Monday, October 19, 2009
Yeah. Life is very difficult and we are all very busy with our lives and we don’t have time. Really. We honk at the car in front of us because they waited for like, 1 second, before they moved their car through the traffic light. We sigh when we have to wait in line at Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donut or wherever it is we buy our coffee, because someone is too slow or spend too much time counting coins. About six years ago, right after my daughter was born, I got a call from a friend whom I had not heard from in a long time. I was preoccupied at that time and promised to call him back later. Turned out, I never did. By the time I remembered that I was suppose to call him back, a certain time had already gone and I felt embarrassed. So I did what I do best sometimes: I pretended that I forgot all about it. And eventually I did forget about it, as time passed by. Five years to be exact. One day I hear the news through my husband whom, by the way never forgets a birthday or to return someone’s phone calls, that he had died. So yes, my biggest distraction to keeping promises is undoubtedly myself. Everyone knows that having a baby keeps your mind preoccupied. But it doesn’t give you an excuse for everything.
During my first maternity leave I was very busy at being a new mom. I was very anxious and of course excited too, at being a parent to my baby girl. Still, I spent at least 2-3 hours every single day writing on a manuscript. I sat on a blanket in the back yard with my laptop on my lap and my baby next to me, playing. When I went for walk I thought about my next sentences and my next chapter and when she took a nap, I spent whatever time I had to pen down those sentences and chapters.
This was 2007. It’s now 2009. I had another baby, a son who is now 7 months old. This time around, I’ve gotten lazy. Instead of doing it [e.g. writing] I’m pretending to be doing something else all the time. Life, yes. Work, sure. After-school activities, definitely. Home work [e.g not mine] is occupying all my time. I am not giving my daughter any excuse to skip home work even if it’s 6:30 am in the morning. Now if I could be as strict regarding my own writing, I should have a novel done by end of the school year!
Don’t stop till you get enough. Life only fills you up this far. Your real passions, your goal in life, your dreams, whatever it is, will take you even further if you let them.
Saturday, October 3, 2009
“Death, thou shalt die”: About literature & film
2009: I write, therefore I read. Yes, I do like to read even though not as much as I would like to. Every year I have a list of books I want to read. Sadly to say but by the end of the year I’m still working on the first or second book. For instance, last year I bought a second hand copy of Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of loss (I love that title) after I’ve borrowed it at the library and failed to finish it by the time I had to return it. I am still working on it. Another book on my reading list is The Life of Pi, which I finished half way and after reading the end (which I often do anyway regardless if the book is good or not) kind of gave up on it. During my trips to India I also bought books by Indian authors. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie is one of them. The list goes on.
2001: In the movie Wit Emma Thompson portraits Professor Vivian Bearing, a patient suffering from stage 4 terminal ovarian cancer. Being a scholar and a professor, specializing in 17th English poetry and John Donne’s holy sonnets especially, she reacts to the news about her illness with a matter-of-fact. As her illness and treatment progress, she is trying to analyze the situation as well as she is looking back upon important situations in her past. One of these situations is a discussion, or rather a speech given by her mentor, Professor Evelyn “E.M” Ashford (Eileen Atkins) about the meaning of the Holy sonnet 10 of John Donne. Death, as John Donne intended it in the poem according to her mentor, is simply a pause, a comma. There’s a difference between a semicolon, an exclamation mark and a comma. The real meaning of these lines as John Donne intended it were simply: “And death shall be no more [comma] Death, thou shalt die.”
Literature inspires movies and movies inspire us to read literature. Literature inspires life. After all, isn’t poetry the stuff that dreams are made of? Or was it the opposite?
2000: I was working on my closing arguments in a thesis of comparative literature. I was analyzing Virginia Woolf’s The Waves, a modernist novel about life, love and death. One morning I got a call from my mother. Our beloved grandmother had passed away. I had read nearly 1200 pages of Virginia Woolf who ended her life by suicide, and I was now discussing the last chapter in The Waves. I remember thinking how untimely the death of my grandmother somehow was linked to the last chapter of the book and the conclusion of the thesis. Life, death. As I was collecting my thoughts, I jumped on a plane to Oslo. The funeral was held the next day. It was short. It wasn’t until the end of the ceremony, as the casket was about to be carried out, that I finally started crying. “One short sleep past, we wake eternally”
2007: My first novel When The Tigers Smoked (Da tigrene røykte) is finally released in Norway after years in the making. I can finally say, I write, therefore I am. Debut novels are considered as literary events in Norway. They are actually read and reviewed. Most of the debutantes are interviewed as well. Why do you write? What inspires you? For me, writing is to fill an empty space. Being an adoptee from South-Korea, I had to start with being me. What does this mean? Yes, I was abandoned. Yes, I was in orphanage. I have lived with questions about my birth parents and my birth country my whole life. This does not mean that I necessarily want to write about. So I tried to write about something else for over 10 yeas until it finally dawned upon me: This is lying. This is not me. After realizing this, it was always more difficult to write. But at the same time it felt more important.
2009: I always find it interesting to watch movies that portray writers. The best ones are witty and ironic. The bad ones are self-conscious. The worst ones are faking it. Typically they will have a writer’s block, sitting for hours in front of the computer unable to type even a short sentence. (This painful state of mind is of course shortened down to minutes). And then, life begins. Or does it really?
In Wit, the only person caring for Vivian’s Bearings health is the head nurse Susie Monahan. Here is another example of life and literature:
Vivian Bearing: I trust this will have a soporific effect.
Susie Monahan: I don't know about that, but it sure makes you sleepy.
Vivian Bearing: [laughing] Soporific means 'makes you sleepy'.
In Wit, Vivian Bearing dies alone, reciting John Donne one more time. “And death shall be no more, death, thou shalt die.” Poetry does inspire life or something like it. At least I was able to read a poem today. And so I can make another list.