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 BlogviewLinh Dinh Archive

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Detail of illustration by Travis King
Just before Communist tanks rumbled into Saigon in 1975, the American radio station played repeatedly Irving Berlin’s “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” as crooned by Bing Crosby. It was the final alarm for Americans to rush to predesignated evacuation points. All was lost for Uncle Sam. As an 11-year-old in Saigon, I didn’t know... Read More
windhoek-2021x1207
In Hanoi in 1998, poet Phan Huyen Thu gave me an anthology of the earliest Vietnamese prose, a book that’s now in a box in Moorestown, NJ, at my friend Ian Keenan’s house. Along with all my other books, which constitute my mental terrain, roughly, I won’t see it again. Life is loss, in installments.... Read More
Windhoek, 2021
My last night in Cape Town was spent at 91 Loop Boutique Hostel. Paying $33, I had a rather large, if very spartan, room, with my own toilet. With six beds, it was clearly intended as a dorm space, but tourists were still scarce, thanks to Covid. A filling breakfast was included, and it wasn’t... Read More
windhoek-2021x1125
The most salient feature of totalitarianism is control of movement, which entails tracking each citizen. Before the internet era, this could only be achieved roughly. The state knew John Smith lived on Lumumba Street and worked on Stalin Avenue. If Smith wanted to spend a night at a woman’s apartment, she had to register him... Read More
Born into a war, I was a refugee by 11, living in a tent in Guam, then an army barrack in Arkansas. In 2015, I wrote “Our Refugee Future,” because I knew that nearly all of us, even the most comfortable or smug, were only too likely to become refugees soon enough. I said, “There... Read More
caravaggios-sacrifice-of-isaac
Several online commenters have pointed out that Covid spelled backward becomes דיבוק in Hebrew, meaning dybbuk, a malicious possessing spirit. Using Google Translate, I found that divoc did yield דיבוק, but now, Google has tinkered with דיבוק so it merely translates as “obsessed.” Very cute. Exorcised, dybbuk is just excessive passion, you see, like a... Read More
Don’t be on the wrong side of history, Communists often warned, though of course, they needed entire classes of such people, from the bourgeoisie to landowners, kulaks, reactionaries, decadents, Fascists, monarchists, counter-revolutionaries, unreformed intellectuals, wreckers, diversionists, believers in God and, often, even yesterday’s revolutionary heroes. It didn’t matter if these charges made sense individually or... Read More
windhoek-2021x
I often write about ordinary people and the banal, because each situation is a complex allegory, if not an intriguing painting, and no one is uninteresting. Plus, normalcy calms. When you smell smoke, however, it might be wise to stop waxing about fried chicken, say, and see where the flames are coming from. In case... Read More
This happened in Tirana, Albania. As I walked across Skanderbeg Square one fine morning, a black dog darted across my path. As if this wasn’t disturbing enough, there was a woman chasing after him, shouting, “Nigra! Nigra!” It’s 2021, lady! At least have the decency to call him, “My nigga!” (Consult Rachel Jeantel for exact... Read More
cape-town-2021x1014
Universal suffrage finally came to South Africa in 1994. Not everyone cheered. Many whites hoarded beans, rice, rusks, canned protein, candles and gasoline, etc. They expected societal breakdown, if not mass violence committed by blacks in retribution. Thousands of whites emigrated, but, this is often overlooked, thousands also returned from overseas, so the “chicken run”... Read More
cape-town-2021x1005
In March of 1960, white cops massacred 69 unarmed blacks in Sharpeville, South Africa. In 1961, uMkhonto we Sizwe [Spear of the Nation] was co-founded by Nelson Mandela to fight back against white racist rule. In 1964, Mandela was sentenced to life in prison. In 1976, between 176 and 700 black protesters were killed by... Read More
With a wicked sense of humor, God has made me a warlord, for I now have a growing army of Angry White Pussies! They’re joining me so fast, I must turn most away, on grounds of physical or mental deficiency. Of course, even those who can handle a few pushups and some crude English, which... Read More
cape-town-2021xx
Coming to Cape Town, I was a bit concerned I wouldn’t be able to walk around much. A Captonian had warned me I would be taking my life into my own hands, although he prayed to God he was wrong. You can’t experience any place without walking around, however, for it’s the only way to... Read More
Max Jacob’s most famous poem is “La mendiante de Naples,” or “The Beggar Woman of Naples”: There’s no surer way to stop people from reading than to insert a poem into an article. To commit this vile act right at the beginning is to chase away nearly everybody. Fine, it’s just you and me, then,... Read More
Canceled in the USA, I’ve emerged triumphant in South Africa. I’m huge here, for real. Everywhere I go, people know my name. “Mr. Miyagi!” “Hello, Jackie Chan!” “Hi, Mr. Lee.” “Hey, Bruce Lee!” “Ni hao!” “Ching ching!” accompanied by a huge smile. My self worth restored, I strut. As I pass two chunky prostitutes in... Read More
Cape Town, 2021
In boxing, there are bangers and dancers, but the very best, a Meldrick Taylor, say, could concuss and rupture yet still pirouette with finesse. If you waltz too much, you’ll lose fans. Even with a perfect record of 50-0, cake walking Floyd Mayweather has detractors. South African Corrie Sanders was no juking pussy. Although his... Read More
Cape Town, 2021
In my last two articles, I pointed out the obvious, that war profiteers, whorish politicians and Jewish social engineers are destroying America. (If this is still news to you, then you are either an infant or a world-class moron.) My indictment didn’t sit well with several commenters, however, so I was accused of being, among... Read More
When Ichiro played in the Major Leagues, he was always hounded by a mob of Japanese journalists and photographers, starting with the first day of Spring Training. Sick of this, he told an interviewer he wished they would just disappear. “From your life?” “No, from this earth.” The USA, though, is not being pestered but... Read More
Cheyenne, 2013
Promising freedom, democracy and prosperity, America brings widespread destruction and death, but it’s all good, for the war profiteers. Since each Uncle Sam misadventure is a bonanza for them, the more, the merrier. Bring it on! On April 21st, 1975, I was still in Saigon. As the Vietnam War neared its end, there was much... Read More
Pho in Saigon, 2021
After six months in Albania, it was time to move on. Céline: “When you stay too long in the same place, things and people go to pot on you, they rot and start stinking for your special benefit.” Actually, this did not happen to me in Albania. The longer I stayed, the more I loved... Read More
Librazhd, 2021
I just had my best sleep in a long time. My dreams were elaborate, meaning my harried mind finally had a chance to iron out, at least partially, a few kinks. In one dream, I was asked to review some miserable literary text, with a few footnotes in French. As I fudged and botched this... Read More
Penang, Malaysia, 2019
Last year in South Korea, I went into a fried chicken place and asked for half a bird. Misreading my hand gestures, the lady gave me a full one, but chopped up. It’s standard in South Korea to gorge on an entire chicken, while downing mugs of beer. Their BBQ restaurants also stuff you with... Read More
Graham, Oksana and their children in Kiev, 2021
You grew up in El Cerrito, just north of Berkeley, then attended Reed College in Portland. Reed was like a madhouse in the 60's. Then you went to Berkeley, before heading to Vietnam for four years, during the height of the war. Did you transform from a hippie to a gung-ho grunt? I was too... Read More
Jack near Preixan, France
At 80-years-old, you’ve done and seen quite a lot, but you didn’t exactly have an auspicious beginning. You couldn’t even graduate from high school. What happened? I was expelled! I wasn’t much of a student anyway. I signed up for welding class and woodworking class, so I didn’t have to do any work, but in... Read More
Taipei, 2021
I just interviewed an American who'd traveled for five years straight, but you have been outside the US for 18 years altogether. Why, first off, and how have you been able to sustain yourself? Was there no place you wanted to settle? Will you ever return to the US to live? I had always wanted... Read More
jonathan
With my Escape from America series, I’ve interviewed American ex-pats who have settled in Mexico, the Philippines, Hungary, Costa Rica, Brazil or England, etc., but you’re constantly escaping from one country to the next, with the goal of experiencing all 180 of them! What made you choose such an unusual lifestyle, and how did you... Read More
gjirokaster-2021
Borges and Bioy-Casares created a detective who solved crimes from a jail cell. Don Isidro Parodi could help others, but not extricate himself from a false accusation. Removing themselves from the world, desert hermits were still sought out by those overwhelmed by day-to-day problems, whether financial, familial or perhaps even sexual. Nathaniel West’s Miss Lonelyhearts... Read More
kukes-2021
Five weeks ago, it looked like war would break out in Europe. With up to 150,000 Russian troops massed on the Ukrainian border, The Saker concluded, “In my professional opinion, what I see is a joint preparation by the Ukronazis and the USA (along with the UK and Poland) to attack the Donbass and force... Read More
shkoder-2021
I’m in a tiny Tirana café built around a eucalyptus tree. John Belushi, the Madonna and someone’s deceased grandma charm its wooden walls. I sip a macchiato to start my day. At the bar, an old man in an old suit orders a raki. It’s not quite nine, yet he’s downing a shot of five-alarm... Read More
tirana-2021x0428
Is Albania, believe it or not, for here, you can walk around, sit inside cafes, bars or restaurants, worship at a packed church or mosque, and travel by crowded buses between cities, etc. Though you’re supposed to wear a mask in public, most folks do so with their nose sticking out, because it’s hard to... Read More
In the visual arts, there’s Egon Schiele who died at 28, Seurat at 31, and the photographer Francesca Woodman, who leapt from a window of a Lower East Side building at just 22 years of age. In literature, there’s Hart Crane. Chugging from Mexico to NYC on a steamship, the 32-year-old poet couldn’t help but... Read More
Though Flannery O’Connor didn’t live long, she left us some of the best stories ever written. It’s impossible to overpraise “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” “The Life You Save May Be Your Own,” “The Displaced Person,” “The Artificial Nigger,” “Good Country People,” “Everything That Rises Must Converge” and “Revelation.” O’Connor’s liberal usage of... Read More
tirana-2021x0411
Many literary classics you encounter too early in life, often as a class assignment in college or even high school. With almost no life experience, you can’t fully grasp their deeper meanings. Nothing prevents you from rereading them much later, however, and a masterful work should be revisited again and again. I don’t know how... Read More
Cassavetes with his wife, actress Gena Rowlands in 1959. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
My illness is mostly over, I think. There’s still residual coughing, weak, tremulous breathing and difficulty sleeping, but I’ve been able to walk for miles each day, a restorative act that gets my blood flowing, and, of course, seeing people lifts my spirits. Here in Tirana, there are enough benches and green spaces to rest,... Read More
tirana-2021x0327
Just this month, Kevin Barrett wrote about our cultural breakdown through the prism of Dostoevsky’s Demons. Also at Unz, Mike Whitney began his article about the Covid vaccines with a quotation from Milton’s Paradise Lost, “Which way I fly is hell; myself am hell; And in the lowest deep a lower deep, Still threat’ning to... Read More
Tirana, 2021
After moving to Philadelphia in 1982, I quickly discovered McGlinchey’s, home of the 50-cent draft of Rolling Rock, and Bacchanal, where there were poetry readings on Mondays. When I had a few extra bucks, I also treated myself to a chopped liver sandwich at the original Latimer Deli, or a meatloaf and mashed potato dinner... Read More
tirana-2021x
Though long-inhabited, Tirana never became a city until after World War II. In 1938, it had but 38,000 people. Further, its architectural heritage has been much destroyed during the Communist decades, so there are almost no historical churches or mosques left. A striking exception is the Et’hem Bey Mosque, completed in 1821. Only shuttered by... Read More
tirana-2021-2
The older you get, the more likely you are to ramble, or, to put it more delicately, to improvise quite freely, incoherently or repetitively, the more you’ll sound like Sun Ra on acid, in short. Warning label out of the way, I must talk about dogs, to start with. In Egypt, they’re everywhere, but nearly... Read More
tirana-2021
I’m in downtown Tirana. My 7th floor room has a fridge, desk, three chairs and a wardrobe. There’s also an electric kettle, which is useful not just for hot beverages, but instant noodles and soups. Heat is love. My private bathroom is clean and new, with plenty of hot water, and strong shower jets. My... Read More
Alexandria, 2021
Flying into Egypt, I was given a one-month visa, which I got right at the airport for a small fee. One is allowed to overstay for two weeks, however, so I’ll likely take advantage of this. I’m getting more comfortable in Cairo, and why not? In any unknown neighborhood, you must figure out where you... Read More
Mosque of Ibn Tulun, 2021
It’s nearly impossible for me to write here. The streets beckon, and I’m a street rat, for sure. Right this moment, I could be in that bitsy Bab Al Louq café, having my first cup while watching people and traffic swarm by, or I could be on the subway, heading to Al Azbakiyyah, with its... Read More
beirut-2020x26
It’s cold yet sunny on this Christmas morning. Standing outside, I’m surrounded by a squadron of winged insects. Dots of light, they hover and meander in air tirelessly. Like drunk pinballs, they jerk, dance and bounce down invisible grooves, and around unseen obstacles. No, they’re more like ponderous thoughts. (Your jumped-up synapses are but flying... Read More
Beirut, 2020
Yesterday at Chicken Company, a man said I was a cross between Mr. Magoo and Pat Morita, of The Karate Kid fame. If I’m not compared to a freshly perforated corpse, I’m complimented. Chowing out with his hijabed wife and mewing toddler, dude was perfectly groomed, with each black hair impossibly sculpted. What can I... Read More
Arnoun, Lebanon, 2020
Traveling is not just a shifting of the body, but a reorientation of the mind, so here in Lebanon, I can’t help but think about Islam, because I’m surrounded by Muslims, and the fajr call to prayer wakes me each dawn. Iran’s most advanced missiles are called Fajr, by the way, a mere coincidence, I’m... Read More
From this elevated village, you can see the ocean on clear days. So close, it’s only three hours away by foot. For millennia, traders passed by that ridge, right there, on their journey from Sidon to Damascus. Sidon’s souq is gloriously intact. Once entered, it’s impossible to not get lost for hours, and maybe even... Read More
Destroyed Jewish tank in Mleeta, Lebanon, 2020
Every village has its idiot, but in Sidon, they're all idiots, Ali informed me as we drove, again, through this gorgeous and mellow city. And they're cowards too, Ali added, chuckling. "They do not like to fight." "Maybe they're like that because this city is so beautiful." I wanted to say soft, but when speaking... Read More
Me shack in Al-Quala\
So where was I? As I was saying, traveling during Covid is not exactly relaxing. Entry rules can change overnight, and flights may be canceled at the last minute. No really means no, just like on your first date, all those moons ago. You ain't getting in, so stop begging. On my last day in... Read More
struga-2020
This entire year, I’ve been a vagabond, but you, too, have been on a journey, away from just about everything you’ve known, into the vaguest of futures, and we’re just getting started. Steered by obscured hands, we’re whipped around blind bends, towards a reality we have no part in shaping. Yesterday, my friend Chuck Orloski... Read More
Skopje, 2020
Wandering around Belgrade, I ran into the Hells Angels of Serbia’s clubhouse. I tried its door to find it locked. Weeks later, I discovered the Hillbillies MC’s pub, so I went in, had a couple beers and looked around. Their logo featured a bearded, smiling skull in front of red wings. Most of the “doom... Read More
vladimirovo-north-macedonia-2020
Can I be frontally honest and even a bit shameless with you? (No, not that, but maybe later.) What I’m trying to say, and do brace yourself here, what I’m really trying to bare, fess up and gently confide here, behind a curtain and under a sheet, sotto voce, is that I simply do not... 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.