Kurt Vonnegut

9/3/2002: I have just finished reading several of Kurt Vonnegut books.  He's writing is unique, very easy to read, but, for example in the book "Breakfast of Champions", it was *too* simple and childish. May be that was the appeal of the book, the fact that he was stating important issues in such simple sentences...
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Gao Xingjian

9/3/2002: I've read "Soul Mountain" a while back and just now I'm trying to write down some comments about it. At first, I found the book somewhat boring. My main reason for reading it in the first place was because the author was a Nobel Price winner in literature:
    "for an œuvre of universal validity, bitter insights and linguistic ingenuity, which has opened new paths for the
    Chinese novel and drama"
After looking at the title of the book, I got the impression that it might contain a story about exploration of human soul, psyche and what have you. I kept on waiting for something to happen, for deep insights into author's journey of life. I was left disappointed. The language in the book was extremely impressive. I *loved* the descriptions of nature. This book is full of folk stories which I didn't care for much. However, it did paint a faint picture about life in China that I personally know very little about. I was very interested in why the author was given such a high award and searched the Internet for an explanation. Here is a link a web site that talks about Gao Xingjian's  accomplishments in the field of literature. Here's a quote about
the book from the same site: "... an odyssey in time and space through the Chinese countryside - he enacts an individual's search for roots, inner peace and liberty... ". And here's some more:  "... His great novel Soul Mountain is one of those singular literary creations that seem impossible to compare with anything but themselves. It is based on impressions from journeys in remote districts in southern and southwestern China, where shamanistic customs still linger on, where ballads and tall stories about bandits are recounted as the truth and where it is possible to come across exponents of age-old Daoist wisdom. The book is a tapestry of narratives with several protagonists who reflect each other and may represent aspects of one and the same ego. With his unrestrained use of personal pronouns Gao creates lightning shifts of perspective and compels the reader to question all confidences. This approach derives from his dramas, which often require actors to assume a role and at the same time describe it from the outside. I, you and he/she become the names of fluctuating inner distances. Soul Mountain is a novel of a pilgrimage made by the protagonist to himself and a journey along the reflective surface that divides fiction from life, imagination from memory. The discussion of the problem of knowledge increasingly takes the form of a rehearsal of freedom from goals and meaning. Through its polyphony, its blend of genres and the scrutiny that the act of writing subjects itself to, the book recalls German Romanticism's magnificent concept of a universal poetry..."
: I bought his new book "One man's bible". Why did I buy it if I found his early work boring? I don't know. I have a feeling that I'm just *not getting it*. After all, he was awarded a Noble Prize! I'm not done reading it yet. I realize that I like his style of writing: it's simple but yet powerful in its descriptiveness. The book is filled with personal pain. I find it's too depressing at times...
11/02/2003: I finished "One man's bible". I find the author fascinating. I can't make up my mind about what to feel for the character (and I guess the author as well because the book is based on his life): he weak but yet if I were in his shoes would I be any stronger? I think his words resonate with my current state of mind: struggle, looking for answers, understanding the questions.  He writes:
"... People inevitably seek self-identification in books, the light from their eyes is refracted from
the book to a person's heart."

    So true, so true. Yet, I don't know what I'm getting out of the book. Is it the suffering? One of the fascinations is that I can't figure out what did this book did for me. I read fantasy sci-fi books because they allow me to dream. This book made me want to _study_ the book. Is it a puzzle: something that I would understand if I get all the pieces in just the right places? As a scientist, I'm drawn to solving problems. I keep thinking about that I should look for something I missed in the book. I feel it holds a key, a secret that I will get only if I intensely look for. He ponders about many questions. Writing this down, I open the book on a random page and find some interesting passage that makes me want to stop and think about what he wrote and what I think about it. I wish I had the luxury of keep going back to the book and discover new passages that I either forgot or simply dismissed on the first pass. However, a book like this makes me wonder if I _should_ take time and not rush onto the next book. Should I stop to enjoy how this fascination makes me feel? It has a certain mystique, keeps me wonder...
    I know nothing about China. This book makes me want to learn more. I don't want to believe in his portrayal of life, it's too depressing. He fled the country. In his writings, he denounces connections to his country. He is Chinese and always will be. He's is like an angry and pouty child who just doesn't want to deal with the fact that life is hard. He identified where the boundaries of his freedom lies but feels that he is entitled to more. Now that he broke free of the chains and is roaming around, I wonder what he will write about. If his next book is again about suffering and struggle of the human spirit, would I want to read it? He says that now that he is free he wants to explore the new world which he is curious about and "... don't want to be immersed in memories. He has already become footprints, which you have left behind..." It made me think about my own boundaries, personal boundaries not external boundaries. Realizing who you want to be but can't because you just don't have. Pushing boundaries. Preserving boundaries. Not stepping over boundaries.
    He looks for love in all the wrong places. He says that he is filled with lust, searches for it constantly. He lacks self-restraint and thinks nothing but satisfying it. He married a girl he met at a train station and had a one night stand with and who he haven't seen for an extended period of time prior to this extremely ridiculous decision. He corresponded with her and decided that he's in love and she would be happy with him as his wife. He knows nothing of love and never will find it.  He tried to convince himself that he can be happy with simple life: a wife and kids. You can right away see that it would never work, that he is deluding himself.
    What he gets is the suffering and human struggle to survive:
"... the good times will soon be here, no, for the time being they have been delayed, but they will come. The good times are sure to come. Sooner or later, they will come... He hurried away. The good times terrified him, and he would rather sneak off before the good times had come..."
    He writes about feelings that are real. He raises the question about the value of fictional literature, more specifically writings about something other than personal experience: "...pure literary form, style, language, word games, linguistic structures and patterns that follow their own course..."
    He's writing is simple and seems effortless. It's almost hard to believe that something could have been lost in the translation. He says his writing is like talking to yourself. When I read the book, I feel like I'm reading someone's diary rather than a book written for an audience. From time to time, I write a diary. Thinking back, I identify with the feeling of trying to achieve freedom through writing. It provides a way to release disturbing feelings, externalize them. It's a cooping mechanism!
He writes: ".. humans need to use lies to conceal their own ugliness in order to seek a reason for living: to articulate pain in order to alleviate pain seems to make pain bearable..." To him, writing is addictive. I pray to get addicted.
    Will the memories of the hard life allow him to feel at peace?
I ended up buying all of his other books: a collection of plays and two art books. I can't wait to see his drawings.
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A. De Saint-Exupery

11/02/2003: My favorite quote from "Little Prince": "You become responsible forever for what you have tamed."
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A. Huxley, G. Orwell, and  Y. Zamyatin

11/02/2003: I've read the "1984" a long time ago. Then somebody else told me about the "Brave New World" and "We". So I went and read these two books. Out of the three I think I like Orwell's book the best. Maybe it's because it was the first and left a great impression. I had something to compare to when I read the others. They were similar yet different. I've just spent a good part of the day writing comments about Xingjian's book, feeling the sadness of the book. A book about personal struggle against an oppressive regime. Now, I'm commenting on similar books. I wonder now, if that's why I liked this new book that talks about real and not imaginary feelings of pain. Orwell's sad love story was a true one, not like Gao's feelings of lust. The feeling of connecting to another person to get through life in 1984 comes out with a screaming intensity, captures and drags you down. All these books speak out about dangers of political power and fragile human spirit.
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