Wednesday, May 25, 2011

I am reading and loving "I Love a Broad Margin in My Life" by Maxine Hong Kingston. Fact and fiction memoir thought book.

She and her character from the novel "Tripmaster Monkey's Fake Book" go to China.

Sometimes it's her seeing and experiencing China, sometimes him. That's the way it is really, a fiction writer researching, experiencing, knowing how the character will experience. She, writing, just has one of the other experience the train ride deep and deeper into ruralness, where, he, she could move right into an empty house because there are many empty houses. People have moved to the Industrial Zone.

Kingston has been to China twelve times, counting trips to Taiwan and Hong Kong. Wittman Ah Sing, the fictional character, seems be on his first trip.

Before he leaves, he splits with his white wife he's been with for decades[ Kingston has been with *a guy named Earll Kingston for decades) because they have been together so long they have the same opinions of the same people and experiences.

Wittman Ah Sing wants to experience his own China uniquely.

When he stops in the poor rice village with the empty houses, he is of course perceived as vastly rich. A woman wants to marry him and (she implies) have sex with him now. While Wittman is feeling this might be good, he notices that Tana, his white wife appears, sitting next to him, on the other side from the woman who wants to marry him.

Tana is back in the US, and also right there. He can touch her; she's warm and "she's interested, curious, pissed off." He looks and sees that a red thread connects her ankle to his ankle. No such thing with the other woman, "the not hallucinated one."

He lets go of the sex and marriage thing, but still thinks of staying and doing something simple, straight forward--farming rice as it has been farmed here for centuries. Wittman thinks, "Stay, let this life be my whole life, and these people my people. That other life, the one in American, the wife, the son, the Berkeley education, that complex life is a dream. Stay and see the rice through to harvest."

Even though the villagers tell him a farmer is nothing and no one in China now.

All the children as boys. The girls "have been adopted out to the most loving, well-educated parents in the West. Chinese girls will take over and improve America."

This book rocks between past and present, China and America, fact and fiction, in just the way we need to have an improved America. an improved world. It feels like not just a good thing in itself and a great read but a sign that now people who are smart and loving can find a way to tell their whole story, their whole wisdom.

This book, the opening section "Home" starts like a sketch book of a wonderful sketcher deciding what to draw. She writes of what she usually does, of news on newscasts that breaks her heart, of the Big Fire in Oakland that burned down her house and how she worked at a benefit for Hurricane Katrina victims, and this and that.

And then she and Wittman, the main character in her novel "Tripmaster Monkey" go to China and it gets more focussed and bigger. Going between her and him experiencing the train ride makes perfect sense.

We need, all who think, to find ways to publish the sketchboard and find ways to let the sketchbook stay small when it's time and get big when it's time. When all need all of everyone's wisdom, we each need to let our wisdom out in its own style. I keep forgetting how not by the rules this book is operating because it's so easy to read, so nourishing, so delicious.

Hold our for your old recipe.