Tuesday, August 21, 2012

赛珍珠 Pearl S. Buck, the education of

If I were to pick one Nobel laureate in literature in the 20th century, I would pick Pearl S. Buck mostly because I think she had the highest quality education out of anyone in the 20th century. She was ostracized racially and by gender yet she also experienced what it might feel like to be one of the oppressors. She knew wealth, especially late in her life but was born poor relative to her American cousins but also in comparison to the privilaged Chinese intellectuals she considered her peers. She was born to be a Christian evangelical but was a religious outcast in her community in Qingjiang. She was patriotic but that country, after expelling her at gunpoint and labeling her a cultural imperialist, still does not recognize her as one of their own. If her affair with the poet Xu Zhimo dubbed Chinese Byron was true, then she also knew of romantic love, loveless marriage, and romantic partnership later in life. She had a daughter who would never be able to learn to learn but also adopted umpteen ones upon whom she lavished affection, education, and a 7 million dollar estate. Such an education must have been unmatched in the 20th century, though I hope that it might be less rare in the 21st. 

Hungry Artist

I wouldn’t begrudge a writer for dying rich but I admire one for being born poor, only because they are more normal, almost everyone in the world is born poor just as almost everyone is born with two arms, two legs, and two eyes. I’m not saying that one eyed, one legged babies don’t exist but they are not as representative of humanity as a whole and so tho I respect their unique perspectives, they do not tell me as much about the psychology of the shoveling masses around me.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Every tyrant was once a babe

Nightmare Charm or Spell against the Mara

Shetland Islands (Unst)

Pulling from my head the longest hair it possessed, and then going through the pantomime of binding a refractory animal, the nurse slowly chanted this spell:
De man o' meicht
He rod a' neicht
We nedder swird
Nor faerd nor leicht,
He socht da mare,
He fand da mare,
He band da mare
Wi' his ain hair,
An' made her swear
By midder's meicht,
Dat shö wad never bide a neicht
What he had rod, dat man o' meicht.

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