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I read my library copy of Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 on my phone, and -- even though I usually agree with my friend J. about Murakami ("Sure, I read Murakami. All of his books are kind of the same. It's nice. They're nice."), suddenly I love this book with a wild passion -- it's that tourist/expatriate thing, like that time in Serbia I suddenly thought U2 was great music, or that time in Kleipeda, Lithuania when we ordered a Swedish-style "Mexican pizza" and it made us cry it was so good, it was better than pizza. I start to feel happy about the valley, and happy about everything, and I wonder if the rum punch is a magical drink that will make me love everything I only tolerated before, which is such a rummy, stupid thought -- there's never been any question that rum punch makes you love the things you don't love.
Big books, big Novels, as Martin Amis diagnosed long ago, seem inherently an American addiction. America, vast in space and in ambition, seems to goad its writers to impose a brazen intentionality onto the marketplace. The American writer's appetite must be omnivorous, his palette the trunk of a sequoia, his cast not smaller than a minor duchy, a perversion of Dostoevsky. And yet how often you read one of those baggy monsters and there's nothing there but explosions of trivial pleonasm. The imagination slumbers, the talent something that happened to other people. That's one tendency. On the other hand you have those endless, sentimental, middleclass novels of domestic interaction, a perversion of Chekhov. Whether it is the vastness of the country or its multifariousness, each year brings a thousand thousand-page bricks, each usually a tomb for dead language, and a desiccated, catastrophically pious imagination. For each DeLillo, a thousand of these others, for each McCarthy another thousand tumble forth in unison.
"I don’t think I’m particularly smart about the whole thing, I’m just someone who decided to do what a bunch of people were thinking, which is, the font matters, the margins matter. There were a whole bunch of teachers who said, you’ve got to use this font, you’ve got to use this spacing. I was that intractable kid. Someone picked up on this awhile ago, this notion of quantum literature, and this describes where I like to live. Those variations make a difference. In classical physics those little perturbations don’t make a difference. In classical literature, the font, the page, whatever, they’re irrelevant. There’s a wonderful gift in literature because it can be poured out of the vessels and just live in your mind and imagination. But that’s not to deny that these tiny little changes, the shapes, the serifs, the way it lays on the page, don’t have an impact also. And that’s what I explore."
In 1989, Xi Chuan participated in the student protests at Tiananmen Square. After the state repression, the exile of the Obscure poets, and the deaths of two close friends (also poets) from Beijing University, he wrote almost nothing for two years. In 1992, his magazine Tendency (Qingxiang) was shut down. He eventually returned to regular writing, but with a radically different vision. While not abandoning lyrical poetry, he began writing sharp prose poem sequences that use earthy, sometimes caustic, language to explore and question Chinese history, literature, and society.
"My teaching over the years has migrated from a 'what is this essay saying?' to a 'what is this essay asking?' approach, because it is the journey of interrogation, the search for meaning, that is essential, not necessarily any answer or conclusion. Digression may seem like a loss of focus, or an interruption, but when done with deliberate intent, it is simply another way of implying the question at hand, of turning the experience over in your palm and looking at it from another idiosyncratic angle."