Ling Ma

Chinese American speculative fiction novelist and academic (1983-)

Ling Ma is a Chinese-American novelist and assistant professor of practice in the Arts at the University of Chicago.

Ling Ma in 2023

Quotes edit

Severance (2018) edit

Page numbers from the hardcover first edition, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux ISBN 978-0-374-26159-7, first printing
Italics as in the book
  • Chicago is the most American of American cities.
    • Prologue (p. 5)
  • Let us return, then, as we do in times of grief, for the sake of pleasure but mostly for the need for relief, to art. Or whatever. To music, to poetry, to paintings and installations, to TV and the movies.
    But mostly TV and the movies.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 27)
  • He spoke with authority: The millennial generation has different values than most of America. The kids coming out of college today, they don’t want jobs, they expect trust funds.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 35)
  • Blythe liked to say the only things you can really do in Hong Kong are shop and eat. It is a city that distills life down to its bare essentials.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 99)
  • What surprised me in Hong Kong, however, was how many iterations of the same thing were available. Take a Louis Vuitton bag, for example. You could buy the actual bag, a prototype of the actual bag from the factory that produced it, or an imitation. And if an imitation, what kind of imitation? An expensive, detailed, hand-worked imitation, a cheap imitation made of polyurethane, or something in between? Nowhere else was there such an elaborate gradient between the real and the fake. Nowhere else did the boundaries of real and fake seem so porous.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 100)
  • Spirit money, yellow bills imprinted with gold foil, was tied with red string and shrink-wrapped in thick stacks. When I lived in China, my grandmother used to burn it. Once broken down into ashes, she had explained, the money would transfer into the possession of our ancestral spirits. They would use it to buy things or to bargain with others or to bribe afterlife officials for favors. The afterlife, with its bureaucratic echelons and hierarchies, functioned similarly to the government. Nothing turned your way unless you took matters into your own hands.
    • Chapter 8 (pp. 103-104)
  • The internet is the flattening of time. It is the place where the past and the present exist on one single plane. But proportionally, because the present calcifies into the past, even now, even as we speak, perhaps it is more accurate to say that the internet almost wholly consists of the past.
    It is the place we go to commune with the past.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 114)
  • If you are an individual employed by a corporation or an institution, he said, then the odds are leveraged against you. The larger party always wins. It can’t see you, but it can crush you. And if that’s the working world, then I don’t want to be a part of it.
    • Chapter 11 (p. 137)
  • You have to know that I’m leaving because of New York, not you. You know why I don’t want to live here. I don’t want to hustle 24/7 just to make rent.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 200)
  • That sounds like a conspiracy, I dismissed. One of Jonathan’s constant critiques of me was that I didn’t keep up with the news enough, but I wondered if he wasn’t over informed, deep-diving into obscure articles and message boards, seeing connections that weren’t there.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 200)
  • In this world, money is freedom.
    • Chapter 17 (p. 206)
  • Things I know about Rachel: In her past life, she worked in the publicity department for a cable news channel. Her job was to disseminate YouTube clips of reactionary political debates by random talking heads on various shows, generate controversy, and make the clips go viral. The more “sticky” these clips could be, the more it generated publicity for the shows. It was incredibly stressful and incredibly meaningless, she once said.
    • Chapter 19 (pp. 225-226)
  • Just because you’re adequately good at something doesn’t mean that’s what you should do.
    • Chapter 24 (p. 274)

External links edit

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