If a writer’s sentences have enough life and interest in them – with “every step an arrival”, as Rainer Maria Rilke put it – they will hold the reader and move the writing along. The writing finds a hidden unity that has no need of the mucilage of linking phrases. Each sentence is like a tidal island that looks cut off until, at low tide, a causeway to the mainland appears. A good lesson for any writer: make each sentence worth reading, and something in it will lead the reader into the next one. Good writers write not just in sentences but with sentences. Get them right and everything else solves itself or ceases to matter.
Robert Venturi did not like Boston City Hall. “It’s all a big symbol, though it won’t admit it,” the architect told writer Paul Goldberger in 1971 of the hated Brutalist landmark that opened in 1968. “How ridiculous —trying to make a piazza publico, like an Italian city‐state! If they really wanted to make it so monumental, they should have built a plain loft building and put a sign up top saying, ‘I Am a Monument.’ That would have been appropriate to today’s American city.”
It was not an idle proposal. Previously, perhaps joking a little, he had written that the very concept of the plaza was un-American. “Americans feel uncomfortable sitting in a square,” he wrote. “They should be working at the office or home with the family looking at television.” The next year Learning From Las Vegas, the book that made him as famous as an architecture theorist could be, included just such a sketch of a building and its sign, labeled “recommendation for a monument.”
In Suzhou, China, hundreds of ancient canals run parallel to the city’s streets, intersecting them beneath arched stone bridges. It’s what’s earned the city the nickname “Venice of the East.” But Suzhou is also part of a larger area south of the Yangtze River, and is known by another moniker: “The Land of Fish and Rice.” “Neither fish nor rice can live without water,” says “Cathy” Chen, a Suzhou tour guide who was born and raised in the Yangtze River Region. “So Suzhou is a water city.”
Suzhou owes its existence to these waterways, and particularly to the availability of fish. While fish gave life to Suzhou’s cuisine, it was also responsible for the death of the former king more than 2,500 years ago.
Mention it to anyone who’s hearing about it for the first time and you’ll likely get a scrunched-up nose and a look of confusion. Perhaps even a shake of the head. To many Americans, the combination of tea and cheese sounds downright unappetizing. But, as any cheese tea purveyor will tell you, cheese tea tastes better than it sounds. In fact, the drink isn’t that different from bubble tea, which is now firmly entrenched in the mainstream. And given cheese tea’s popularity in Asia, as well as the successful migration of other Asian desserts (like matcha-flavored sweets and shave ice) to major U.S. markets, cheese tea should be on its way to making it big in America. So what’s taking so long?
Cheese tea is the name for cold tea (usually green or black tea, with or without milk) topped with a foamy layer of milk and cream cheese and sprinkled with salt. The drink is sweet, like boba, but has a savory finish. Using a straw is prohibitive to getting enough of that tangy cream overlay, so the method of sipping it from the top of the cup at a 40- to 45-degree angle is integral to enjoying cheese tea. Shops that specialize in cheese tea, like international franchises Happy Lemon and Gong Cha as well as independent shops like Steap in San Francisco, Little Fluffy Head in Los Angeles, and Motto in Pasadena, supply a lid, not unlike a coffee lid, that circulates just the right amount of air for sipping and shields the drinker from a foam mustache.
If Lange’s heroine, with her “constant, addicted gaze”, has any analogue in contemporary British literature, it is the protagonist of Tom McCarthy’s 2005 novel Remainder, another compiler of minute details for the sake of art alone. Like him, this narrator is happiest when being a voyeur – escaping her fear of growing up, of dying, of failing to find the right words, to utter them in an authentic voice. “As long as they’re here, nothing will happen,” she keeps reassuring herself, until finally admitting that “the only thing to have happened was my fear”. If she is to overcome this fear, she must find her own way of bringing it to the page.