Monday, February 4, 2013


I've been meaning to post about the books I've read since the last time I wrote of one, but somehow other stuff keeps getting in the way. But here's a quick report on a book given to me several weeks ago when I was introducing poet and old friend Simon Schuchat at St. Mark's, where the photo was taken that I've been using as my profile picture.

Before the reading, Simon introduced me to a friend of his, Glenn Mott, a fellow ex-pat. Simon spent a lot of his life in foreign lands, including China, in the foreign service. Mott spent his time abroad, also much of it in China, as a teacher and journalist. The book he gave me, after we talked for a while in a way that made me want to read it immediately, and I did, was ANALECTS ON A CHINESE SCREEN.

Confucius's ANALECTS didn't used to rate as high on my favorite book list as Lao Tzu's TAO TE CHING (or whatever spelling you prefer for both his name and his supposed writing), but I did study it as part of my minor in Asian studies back in the 1960s and got in trouble for writing a paper for my exiled Chinese professor that had as its title, "Confucius: Proto-Fascist"—and I have read newer translations over the years that made me soften my initial reaction and find some profound wisdom in some of Confucius's precepts.

Mott's ANALECTS ON A CHINESE SCREEN is not a translation or even an extended riff on Confucius's book (as much as any of these ancient texts can be called anyone's book), it's a series of takes on the China he experienced as it interacted with his life, in and out of China, and his reading, including not just Confucius but Oscar Wilde and John Clare as well as others. And it is a totally engaging and original book (if I would compare it to anything it would be Gary Snyder's EARTH HOUSEHOLD, only faster and condensed), which I highly recommend.

No quote from it could capture the variety of textual shape and content, and a lot of the lines are too long for this blog page format, but I'll leave you with a little taste from two tiny segments:

"there is
in the thought
I live

the dead end
of significance"

"When a dog runs to you, whistle for him.
He will think he knows you.

Hearing an old set of retouched
affections, in his bafflement."


tom said...

I just checked amazon - new is going for $100 and change. Used - $16

I had thought about buying a copy - but I am always a bit leery of used books over the internet.

Lally said...

That's crazy Tom. The price on the book new is $16 so I have no idea what Amazon is pulling. It must be a mistake. The publisher is Chax Press in Tucson. I'd try them.

tom said...

I'll take a look - Amazon said they had 2 copies left.

I would like to get it and when I finish I'd pass it on to my daughter who just finished teaching ESL in China.

tom said...

Yes, $16 at the website. Thanks.

Lally said...

Cool. I think she'll get something out of it. For me the kick was mostly just his writing and how he put fragments together to create a unique whole.

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