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Lessons in Essence

A Novel

List Price: $15.00

April 11, 2006 | Paperback | 6 x 9, 320 Pages | ISBN 9781593761097
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"Standridge, in her debut, effectively depicts the artistic reveries of Teacher Li, who discusses the artisanship of a single room or a bit of calligraphy with affectless clarity." —Publishers Weekly

Teacher Li is a grumbling Taiwanese master of ancient Chinese arts who suffers constant nightmares about a military takeover of Taiwan by China. His family is in New York seeking U.S. citizenship when Teacher Li has an almost accidental sexual encounter with a student. His wife soon returns to Taipei, and she knows everything. Miserable, but finding no solace in the city, teaching, or even drinking, Teacher Li decides to retreat to the mountains like the Zen hermits of old to write a book about aesthetics. But the purity he seeks is elusive even in mountain exile—he finds for shelter a rotting house, and for company the contrary Dr. Gao and his dropout student lover. Their cynicism juxtaposes Teacher Li’s innocence as New York is attacked on September 11, Taiwan’s president is shot in an assassination attempt the opposition says was staged, and the poles of the world seem to shift.

With keen insight into human nature, and riffs on subjects as diverse as erotic paintings, Virginia Woolf’s punctuation, and the casual savagery of children, Dana Standridge delivers a powerful story from a complex time in history. Imbued with the tension of Taipei and the beauty of mountain seclusion, Lessons in Essence uncovers timeless human truths in the crises faced by an honest and vulnerable man.

DANA STANDRIDGE was born in Alabama in 1967. She moved to Taipei in 1985 and has since spent more than a dozen years living in the mountains north of the city, where she began her career as a radio news anchor. She has also lived in Hong Kong, England, and Hawaii, and has traveled widely. She lives with her husband Christopher and son Eli. This is her first novel.

Praise

“Standridge, in her debut, effectively depicts the artistic reveries of Teacher Li, who discusses the artisanship of a single room or a bit of calligraphy with affectless clarity.” —Publishers Weekly

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