Without quite intending it, I took to Vancouver mostly books from Asia or Asian America. Along with Sōseki’s Grass by the Wayside and Inoue’s The Hunting Gun (two cloudy gems of the “Is life worth living? Meh” school) I read Yiyun Li’s new essay-memoir on solitude, mental illness and suicide, disavowal of her first language, Turgenev, and other such matters. She has such a tenacious mind. It’s arresting, and seems a favor, to watch that mind at work. I can’t say whether her pathologies feel close to my own; that sort of closeness isn’t the point. She hates to write the English I, she says, and finds relief in Chinese sentences with implicit subjects. I’m sick of my own first person too, but have no way around it that’s not a dodge.
The Sun Yat-Sen garden was much as I remembered except for some maintenance work going on in the pond, which had lowered the water level to the point that the resident heron could finally stalk across it, as (I was told) it had always longed to do.
The interpretive signage explains that this is a scholar’s garden: here is the path down which the scholar walks, here the window through which the scholar contemplates the landscape arrangement, here the study where the scholar reads and writes poetry. I love this ghostly scholar who is needed to complete the architecture, and I stayed in the study a while because I much preferred being the scholar to being myself. The last time I failed to sell a book, I found an escape hatch in studying Greek and Japanese. There’s a great deal of shame in this, I said to J. She mentioned a quote from Kotsko: “from a psychoanalytic perspective, the presence of shame indicates that enjoyment has taken place,” and speculated that shame must then be the forcible conversion of pleasure into its opposite. It must have been the pleasure of imagining myself above my station, supposing the bench in the study had been set out for me.