Sorry I’ve been off-line. I got caught up with a few new books. The week of 5/ 26, I read 24 hours; the week of 6/2, 38 hours; last week, 44 hours. I knew this, because I was tracking “where my time went” with a free app called “ATracker Lite”. Highly recommend it – the app, not the time spent on reading. In any case, I have not been in front of my computer for quite a while. Maybe that’s a good thing? I will upload some photos soon – back dated of course.
Maybe re-read Dream of the Red Chamber is not enough. Maybe I should read the translated versions as well. A masterpiece such as this, just like Shakespeare, is considered to be one of the greatest works in all the history of literature. No one would dare to tarnish the integrity of the work through bad translation, and therefore the translated prose ought to represent the best way to express certain ideas and sentiments of that era in English. And THAT, is exactly what I’m looking for.
There are three translated versions according to Ms. Wikipedia:
• A Dream of Red Mansions by the Chinese scholars Gladys Yang and Yang Hsien-yi (Beijing: Foreign Language Press, three volumes, 1978–1980).
• A Story of the Stone by David Hawkes (first 80 chapters) and John Minford (next 40 chapters) in 5 volumes and 2,480 pages. (Penguin Classics, 1973-1980)
• Red Chamber Dream by B.S. Bonsall in the 1950s.
I want to read at least 2 of them.
I’m excited now after being idle for two days that I’m making a plan for my book. I will give the credit to my friend A.K. When she called today she talked in such a way that her words went straight to my heart. I felt comforted, but that was still not enough for me to get up and face the world. But then we talked about my novel and she made me a plan. She asked: “How long it would take you to finish reading the book?” And I thought, I haven’t even bought the books yet, and I still have 10 books unfinished. But after some negotiation, it was decided that I would deliver the draft manuscript of my book in 7 installments to her starting in May, so that we could finish the project by the year-end.
I’m so grateful to have her push me and set a deadline for me. She is going to be my work-out buddy, except the “work-out” is writing my book. Now I really have to get off my butt and do something. Because I must finish reading the translation of the book, as well as finish my rough draft by end of April in order for me to get into editing mode in May and deliver the pieces!
Author’s note: Part (1) and (2) are backdated posts, not because I had a busy day. In fact, I was definitely not busy. But I did not want to do anything at all and did not want to leave home. When will I get out of this rut??? Saw this article called getting out of a rut and working on a passion on tiny buddha and it might just be the medicine I need at the moment.
I was somewhat inspired as I was reading another Chinese online novel yesterday. With these online books, it is customary for the author to sometime write an “author’s note” at the beginning or the end of a chapter. And in this very popular online book, the author wrote at the end of chapter 149, translated to the following:
“Let’s talk about the upcoming publishing of my book.
Actually it was like this. When I first started to write, I inquired with some seasoned online writers and my conclusion was that this type of online novels were basically not published as paperback books due to low economic benefit for the publisher: too many words, too tedious details, and no quick climax like movies. I also researched carefully and found this was true.
Giving up the thought of publishing, I wrote very happily, on any topics that I had any interests and without restrictions. If I could make some pocket-money also, that would be icing on the cake. My thoughts at the time was just that and only that.
Unexpectedly, I got all of you who supported me, and my online novel rankings slowly climbed up to the top. I want to sincerely thank everyone. The existence of you, the online reader, is the reason there are still hard-working writers to write these stories.
But I’ve digressed. Back to publishing, this time it was the publisher who sought me out…”
The book I was reading was a long one with 200+ chapters, and was finished only last November. It has 1,226,076 readers according to Baidu.com.
The author must have been a Dream of the Red Chamber fan and had some flare of classical elegance in her writing. I must have read the Dream of the Red Chamber too young, because although I know the story, I don’t have any attachment to the book. Maybe it is time to read it again? Even Chairman Mao had read the book at least four times.
I’m also thinking, since it is my first book, maybe I will publish one chapter each week online and make it free?
I feel numb. I’m having one of those escapism spells again, and now spend every waking hour either reading time-travel novels or listening to audio books. Only when I have to use my brain for something else, such as having a conversation with another human being, my mind would very briefly visit the reality. Even when I was eating, or brushing my teeth, I still had my iPad in front of me so I could continue with the story. I guess that’s why I like bath more than shower!
But then I laugh. Haven’t I always been like that? When I was in my 8th grade, I was multitasking one day, cooking rice and reading a novel at the same time. The electronic rice cooker did not exist then, and I had perfected the skill of making rice by overfilling the pot with water and filtering out the excess water after some boiling. That day I was happily stirring the rice with one hand, while holding a book on the other hand, cooking my famous rice dish. To get rid of the excess water, I had to put the book down on the counter. The book turned on its spine and opened itself up to occupy more of the counter space while I was lifting the pot and trying to put the pot on the counter. In order not to get the book dirty, I used one of my hands to push the book away. I certainly overestimated my strength, and the pot was too heavy for me to hold on with just one hand. So the accident happened. I dropped the pot and dumped the boiling rice mixture on my legs.
I remembered my parents’ anguish over my months of hospital stay, but I don’t remember the pain anymore. The reminiscence of the hospital days were more sweet than bitter, as I spent weeks doing nothing but eating, sleeping and reading. My new skin from waist to toe was raw pink for a long time, and I was able to skip all gym classes even though I was well enough to do anything.
When I was younger, I thought that all kids read non-textbooks under the quilt with a flashlight. And my first year college dormitory living proved me right. All of my 6 roommates did the same thing after the lights-out. But I don’t think anyone went as far as I did in order to read novels in the classroom. During elementary and junior/senior high school, the seating were determined in the beginning of each semester. For as far as I could remember, I always deliberately picked the wooden desk that had a gap or a hole in the middle. It wasn’t too hard to do, though sometimes I had to help the size or position of the opening with a small knife. During the class, I would pretend to listen to the instructors, but my hands would be flipping pages under the gap and my mind would be completely immersed in a novel. I don’t know how I was able to keep good grades. Just imagine what I could have become if I didn’t waste all my time in my dreamy fantasy land…
Anyway, I just found this picture of my elementary school class. No, unfortunately I am not the pretty girl in red with braids, smiling sweetly like a princess. I am the out-of-focus one on the right with glasses.
At least I’m adult now and I don’t need to hide under the quilt or dig a hole in a desk. If I want to stay up and read all night and can live with the panda eyes the next morning, it is my prerogative entirely.
I’ve always liked the New York Public Library. I liked its magnificent facade, and the people who sat on the steps during summer days, the hustle-bustle of the city surrounding it and I even liked the bar scenes nearby. When my best friend proposed marriage to his now wife in front of the library, with the two lion statues Patience and Fortitude as their witnesses, I started to associate the word “romantic” in addition to “elegant” and “regal” to the place.
As a wedding gift to them, I was going to create a painting or a collage with two pompous and somewhat animated lions gazing at the couple with knowing smiles. But at the end I didn’t do the painting, as the wedding date was not settled for some time, and I was never good with any projects that had no deadlines.
During my normal business readings in the morning, the name Ward McAllister was mentioned in one of the articles. I automatically googled the name because I was never embarrassed about not knowing names. Even if I had come across some famous names in my elementary or high school education, I most likely won’t recognize them due to the language differences and the translation. For someone like Ward McAllister, who died in 1895 and was famous for being the originator of the phrase “the Four Hundred” to designate New York City’s society elites, there was no way on earth that I could have known the name or the background without the help of Mr. Google and Ms. Wikipedia.
My reading on Ward McAllister led me to John Jacob Astor. Per Ms. Wikipedia:
At the time of his death in 1848, Astor was the wealthiest person in the United States, leaving an estate estimated to be worth at least $20 million. His estimated net worth, if calculated as a fraction of the U.S. gross domestic product at the time, would have been equivalent to $110.1 billion in 2006 U.S. dollars, making him the fifth richest person in American history.
Ok, maybe I should recognize this name, I thought to myself. Then my mind was forced to make an ugly turn. Apparently, a large amount of his fortune was made in China, partly from selling opium to Chinese. Thinking about the one-hundred-years-of-humiliation China had endured during that period of time, all a sudden I wished that I didn’t read about this guy. To add insult to injury, I discovered that J. J. Astor was one of the founders of the now New York Public Library. They even named one of the lion statues after him as “Leo Astor” before it was ultimately changed to the current name. I was utterly disgusted.
Later, I was chatting with a client about geo-political risks among other macro topics. Then I thought, no matter how many years have passed, how much a mixed-pot society we are, and how flat and interconnected the world is today, the history is there black and white on paper. The slave trade, the holocaust and the eight nation alliance. At which point will people start to forget? Will we ever?