from a Southern California newspaper that Lloyd copied and posted on his Website that will give you an idea about his teaching years.

If you are interesting in learning more about Lloyd's teaching experience, you are welcome to read about it at AuthorsDen. 'Word Dancer' is a memoir of the 1994-1995 school year. He kept a daily journal that year. He is using that journal to write 'Word Dancer'. Everyday, when he arrived home, Lloyd wrote an entry in that journal. It sat on a shelf in his garage for fourteen years gathering dust. Spiders moved into the binder and built a nest. After all those years, Lloyd forgot he'd written it. When he was cleaning the garage, he found it again. Lloyd started reading, remembering and writing. Everything he writes in 'Word Dancer' happened. He's using a primary source as his guide. Memory may be faulty, but a daily journal written the day an event took place is as accurate as it can get from the author's point-of-view.

Accomplishments: Lloyd's short story "A Night at the Well of Purity" was named a finalist for the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards.

As a teacher, Lloyd found satisfaction in the number of students that published nationally and internationally while attending his English and journalism classes.

You can visit his website at www.mysplendidconcubine.com.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Driven by a passion for his adopted country, Robert Hart became the “godfather of China’s modernism,” inspector general of China’s Customs Service, and the builder of China’s railroads, postal and telegraph systems, and schools, but his first real love is Ayaou, a young concubine.

BOOK EXCERPT:
It didn’t take Ayaou and Shao-mei long to turn the four rooms into a home. Before they arrived, Guan-jiah had completed all the repairs Robert had requested. Soon after moving in, Ayaou and Shao-mei went out during the day and found items that added Chinese touches to the house—crafted objects, carvings and ink paintings. Everything they did to decorate the house pleased Robert.

When he arrived home each evening, the first thing he saw was an inked wall hanging two feet wide and five feet long. It read harmony and tranquility in Chinese. It was printed on white rice paper. The calligraphy was in black ink, and a thin red border ran around the perimeter about three inches from the edge. There were several red ink stamps in the lower right-hand corner that showed the name of the artist.

The girls also got rid of the stale, sour odor of the house and replaced it with the smell of garlic and ginger and sometimes hot spices sautéing in the wok. Almost every dish they ate came with these flavors until Robert grew so use to it that food tasted bland without them. Somehow the rooms didn’t feel as small as they had the first day that he inspected the place. The girls had breathed life into the place.

"Guan-jiah," Robert said, "the evil spirits that lived here must have gone into hiding."

Guan-jiah stood in the entrance to the house and looked around. “Yes, Master, the evil is gone, or your girls caused the spirits to act agreeable.” What they didn’t know was that the evil had just gone into hiding and was waiting for the right moment to return.

The girls were cooking dinner, and Robert had invited his servant to join them. “It could be the garlic,” Guan-jiah said. “That will also drive away evil spirits.” He walked over to the tranquility and harmony inked wall hanging and stood before it.

“If I could only learn to paint calligraphy like this,” he said in a subdued, yearning tone, “but my hands are clumsy. They refuse to cooperate. Everything I paint looks like a cripple.”           

“It can’t be that difficult, Guan-jiah. It’s just Chinese writing but big.”           

“Oh no, Master. The horizontal lines in this painting are like a horsetail blowing in the wind. Can’t you see the force of it? The artist has watched horses running, and he has spent time studying oak trees. He has gone into the countryside many times until he discovered what works for him. He spent years developing these strokes.           

“There is swiftness in each horizontal stroke, but the vertical strokes are like the trunks of mighty oak trees that are anchored to the earth. See here where they look fat but solid. There is more to this than just the meanings of the words themselves. No artist is the same, Master. Some have no strength in their strokes. They are blind to what nature teaches us, but this artist is skillful in giving strength to his characters so they are fleshy. This is divine. Your concubines know what to look for.”           

Robert had to step back to see what Guan-jiah was so excited about, and he started to understand. It must have cost a lot of money. Robert wondered how much the girls had spent on it.           

It was because of Guan-jiah, Ayaou and Shao-mei that Robert discovered the true meaning of Chinese art, and a new door opened for him. In his later years he developed a further love for Chinese art, crafts, antiques and calligraphy. Although he dressed in Western style clothing in public, his taste in things gradually changed to Chinese.           

Guan-jiah questioned Ayaou and Shao-mei about the wall hanging. He discovered that the artist was seventy-four and had sold them the painting for five yuan, because they had flirted with him. And the reason they bought this one over hundreds of others was because of exactly what Guan-jiah had said.           

“It may have taken minutes for the artist to paint this,” Guan-jiah said, “but it took a lifetime to harmonize with nature and develop the talent—the ability to make the brush do what he wants.           

“You see, Master, the artist cannot erase mistakes. He has to have control of the brush and know what he is doing. Once the brush touches paper and the ink flows, it is over. The artist can not fix mistakes. He has to throw out the paper and start again.”

Interesting! Readers, I encourage you to leave comments for the author and his enchanting book.

2 comments :

  1. Great Review...My Splendid Concubine...bhazelgrove@gmail.com
    http://www.williamhazelgrove.blogspot.com

    ReplyDelete