Part I: The Pancake
Actually, not a pancake, but a xian bing, or, as people from my part of China would say, xiar bing.
Those round golden disks on the very right of the image, those are xian bing–or at least they look that way to me–elastics ball of dough stuffed with some sort of cheap veggie and a bit of ground pork, then deep fried and served hot. So yum and so hard to find in the States.
The expression “a big xian bing from heaven” is probably somewhat analogous to “manna from heaven,” but much more practical, like if a relative you didn’t even know you had gifts you with a brand new Wii, or if Sybil from The Good, the Bad, the Unread emails you out of the blue, while you are trying to decide whether your hero should see this big old cabbage flower carpet on the floor of the servants’ hall. The servants were having themselves an annual ball, you see, so wouldn’t it make sense for the carpet to have been rolled up and put out of the way for the evening?
Begins bad re-enactment
Sybil: You around?
You: Yeah, what up?
Sybil: I’s been working hard for you.
You: Oh yeah? What have you done for me lately?
Sybil: Need a quote? I have been told to send this to you and if you have need of it feel free to use it in any way you like…
“Sherry Thomas is the most powerfully original historical romance author writing today. She is a rebel, a rule-breaker, and above all, a romantic. Searing, tender and filled with passion, her writing is nothing short of a revelation. ‘Private Arrangements’ clearly heralds the beginning of a dazzling career, and I am looking forward to more brilliantly told romances from this accomplished writer.”
You: (Look around for your glasses to make sure you are reading right)
Sybil:Oh wanna know who the quote is from? Lisa Kleypas!
You: Holy Batman! (Brain melts)
End of bad re-enactment
See what I mean about a big xian bing from heaven? One moment I was thinking about nineteenth century carpet, and the next, I had a quote from Lisa Kleypas.
Much gratitude goes to Sybil, for finding a copy of Private Arrangements to give to Lisa, when the latter was signing Blue-Eyed Devil in Houston. To Lawson, Sybil’s lovely henchwoman, for paying for that copy when Sybil went to look for her phone. And to Lisa, who is much, much too kind. Really, ladies, none of you needed to go to such trouble.
(But I’m so grateful that you did.)
Part II: The Romantic
I don’t know what strikes you about Lisa’s quote (other than how many years I must have promised to clean her house for free). I’ll tell you what had my heart thud.
Not the extravagant praises. They thrill me, but I have trouble reading extravagant praises. It is as if some part of my upbringing automatically kicks in and would not let me believe too much in it. (A very good thing, in a way, for writers get reader reaction only on books they’d already finished writing. To luxuriate too much in favorable opinions of a work finished months, if not years ago would be like a woman forever reliving a past soiree at which, for that one night, she looked smashing hot.)
Rather, what made me feel elated and exposed and a bit vulnerable was when Lisa called me a romantic–as if some Duke of Hawtness had whispered in my ear as we were waltzing around the the ballroom, me in my big Scarlett O’hara crinoline, that he knew I didn’t have any drawers on and he liked it.
I guess I’m what you’d call a closet romantic. A cynics’ romantic. For I am most certainly a cynic: I think the world is a brutal vale of tears; I’m not entirely sure intelligent life is in any way superior to trees and sea cucumbers; and I’m almost certain that love is the greatest stupid-pill of all time.
And yet despite my cynicism, or perhaps precisely because of it, I am moved beyond words by kindness, wisdom, and love. A clear blue sky is enough to fill me with hope. And every day that the world lugs on–stupidity, violence, and grief in tow–is another day of blue sky somewhere, another day of courage, compassion, and love somewhere and everywhere.