Saturday 23 August 2014

May-Lan Tan

Here's all I know about the author May-Lan Tan, gleaned from her agent's website:

May-Lan Tan grew up in colonial Hong Kong and was educated in British and American schools. Her parents are Dutch-speaking Chinese immigrants from Indonesia. She holds a BA in Fine Art and an MA in Creative Writing from Goldsmiths College. Things to Make and Break, was published by CB editions in March 2014.

I've just got around to reading this debut collection of short stories, which carries a warm endorsement on the back cover by none other than Gordon Lish, who is too little known on this side of the Atlantic. See a good piece on him here. Lish famously knocked Raymond Carver's prose into shape so he clearly knows what's what and his recommendations carry a lot of weight in this household. I read May-Lan Tan's eleven stories in a single sitting (it's that kind of book), and I found myself regularly yelping with admiration.

She has a brilliant way of making the familiar seem strange (but not too strange) - a playground slide 'like a high-heeled shoe', for instance. I'd cite V. S. Pritchett as an improbably comparable talent. If you haven't read his short story The Sailor do look it up, then read May-Lan Tan.  She really is just as good.

Here she is in a podcast, reading part of the first story in this collection: Legendary

You can buy Things to Make and Break here.

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