Beyond the Wings: February 2019

This is the first edition of my personal email newsletter, which will be something like the individual equivalent of a corporate newsletter.

The title comes from a stanza in “The Insomniacs” by Adrienne Rich.

My voice commands the formal stage;

A jungle thrives beyond the wings—

All formless and benighted things

That rhetoric cannot assuage.

I find that most of my work, including essays, fiction and music, focuses on outsiders, weirdos, and goofballs. That is, people and things that exist ‘beyond the wings’ as opposed to centre-stage.

Output

This month I have mostly kept busy with the final semester of my MBA, plus exercise and Spanish classes, but I made a new music video. It is a love song and basically an attempt at transcribing “Song for Tom” by Fascinating Aïda into Chinese.

Fascinating Aïda are one of the best musical comedy troupes around, and they also have a lot of good serious songs, including “Old Home” and “Little Shadows”.

Activities

This month I attended three excellent activities involving Chinese writing. The first was a talk on women in Chinese literature by Zhang Lijia, author of the excellent “Lotus”, which is set at the turn of the millennium and about a Chinese prostitute who uses her earnings to support her brother’s education while trying not to get caught.

The second was a Surrealism in Fiction workshop by award-winning millennial writer Yan Ge, author of the novella “White Horse” and the novel “The Chilli Bean Paste Clan”. The third was a literary translation workshop with Helen Wang. In the middle of all this, I was accepted onto The Leeds Centre for New Chinese Writing and am already working on my first book review for them.

The Wider World

The word racist has been used a lot this month. Michael Cohen accused Donald Trump of being a racist, but his testimony is unlikely to damage the president’s chances of being re-elected, at least not in-and-of itself.

Jussie Smollett is alleged to have paid two people to stage a racist attack on him. This seems silly because Liam Neeson may have done it for free. As Bill Burr pointed out, it’s a bit like those times when you lied to parents or teachers as a kid and the whole thing got wildly out of hand.

Speaking of race and speaking of showbiz, the Oscars were held in February. The list of winners appears to have partly redressed the lack of diversity and representation of the “Oscars-so-white” controversy of recent years.

I saw most of the contenders. “Green Book” was well-acted and watchable but undeserving. However, as Bill Maher correctly observed, director Peter Farrelly, whose credits include “There’s Something about Mary” and “Dumb and Dumber”, should have got a special Oscar just for growing up.

My MBA thesis will talk about the issue of diversity in the publishing industry. I closely followed the dispute on this subject between Lionel Shriver and Penguin Publishing last year. I am way too much of an on-the-fence wimp to publicly weigh in on the debate, but hopefully the thesis will add something of value to the conversation.