An old farmer, trying to build a plane in his village. A young man that gambles everything on the roaring stock market. A community transformed by a magical fruit that evokes vivid memories. A Chinese woman unable to understand her American partner. People stuck in a train station, waiting for a train that never comes.
These stories, among others, make up Land of Big Numbers (Mariner Books: 2021), the debut story collection by Te-Ping Chen. Chen’s fiction spans a wide array of styles and narratives, from vignettes that feel like they could have been plucked from the newspapers, through surreal allegories for Chinese society, to character examinations of cross-cultural relationships.
In this interview, Te-Ping and I talk about the different stories in “Land of Big Numbers”, and her choice of styles, narratives and themes. We talk about how these stories are based on her time in China, as well as the differences between writing for fiction and writing for journalism.
Te-Ping Chen is a fiction writer and journalist. She is a Wall Street Journal correspondent in Philadelphia who was previously based in Beijing and Hong Kong. Her fiction has been published in The New Yorker, Granta and Tin House. She can be followed on Twitter at @tepingchen.
Nicholas Gordon is a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. In his day job, he’s a researcher and writer for a think tank in economic and sustainable development. He is also a print and broadcast commentator on local and regional politics. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.
Nicholas Gordon is a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. In his day job, he’s a researcher and writer for a think tank in economic and sustainable development. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.