When we think of India, most of us are in fact thinking of Rajasthan, that large splotch of dun-colored desert in the country's northwest which, from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries, was ruled by a succession of maharajas whose sense of color, opulence, and splendor created the most enduring images of India in the West.
I don't think that genius goes hand in hand with being socially inept or being a sociopath or being a misanthrope, but I do think that it is a mind that can think so differently - so beyond how one is supposed to think.
The first thing many tourists see in Hawaii is concrete - a long dreary stretch of it through landscapes dominated by sad, cheap apartment buildings and almost entirely denuded of plant life.
It's a funny thing about cities: Some have brief, bright moments of cultural and political dominance, decades- or centuries-long spells when they seem the center of their particular nation, or region, or empire... only to later fall into obscurity and disrepair, never to regain their former glory.
We think of writing a book as a process, but the very word - process - suggests that there is one: a template to follow, a map to guide us. If that were true, someone would have surely figured out some marketable method we could all buy.
I wanted to write a story about colonization and about Hawaii. I went to college right at the height of identity politics, and that's how I always read 'The Tempest,' for example.
Between their rise in the thirteenth century and their sudden fall in the seventeenth, when the line abruptly ended, the Medicis produced three popes, two queens, and many Florentine rulers, and they supported the work of Galileo, Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Botticelli - a veritable parade of geniuses.
Florence is perhaps best known for being the seat of Renaissance art, and rightly so: A greatest-hits collection of artists passed through its streets - Michelangelo, Leonardo, Botticelli, and Brunelleschi among them.
One of the things I'm fascinated by as a traveler is watching how different countries control how they let the world encounter them.
There is something uniquely American about the motel: It speaks to the transient nature of America itself, one enabled and encouraged by our roads and highways.
Eating local is a relatively new concept in American dining; for the Italians, it's a way of life.
Unlike Milan, Italy's banking capital, or Rome, its religious center, Florence was the place where the rich went to buy goods that would showcase how wealthy they were.
Of course, no one has enough time to see every shop that Mumbai has: That would take more lifetimes than even the gods could offer.
I'd be far too self-conscious and insecure if I suspected my editor might be a better novelist than I.
I think Bhutanese food - long dissed by every food writer out there - has gotten a bum rap.
Misanthropy is born, I think, out of an almost oppressive sense of loneliness, a conviction that there's no one on earth who understands you. I don't think misanthropes hate people: They hate that people hate them.
Kashmir, the 86,000-square-mile region in India's north, both is and isn't the India of the popular imagination.
Even before it opened its retail arm, Beigh was renowned among pashmina cognoscenti for the quality and complexity of the work produced in its workshop, a large, airy, sunlit rectangle of a room directly across from its second-floor shop.
Part of adulthood is searching for the people who understand you.
I think there are patterns of the aftermath of colonization that you see echoed in cultures and communities across the world.
Those of us lucky enough to fall in love with Asia know that it's an affair that's as long as it is resonant.
I was born in L.A., then we moved to Hawaii, then we moved to New York, then we moved to Baltimore, then we moved to California, then we moved to Hawaii, then we moved to Texas, then we moved to Hawaii, then we moved to California. This was before I was 17.
Life will end in death and unhappiness, but we do it anyway.
So much of writing isn't the fun parts like we get to discuss. It is sitting there putting the words down.
There comes a point when you're writing a novel when you're in it so deep that the life of the novel becomes more real to you than life itself. You have to write your way out of it; once you're there, it's too late to abandon.
Photography is always a kind of stealing. A theft from the subject. Artists are assaulters in a lot of ways, and the viewer is complicit in that assault.
I think for a lot of people, friendship is a relationship that gets devalued once they move on to what people consider to be more important relationships: once you find a partner or when you have kids.
I really don't have anything urgent to say, and I think you shouldn't write unless you have something urgent to say. Sometimes that troubles me, and sometimes I don't really care.
Be aware of who in your life is actually interested in hearing you discuss your writing, and who's just asking to be polite. Listening to writers talk about their work is often excruciatingly dull.
Writing is, by its nature, interior work. So being forced to be around people is a great gift for a novelist. You get to be reminded, daily, of how people think, how they speak, how they live; the things they worry about, the things they hope for, the things they fear.
There's something nice and intimate about having a book. You know that someone's actually gone on this journey. You know that someone has actually researched and reported all these things. You can see and hear their tone in what they chosen to include and what they haven't.
The beauty of a Moroccan riad is undeniable, but even the most die-hard fan may find herself growing a little weary of what can come to feel like a one-size-fits-all aesthetic: tilework, white Berber rugs, woolen tribal throw pillows in reds and ochers, cut-metal lanterns.
Publishing is a business, and I completely understand it. But when you don't have to depend on writing for your identity or your income, you can do whatever you want.
I think that fiction writers can write about anyone. If you are writing a character, and the only thing they are to you is their otherness, then you haven't written a character.
I took a 51 day trip through Asia; 12 countries and 26 cities. I traveled for 51 days. So, it was everywhere from Sri Lanka and that all the way to Japan, where we ended it.
No religion makes more use of color than Hinduism, with its blue-skinned gods and peony-lipped goddesses, and even the spring festival of Holi is focused on color: Boys squirt arcs of dyed water on passersby or dump powder, all violently hued, on their marks.
The first thing I do whenever I go to Thailand is seek out the closest restaurant or stall selling mango-and-sticky rice: it's a little hillock of glutinous rice drenched in lashings of coconut milk and served with fresh mango.
I wanted to see how flavors, spices, and grains traveled back and forth along the Silk Road and were interpreted by a multitude of cultures' palates.
Any frequent visitor to Hawaii is fixated on mapping how the islands have changed since their last visit.
When you write a novel, you never have to be in the service of the reader. My only concern with my books is that the world that's created be as logical and whole as possible.
What any writer hopes for is that the reader will stick with you to the end of the contract and that there is a level of submission on the reader's part.
I think I passed up a lot of opportunities for love because I was too interested in identity politics.
I've always thought that one of the least successful encounters is meeting a writer one admires. For one thing, writers are generally much kinder, more empathetic, more generous people on the page than they are in person.
I do have the sense that, although there may be no one way to write a novel, there are many novelists who are in fact part of some sort of larger literary community, whether in the form of a writing group or an MFA program, to name two of the more common forms.
If the only thing you knew about Oman was its location, you might never go at all.
I was interested about how relationships change as you get older. You are great friends in your 20s. In your 30s, you get married. Your 40s are all about your kids. In your 50s, you get divorced, and your friendships become primary again.
Although both of us were raised on Oahu, in Honolulu, my mother has always had fond memories of Maui; this was, after all, where she and my father, then penniless yet oddly optimistic newlyweds, honeymooned in 1969.
Sometimes we all work so hard to overcome various things, and we are very cruel as a society and tough on people who we think aren't trying hard enough.
The term 'pashmina' is often used interchangeably with 'cashmere,' but in reality, pashmina is a specific type of very fine, lofty cashmere, woven from a specific type of goat - one indigenous to northern India, Nepal, and Pakistan, and harvested and woven there as well.