Review: Tea With the Black Dragon by R.A. MacAvoy
Oolong—black China tea—gets its name by combining the characters that mean "black" and "dragon." So when Martha Macnamara, Gaelic fiddler, joins Mayland Long, an intriguing dark-skinned oriental gentleman with curiously long fingers, for tea in his elegant, book-stuffed hotel room overlooking the Pacific Ocean, she is startled by an outstanding sculpture of a black dragon. Long tells her, "It's Oolong."
Yes, the tea is black China, and the sculture is a black dragon named Oolong. So, it rapidly becomes apparant, is Mayland Long.
When he sets aside his scholarly search for the truth and his master, which he had been prophecied to find in San Francisco, to help Martha track down her daughter, he will put his own long life in jeopardy.
I first read this book in the mid-80s, when I was just getting into computer programming. MacAvoy expertly wove a a tapestry of fine design by combining computer technology with the poetry of Zen philosophy and mythical Chinese dragons. I was rapt in the romance of a dragon's study of humankind, and taken with Long's life among books. Who would not want to be the dapper, wealthy, studied, elegant dragon in his hotel-room tower?
Reading it again in the Kindle edition for the first time in a decade, I now see more of the appeal of Martha Macnamara, and the romance between these two older people, both slightly alienated from the push and thrust of modern life and modern technology—especially now that my own years are advanced! It helped to be familiar now with San Franciso, although MacAvoy's descriptions of the city are so evocative that this knowledge adds only a minor gloss to the tale.
Either way, the book has not lost any charm due to the slight dating of computer tech in the modern half of the story, but has only acquired more polish from its age. Make an appointment to enjoy this high tea, whether it is your first sip, or a familiar refreshment. Oolong does not disappoint, and neither does MacAvoy.