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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Dien Bien Phu, 2020
Nothing is equal to anything else. In 1904, Jack London traveled from Korea to China. As soon as he crossed the border, he saw what he thought was a much more energetic, resourceful and resilient civilization, Gushing at length over the Chinese, London concludes, “The Korean is the perfect type of inefficiency—of utter worthlessness. The... Read More
craig-nelsen
Please introduce yourself to the readers. My major in college was Western philosophy and, after graduation, at the suggestion of one of my professors, I took a position teaching English at a university in Shanxi province, China for the opportunity to immerse myself in a society informed by Eastern philosophy. I went for six months... Read More
Ea Kly, 2019
After ten weeks away, I’m back in dusty, remote Ea Kly and the plastic recycling plant. Coming up from Saigon in our new truck, we avoided Highway 13, since my brother and sister-in-law are very superstitious. Last year, they got charms from a shaman to stick on our plant, yet our business still floundered. In... Read More
My Grandma\
In December of 2011, I was on an Amtrak rolling through North Carolina. Sitting in the lounge car, I gazed mostly at trees and fields, with their isolated houses or trailers. Every so often, a town would flit by, Smithfield, Kenly, Elm City... Though all these names meant nothing to me, each settlement appeared sweet... Read More
Can Tho, 2019
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
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
Tokyo, 2018
We landed in darkness. The last time I was in Narita was 18 years earlier. With a six-hour layover, I inexplicably didn’t leave the airport. “Can I possibly die without at least a glimpse of Japan?” I’d ask myself, cringing. Finally, I was there. My first impressions were the generous legroom on the train to... Read More
Chanthaburi, Thailand, 2018
History is primarily a chronicle of wars and invasions, most often among neighbors, so every inch of every border has been fiercely fought over, for that’s how any population maintains its autonomy, integrity and identity. Plus, you need land to prosper so, often, you grab your neighbor’s when he’s weak. Everyone has done this. Everyone.... Read More
saigon-2018
With their brief existence, and dumbed down now by a degraded and warped education, most Americans have a telescoped and cartoony sense of history, so nothing matters, really, beyond the last two or three presidential elections, and each foreign country is represented, at most, by a caricature or two, so Germany is Hitler and Merkel,... 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
Poets Phan Nhien Hao and To Thuy Yen (far left) in New Haven
I’ve only been to New Haven four times, and last week, it was only to participate in the commemoration of the Fall of Saigon, as organized by the Vietnamese Studies Program at Yale. I was one of three poets invited. The other two were Phan Nhien Hao (b. 1967) and To Thuy Yen (b. 1938).... Read More
Rudy Dent in Detroit, 2017
On February 18th, I was in Detroit to attend a presentation, “The War on Islam: 9/11 Revisited, Uncovered & Exposed.” Sponsored by the Nation of Islam, it featured Kevin Barrett, Richard Gage and Christopher Bollyn. Prefacing, Ilia Rashad Muhammad remarked that 9/11 is more relevant than ever, since it has been used to curb the... Read More
San Martin de Porres
My patron saint is Martin de Porres. Wikipedia describes him as “the patron saint of mixed-race people, barbers, innkeepers, public health workers, and all those seeking racial harmony,” all of which is news to me. I had always known Saint Martin as just some black guy, which is curious enough. What was my father thinking?... Read More
Felix Giordano at Home, 2016
Felix Giordano lives on the 24th floor of Riverview, a subsidized complex for senior citizens. Once a dreaded housing project, it is now pleasant and safe. Most of Felix’ neighbors are black and Asian. Although an artist, Felix keeps his one-bedroom apartment neat. There are no paint drips on the carpet. His walls are covered... Read More
More than a century after his death, Stewart Crenshaw still provokes endless debates. With a single sublime or hypocritical decision, Crenshaw forever affixed himself to American history. Like Billy the Kid, Tokyo Rose, Muhammad Ali, or Jeffrey Dahmer, Crenshaw is an American icon, but whereas the others had to become outlaws to insinuate themselves into... Read More
a katz / Shutterstock.com
A hundred-and-fifty-one years after the abolition of slavery, America has a half white, half black president, a black Nobelist in literature, whites who attribute not just every form but instance of black dysfunction to white racism, blacks who demand reparations, the mainstreaming of innumerable black slang terms, including “diss,” a new phrase “negro fatigue” and... Read More
shutterstock_325157468
The Dinh Dynasty lasted only 12 years and ended in 980, but in the 20th century, there were around a dozen plays about one of the Dinh queens, Duong Van Nga. When I was a kid in Saigon in the 1970s, a folk opera about her could pack a theater night after night. In 2013,... Read More
Vernon (Right) in Friendly Lounge
Looking for Vern for over a week, I finally found him in the Friendly Lounge. Vivacious Kelly was bartending. Overhearing Vern say how he had to take his helmet off because of the letters “VC,” Kelly looked perplexed, “Why?” “Because VC stands for Viet Cong,” Vern clarified. “Viet Com?” When you’re young and beautiful, you... Read More
22411959667_c00f241d6a_b
Recently, I flew to Singapore to participate in its Writers’ Festival. The Lufthansa captain bade us goodbye, “We wish you a successful stay in Singapore.” Heading downtown, I became reacquainted with the lush rain trees amply shading the highway for many miles. “Lee Kuan Yew picked these himself,” the cheerful cabbie explained. “They aren’t native.... Read More
Banner in Leipzig
Though American dissidents are often branded as “anti-American,” many if not most see themselves as opposed only to their government, not their nation or people. At the Occupy camps, for example, the American flag flew freely. In Germany, however, the dissident crowd are often not just against the state, but their country and, perhaps only... Read More
Credit : Linh Dinh
Just as there are so many ways for a man to die, there are countless methods for a place to be destroyed. Unlike a dead man, however, a wrecked city or country most often doesn’t disappear entirely, but lingers on as a shadow or zombie, or it becomes an entirely different place. Most American cities... Read More
shutterstock_151138391
Ignorance is renewed with each newborn, and by the time any man figures out anything, he can almost feel the mortician leaning over his stiff face. Though all lessons are embalmed within history, few care to explore that infinite corpse. Lewis Mumford, “So far from being overwhelmed by the accumulations of history, the fact is... Read More
Carolina K. Smith MD / Shutterstock.com
Since September 11, 2001, Bin Laden had been mostly an absence. His few video or audio tapes were highly suspect, and speculations about his death had often surfaced. On July 11, 2002, Amir Taheri wrote in the New York Times, "Osama bin Laden is dead. The news first came from sources in Afghanistan and Pakistan... Read More
shutterstock_176341079
Decades ago, I’d show up weekly to clean the Philadelphia apartment of a California transplant. Daughter of a Hollywood executive, Jacqueline confessed she had to escape California because “California women are too beautiful.” To save her self esteem, she had to flee to Philadelphia. Ah, California as the perfect state with the most beautiful people!... Read More
Though Thomas Paine galvanized this country into being and gave it its very name, The United States of America, there is almost no trace of him here. In Philadelphia, where he spent his most significant years, there is a Thomas Paine Plaza, but it is barely marked as such, with no statue of the man.... 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.