I get the best story ideas when I have to solve a problem. In this case, the problem was: I need the motto of the House of Autransi, and right away. And that suggested a story. Because when does a royal house come up with its motto? Well:

When her mother and her uncle had decided to take over the world, they’d changed their family name to Autransi.

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Thumbs up for The Essential Tales of Chekhov by Anton Chekhov. Literature.

From the introduction by Richard Ford:

Far from his stories’ ever sinking to typicality or being knowable by a scheme, Chekhov seems so committed to life’s multifariousness that the stories provoke in us the sensation Ford Madox Ford must have had in mind when he observed that the general effect of fiction “must be the effect life has on mankind”—by which I’ve always thought he meant that it be persuasively important, profuse, irreducible in its ambiguities, full of diverse pleasures, and always on the brink of being unknowable except that our ordering intelligence ardently urges us toward clarity.

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Thumbs up for City of Gold: Dubai and the Dream of Capitalism by Jim Krane. History/travel.

Astonishingly good. I would wish that all countries had books this riveting written about them, but I don’t think it’s possible; most places just won’t make your jaw drop this often. If this were a story about oil, I wouldn’t find it very interesting. But oil came late and comparatively little.… >> Read more

Thumbs up for Desperate in Dubai by Ameera Al Hakawati. Chick lit.

I would not touch this in a million years if it were set in L.A. But it’s set in Dubai, a place I hope to visit at some point in the next few years. I am simultaneously reading an excellent nonfiction book about the city, but this trashy piece of chick lit is the perfect way to learn about the things you wouldn’t think to ask about.… >> Read more