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 BlogviewLinh Dinh Archive

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Something Here
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
eastern-city-gate-belgrade-2020
Van Gogh was most creative during the autumn and spring, I remember reading somewhere, because a radical shift in the weather was exhilarating. This shouldn’t mean you should look forward to leaves changing color, however, or even exuberant flowers smearing their sassily obscene palette on your tumescent eyeballs. Stop playing with yourself, dude. Da Vinci... Read More
belgrade-2020x0904
Even if you’re somewhere for decades, you only get the briefest glimpses of most people’s lives. Traveling, this is even truer. A glancing brush on the sidewalk can still resonate, however. Walk-ons and extras all, we still deserve to be read. In Joyce’s “The Dead,” the coat girl has but two lines, but who can... Read More
belgrade-2020x0828
There’s a rather innocuous painting by Peter Saul called “Bathroom Sex Murder,” so this article’s title is also a harmless joke. It’s better than “My Summer Vacation,” no? Of course, I’m not anti-Semitic. Jew canceled, I’m just trying to uncancel myself, bits by bits, with tads of cutesy sensationalism. Walking into a bar, a guy... Read More
Even in strange places, you establish routines, so I’ve been going to Dzidzi Midzi to write. Its balcony overlooking the street is calming, and even more importantly, it’s quiet. It has four bartenders. One is hook nosed, chubby, stubby, glum, swarthy, honest and speaks English quite comfortably. Frowning, he said to me, “This is too... Read More
Belgrade, 2020
Pandemic, lockdowns, riots, disappeared jobs, collapsed businesses, empty fridges, closed borders, weird explosions and, just now, Beirutshima, so 2020 is already a horror show, but wait, it’s actually a mousy prelude to the endlessly crashing cymbals, just ahead. Many more ambulances will howl down streets. The empire will only exit with a bang. Meanwhile, all... Read More
Belgrade, 2020
I’ve moved to a new neighborhood. Choryang-dong was instructive, delicious and hospitable, but like visas, passion or time itself, everything winds down. Thanks to the coronavirus, I felt a bit trapped there, so I’ve inched over to Hadžipopovac. Entering South Korea on February 28th, I thought there was a good chance I wouldn’t be able... Read More
Philadelphia, 2017
On June 24th, Trump said, “I think many of the people that are knocking down these statues don’t even have any idea what the statue is... Now they’re looking at Jesus Christ.” Actually, both the iconoclasts and their backers know very well what they’re destroying, and who they’re humiliating, deracinating and subjugating. Though often messy,... Read More
New York, 2011
In a recent article, “Smashing Culture,” I briefly described a scene in Philadelphia from 30+ years ago. Sitting in McGlinchey’s, I was drinking Rolling Rock. This trivia triggered a most curious yet telling response from a commenter, “Rolling Rock? – really? Were you listening to the Eagles too? Nice street cred attempt, but it’s either... Read More
Busan, 2020
Near my guesthouse in Busan, there’s a Mongolian restaurant, Chinggis Khaan. On its sign, there’s a portrait of the conqueror, looking stern, with a lineup of archers on horseback, behind him. Though I had walked by Chinggis Khaan many times, I never entered because I thought it was probably some jive joint, run by Koreans.... Read More
Statues of Sun Yat-Sen, Churchill, Lincoln and Plato in Singapore, 2015
At the start of French Revolution, Bertrand Barère declared, “The revolutions of a barbarous people destroy all monuments, and the very trace of the arts seems to be effaced. The revolutions of an enlightened people conserve the fine arts, and embellish them […]” Soon after, though, thousands of French statues were wrecked, and many heads... Read More
Philadelphia, 2011
A guy with who once pointed a gun at the belly of a woman during an armed robbery was actually “a gentle giant,” according to ABC News. It quotes one of his buddies, “Anybody who knows him will tell you he’s not confrontational.” At George Floyd’s funeral, the mayor of Minneapolis, Richard Frey, knelt by... Read More
Felix Giordano at Friendly Lounge in Philadelphia, 2016
On June 4th, Common Dreams’ lead story is titled, “‘This Isn’t Going Away’: Defying Curfews and Police Brutality in Relentless Push for Justice, Uprising Over Killing of George Floyd Keeps Growing.” The same day, I received a mass email from Jee Leong Koh, a Singaporean poet living in Harlem. In an 800-word statement about the... Read More
[the below will be translated into Farsi and published at this website] The Iranian people would like to know how would you interpret Floyd’s death: an isolated case of officers mistreating criminals or a sign of systematic anti-black racism? -As we can clearly see in the film, Floyd was murdered, for an officer knelt on... Read More
On April 29th, an American friend wrote from Spain, where he’d lived for 20 years, “The government announced new (legal) abilities to track and monitor people’s telephones. My youngest [son] asked if we could go to the U.S. if Spain moves towards communism. I didn’t know how to respond! Frightening where this could go.” I... Read More
Busan on May 23rd, 2020
Although the compulsion to travel is universal, nearly all of it is only done virtually, and I’m not just talking about the internet, of course, but reading books, looking at photos, telling and hearing stories, or just thinking. We can’t stand to be confined to one miserable or paradisal spot while knowing everything else is... Read More
Coming to South Korea on a 90-day tourist visa, I never thought I would need to renew it, but thanks to the coronavirus, I had to, just last week. Encountering bureaucracy anywhere is usually stressful, but thankfully, the process here was quick and straightforward. Koreans know how to be efficient. Buses and trains always run... Read More
From the moment I was born, I’ve wanted to write a 20,000-word tribute to Barbra Streisand, but this is not it, unfortunately. I’m still not ready. Instead, I want to talk about how we routinely distort, embellish or simply erase much the past, so what’s preserved and presented is not so embarrassing. It’s a universal... Read More
Busan on May 6th, 2020
Five months into the coronavirus crisis, there is no consensus about anything. When this virus was mostly limited to China, I tried to get as close as possible, so for two weeks, I stayed in Lao Cai, Vietnam. Nearly each day, I walked along the Red River to look into Yunnan, and what I saw... Read More
With the world becoming so stupid, by design, there is no mind or focus left to pay attention to any of the arts, so beauty is increasingly perverted and language sickens, by design. Numbed by nonstop media sewage, just about every man is divorced from his own thoughts even, so of course he can barely... Read More
In South Korea, you can still get on buses and trains, or just wander around for miles at your leisure, so yesterday, I was in Gimhae. Like all Korean cities, it unashamedly flaunts nondescript, skyscraping condos and sterile, soulless churches that surely prove there is no God, for there’s no way he would tolerate so... Read More
Pohang, South Korea, 2020
There are coronavirus cases in at least 185 countries, with none reported in North Korea. As Western Europe’s infection rate slows, Turkey’s and Russia’s accelerate. Africa’s death toll remains a remarkably low 1,136, but reliable statistics are impossible to get anywhere, not just in Africa. Coronavirus deaths may be wrongly attributed or simply uncounted. In... Read More
Yeosu, South Korea on April 7th, 2020
My freshman year in college, I had an English teacher, Stanley Ward, who said, “All writing is about sex or death,” which drew laughs from us idiots, for it sounded like a joke, but if you consider how everything falls within the continuum between the generation of life and its negation, then of course Mr.... Read More
All our lives, our sadism is masterfully jerked by movies and newscasts, so we’re giddy at the sight of other people being blown up or swept away by giant waves, anything, really, as long as it’s not us being napalmed or nuked. This coronavirus crisis is so disappointing, however, for there’s not much to see.... Read More
This is the third installment of Coronavirus Missives, a series in which I survey people in various countries about this emergency. Though I believe there is a global health crisis, most of my respondents think it’s just a giant hoax to enable increasingly totalitarian governments to shackle, cripple or even murder them. None of them... Read More
Hanoi\
When I left Hanoi on February 28th, its streets were still choked with traffic, most restaurants and cafes were packed, and there were only a few minor signs of the pandemic threat. There were more facemasks, especially on waiters and shopkeepers. At some dumpy pho joint, I spotted a sign requesting customers to not smoke,... Read More
busan-2020-x-3
In Singapore, you can be jailed for half a year for failing to keep “social distance.” The same offense in New York will only get you fined for up to $500, although an 86-year-old woman has just been killed when she got too close to someone at a Brooklyn hospital. Out of masks, Tennessee doctors... Read More
Outrageous events are avalanching, so any analysis risks becoming immediately obsolete, and even quaintly so. Just two weeks ago was the good old days. Remember when you could perform extraordinary tasks like loafing in a bar just to shoot the shit, walking down the street unperturbed or saying to a diner waitress, “Over easy, please,”... Read More
busan-2020x-1
As a chicken chomping, coke snorting species, we have three main foes. 1) Beasts more ferocious than us, such as tigers, lions and, well, just about all other animals, since we’re such wimps. 2) Living organisms we can’t even see, such as viruses. 3) Other men, of course, since man is clearly man’s most lethal... 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.