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I hadn’t been to Chau Doc in nearly two decades, so was definitely looking forward to this trip. Though my wife doesn’t travel well, she came along because she wanted to visit Mistress’ Temple. All over Vietnam, there are Mistress’ Temples, with most dedicated to Guanyin, but the Chau Doc one was built for a... Read More
michael-kreutzer
In the latest entry of my Escape from America series, I interview an American who’s living in Russia, a country that’s been relentlessly demonized by the Western media. To a minority of Americans, however, Russia is a nationalist beacon, or even a possible refuge, as it already is to many Afrikaners. How long have you... Read More
Shaman in Vinh Chau, 2019
After three weeks in Saigon for Tet, I’m back in Ea Kly. It’s 5:33AM as I begin this, and I’ll type until 6:45, to begin my work day at the plastic recycling plant. As usual, I sit at Mrs. Ha’s cafe. I’m her first customer. Unlike Saigon, it’s chilly here. Appearing suddenly from the shadow... Read More
Saigon, 2019
It’s Tet here. Public employees get nine days off, counting an unpaid weekend. Millions abandon cities for their home villages, leaving most of Hanoi and Saigon suddenly unclogged, so crossing the street is no longer a harrowing adventure. Prices are jacked up, including for long distance buses, hotel rooms, meals and even haircuts. The week... Read More
ea-kly-2019-3
During my two months in Ea Kly, I have not seen anyone read a book or even a newspaper. TV watching is not compulsive, and canned music is not a pervasive, nearly nonstop pollution, as it is in much of the world. No one here is rigged to a mind scrambling headphone. Though FaceBook has... Read More
ea-kly-2019-2
I live in a square, spartan room with a bed, no chairs, and a bathroom without door, since the builder/plumber hired by brother in law was so half assed. My front wall is only half painted because the man couldn’t move his arm any more or further, I suppose. In person, the useless fellow is... Read More
saigon-2018-4
Visiting Vietnam in 1953, Norman Lewis quoted a despairing French soldier, Captain Doustin, “It is the feeling I get at this moment that we are at grips with something ant-like rather than human. These unemotional people driven on by some blind instinct. I feel that my intelligence and my endurance are not enough. Take, for... Read More
ea-kly-2-2019
I painted houses for a decade, and on our crews, we always knew of each other’s relative competence, willingness to work, sense of responsibility, substance addictions, if any, and, ultimately, character. My roommate, Jay, for example, really didn’t give a fuck, for he was often late, but somehow always rehired, for our boss, Joe LeBlanc,... Read More
Ea Kly, 2019
During a late night layover in Minneapolis a decade ago, I found myself in a McDonald’s. Manning the cash register was a chubby black woman, and the ordering customer was a black flight attendant who was young, thin and pretty, how all American air stewardesses used to look, before the ageism lawsuits. In Asia, they’re... Read More
da-lat-2018
Since my time is tight and often interrupted, I will file these hit-and-run, guerrilla pieces. I’m the only one in this roadside, wall-less and dirt-floored cafe. Walking here, I paused to pet my neighbor’s cow, who’s taken an extreme liking to me. Lovingly, she licked my hand and arm with her sandpaper tongue and even... Read More
Ea Kly, 2018
In Bangkok for Miss Universe 2018, Miss Cambodia and Miss Vietnam made international news when they were idiotically mocked by Miss USA for not knowing English. The Vietnamese beauty, H’Hen Nie, is a Rade from Dak Lak, a province well-known to many American Vietnam War vets, but otherwise not often seen by foreigners. Its waterfalls... Read More
Philadelphia, 2017
Beating Malaysia, Vietnam has just been crowned the soccer champion of Southeast Asia. With its short men boasting negligible muscles, this corner of the world is not known for its athletic prowess, so the world took no notice of this prize, understandably. Champion Vietnam is only ranked 100 by FIFA, but it took considerable effort... Read More
Tokyo, 2018
Generally seen as highly homogenous, Japan is changing fast. In Tokyo, Kawasaki and Osaka recently, I encountered quite a few non-Japanese working at convenience stores and restaurants, and saw many more on the streets. Japan’s largest immigrant groups are Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos, Vietnamese and Brazilians. Though the last are mostly ethnic Japanese, they maintain a... Read More
Osaka, 2018
Before my recent trip to Tokyo, Kawasaki and Osaka, I emailed an American friend, “Japan contrasts so sharply with chaotic and dirty Vietnam. Unlike here, almost nothing happens on Japanese sidewalks, no eating, drinking or even smoking!” He replied, “Myself, I would prefer ‘dirty’ Vietnam to Japan, any day.” Though only in Vietnam as a... Read More
img_20181104_145057-effects
How long have you lived overseas? Well, I've been spending half my time overseas for about the last 20 years. The vast majority of it has been in Brazil, and this country is quite strict about its immigration policy. It can be done, but for someone like myself, it's just too difficult of a nut... Read More
Binh Chanh, 2018
Two years ago, I was having dinner in NYC with a group of Japanese writers. Next to me was Mieko Kawakami, who’s also known as a pop singer. Since her English was very limited, we conversed mostly through another person. Seeing that my beer glass was empty, Mieko filled it. Earlier this year, I found... Read More
Saigon Trade Convention, 2018
All floridly unequivocal praise is due to Allah, Lord of the Universes, and to his faithful Servant and Prophet, Mohammed, and may Israel, that abomination, smudge and curse upon mankind, be neatly erased with no trace left behind, so the rest of us can peacefully go on with our tedious and humbling labor, all while... Read More
saigon-2018-2-2
“Tổ Quốc Trên Hết” [“Nation Above All”] was a slogan of the defunct and much maligned Republic of South Vietnam, while the Socialist North rallied their populace with “Chống Mỹ Cứu Nước” [“Fight the Americans, Save the Nation”]. During the war, both Vietnamese sides stressed their nationalist credentials while discrediting their opponent as a foreign... Read More
Saigon, 2018
First, the good news. To those who can’t stand my scribbling, it’s clear this pitiful, barely gurgling font is drying up quickly, for lately, all I feel like doing is vegetate at a sidewalk café, or wander mindlessly for miles, so that I can be just another anchovy in this demanding, forgetful stream. Though my... Read More
Ỵ, a domestic servant in Saigon, 2018
My first book, Fake House (2000), was dedicated to “the unchosen,” and by that, I meant all those who are not particularly blessed at birth or during life, just ordinary people, in short, with their daily exertion and endurance. Further, I’ve always considered losing to be our common bond and bedrock, for no matter how... Read More
saigon-2018-2
Trinh Cong Son, the great song writer, poet and soul of Saigon, said that he got his heart and mind revving each morning by watching frantic life unfurling all around him, while sitting in a sidewalk cafe. Lesser Vietnamese do exactly the same, however, for to be among one’s own kind is practically an hourly... Read More
Philadelphia, 2018
Céline half joked, “If you stay anywhere long enough, everyone and everything will stink up, just for your special benefit.” Without this pungency, however, there is no real understanding of anything, and Céline knew this as well as anyone. With tremendous physical and mental courage, the man endured. He survived being wounded in WWI, a... Read More
Jenny\
The jokes about New Jersey keep coming. It has the third highest taxes in the country, yet ranks dead last in fiscal health. Its most successful residents flee. Those who have never been to New Jersey still sneer at it, thanks to its mostly horrible depiction in the media, as in Jersey Shore, where a... Read More
Shooters Crossing, 2018
I’ve hung out with poet Hai-Dang Phan in quite a few places. Since our first meeting in Certaldo, Italy in 2003, we’ve downed a few pints together in New York, Washington, Milwaukee, Iowa, Illinois, Philadelphia, Hanoi, Saigon and Vung Tau. This week, Hai-Dang flew down from Boston, and with his rented car, we spent two... Read More
Donna\
Last Saturday, five eternally misunderstood and oppressed gentlemen fired 41 shots at a crowd at 20th and Susquehanna, killing one and injuring four others, including a 5-year-old boy. The TV news reported that the deceased was a “standout basketball player.” North Philly is generally not good for your health and happiness. Though neighborhoods have cute,... Read More
Love City, 2018
I’m sitting in a spacious bar, Love City, that was once a factory. Too slicked up, it’s not quite a ruin bar, of the kind you find in Budapest. The patrons are mostly hipsters and yuppies, but with a handful of Joe Sixpacks thrown in. Looking like contractors, they’re probably fixing properties in this rapidly... Read More
Woman in Fishtown bar, 2018
I’m back in Philly to wrap things up, return my apartment, give a paid talk and say goodbye to my friends. With Felix Giordano, I’ve hit bars in the Italian Market, Point Breeze, Pennsport, Fishtown and Whitman. Soon, we’ll run over to Billy Boy’s in the Pine Barrens, where the owner/cook makes some of the... Read More
Quy Hop, Nghe An, 2018
In Marseilles, I met an illegal immigrant from Nghe An. He said his boss and housemates in Paris were all from the same province. Long known for its poverty, Nghe An leads Vietnam in the ratio of people working overseas, with most never returning. In fact, so many have become illegal in South Korea, Vietnam... Read More
Even more than eating for fun, the main pleasure of Vietnam is mingling, but that's only if you enjoy being around people, which Vietnamese obviously do, and here, community life is most intense and intimate in alleys. The French gave Hanoi and Saigon a facelift, so there are straight streets, grand boulevards and many traffic... Read More
Vietnamese children in Akreiy Ksatr, Cambodia, 2018
When the French ruled Indochina, they had a shortage of white collar workers in Cambodia and Laos, so solved it by bringing in many thousands of Vietnamese, which, understandably, didn’t please the Cambodians and Laotians too much. Most of these Vietnamese would be kicked out in waves, sometimes violently, as happened in Cambodia during the... Read More
Phnom Penh, 2018
Cambodia makes good, cheap beer, so I was sitting in some lunch place with yet another can of Angkor, after having polished off a plate of fatty pork with rice. Two tables away, a girl sat, doing her homework. She had a machine that sang out, “Old McDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O!” and so on.... Read More
phnom-penh-2018
Traveling, I prefer to be on the ground, for that’s how you get an overview of the countryside. The bus from Saigon to Phnom Penh took more than seven hours, but that included 30 minutes for lunch, plus 45 more at the border. My seatmate was a young fellow, Morris, from Halle, Germany, and we... Read More
Vinh Chau Chinese at the Seven Wonders Restaurant, Saigon, 2018
In the 17th century, the Manchus conquered China, causing thousands of defeated Chinese soldiers and their families to flee to Vietnam, then divided between north and south. The Nguyen Clan, rulers of the south, granted these Chinese land in nominal Cambodian territory, paving the way for Vietnam’s annexation of a third of Cambodia. This obscure... Read More
Palmyra, NJ, 2013
When out-of-town friends visit, I like to take them to Camden. With its high crime, horrible government and general wretchedness, it’s the worst of America’s present and, if all goes according to plans, our stereotypical future. Soon as you cross into Collingswood or Gloucester, however, the graffiti, trash, abandoned houses, sagging pants and neck tattoos... Read More
Camden Tent City, 2009
Indoctrinated for decades by relativism, we’re supposed to consider all life styles equal and never pass judgments. There must be legitimate reasons for a culture to embrace, for example, child marriage, bride kidnapping, female circumcision, Oprah Winfrey, or universal, all day long access to pornography. Shit, though, is a hard sell, thus open sewers or... Read More
Scotty\
Southerner Fred Reed writes about Yankee hypocrisy, “You’ve heard about white flight. In nearly about every city in the North, white people streak for the suburbs so’s not to be near black people, and then they talk about how bad Southerners are for doing the same thing […] Fact is, you can see more social,... Read More
Scranton, 2015
With their vast parking lots and chain stores, strip malls may appear generic, impersonal and characterless, but each harbors an intense web of social interactions, with an infinity of stories to tell, but to even state this is redundant, for there’s no man, woman, child or dog who isn’t, by his lonesome, asshole self, a... Read More
West Scranton, 2017
On Thanksgiving, I came to Scranton to stay with a 65-year-old friend who’s going through a cage fight kind of divorce, though only one side is dishing out the sharp elbows and knees. Just hearing Christmas music at the Dollar Store was driving him mad, Chuck confessed. The four-hour bus ride from Philly stopped in... Read More
Chicago, 2012
Millions of Americans still have ties to their ancestral country. Two years ago, I met an 54-year-old man who would periodically visit his family home in Abruzzo. Its grape vines and olive trees had been sold a long time ago, and the house itself was little more than a husk, thanks to thieves, “Locals, not... Read More
SS United States in Pennsport, 2014
Drive-in theaters are practically extinct, diners are dying, but go-go bars are still common in working class neighborhoods across America. It’s wholesome afterwork entertainment for the sweating man. When I was a housepainter over twenty years ago, our crew would hit The Office in CenterCity or Penn’s Port Pub, on Christopher Columbus Boulevard. After a... Read More
New York, 2017
To go home, I had to take a taxi to Saigon’s airport, fly to Hanoi, then on to Hong Kong, where during a 5 ½ hour layover I’d take a train to Central to hang out a bit, then back to the airport to fly to JFK, then hop on two trains just to get... Read More
ea-kar-2017
It was a 200-mile journey from Saigon to Dak Lak, a highlands province that saw much fighting during the Vietnam War. Just north of Saigon, I passed quite a few grand villas, with two dog statues on gate columns, though some owners outdid their neighbors by having lions instead. The further north I went, the... Read More
Vung Tau cafe, 2017
And so we’re in Vung Tau, a sleepy, seaside city at the mouth of the Saigon River. I’m staying in a hotel owned by an Army unit. My room is quiet, cheap and has an ample balcony with an ocean view. I’ve only stumbled onto two other guests, each sitting on a massage chair. The... Read More
Hanoi, 2017
With only a week and a half in Hanoi, I’ve been out and about almost nonstop. This article, then, is being jotted down at 5:11AM, as I’m lying in bed on my stomach at the Letters Home guesthouse. Stuck in a grim alley in an unfashionable neighborhood, it’s not exactly popular, so about the only... Read More
Home cooking in Hanoi, 2017
I’m back in Hanoi. Noi Bai Airport was sparkling after its recent upgrade, and I rode into town on a wide, well-landscaped freeway named after general Vo Nguyen Giap. On both sides were shops and restaurants. “I don’t recognize any of this, brother,” I said to the taxi driver, a man in his mid 40’s.... Read More
Marseille, 2017
Born in Nghe An, he quit school after the 9th grade to start working full time at 15-years-old. He got a job in Saigon, then Phu Quoc Island, the southernmost part of Vietnam. He visited Hanoi and remote Dien Bien Phu, right on the Laotian border. At 18, he agreed to pay $15,000 to be... Read More
buffalo-2017
All over America, I’ve seen posters warning against drug addictions. In Cheyenne, it’s “METHAMPHETAMINE / Don’t live this tragic story.” A few blocks away, I stepped over used needles on the sidewalk. In Buffalo, it’s an image of a beer bottle and a pill bottle, with “HEROIN addiction starts here...” Appended to it was a... Read More
Mexico City, 2017
Jonathan Revusky and I were in Mexico City for eight days. Though Jon had been there twice, this was my first taste of this extremely complex, exhilarating and sophisticated metropolis. For $85 a night, we had a spacious two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartment in Cuauhtémoc. It was cheaper than, say, Spokane, yet here we were in a... Read More
Rue Saint Hubert in Montreal, 2017
Despairing Americans often threaten to move to Canada, but how many even know what it’s like now? Many liberals assume that our northern neighbor is more progressive, while those on the right might think that it’s, ah, whiter. Ask your average American to name ten Canadians, and it’s likely that nine will be white guys... Read More
Frankford, Philadelphia, 2014
Jonathan Revusky was in Philly for a few days, and I had a great time showing Jon around. We went to Kensington, Fishtown, Camden, Point Breeze, Little Cambodia and Rittenhouse Square, all but the last at the sinking end of the economic scale, places I’m well familiar with. At Jack’s Famous Bar, we ordered a... Read More
Linh Dinh
About Linh Dinh

Born in Vietnam in 1963, Linh Dinh came to the US in 1975, and has also lived in Italy and England. He is the author of two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), five of poems, All Around What Empties Out (2003), American Tatts (2005), Borderless Bodies (2006), Jam Alerts (2007) and Some Kind of Cheese Orgy (2009), and a novel, Love Like Hate (2010). He has been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, 2004, 2007, Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present, Postmodern American Poetry: a Norton Anthology (vol. 2) and Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, among other places. He is also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013), and translator of Night, Fish and Charlie Parker, the poetry of Phan Nhien Hao (2006). Blood and Soap was chosen by Village Voice as one of the best books of 2004. His writing has been translated into Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and he has been invited to read in London, Cambridge, Brighton, Paris, Berlin, Reykjavik, Toronto and all over the US, and has also published widely in Vietnamese.