And when we were children, staying at the archduke's,
My cousin's, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.

~ The Waste Land, "The Burial of The Dead", Eliot

Tuesday, April 29, 2008
end of term blues
"i dreamt i was in virginia, and in virginia, all language was actual, there was no duplicity of meaning, form and meaning totally became one."

"you have to add a southern drawl for the dream to make sense,"

"if language actual was to be spoken in a southern drawl, the world is definitely coming to an end,"

this is what i am reading now:

In an exergue to the collection of poems she entitled Requiem, Anna Akhmatova recounts how her poems were born. It was in the 1930s, and for months and months she joined the line outside the prison of Leningrad, trying to hear news of her son, who had been arrested on political grounds. There were dozens of other women in line with her. One day, one of these women recognised her and turning to her, addressed her with the following simple question: "Can you speak of this?" Akhmatova was silent for a moment and then, without knowing how or why, found an answer to the question, "Yes," she said, "I can."

Did she perhaps mean by these words that she was such a gifted poet that she knew how to handle language skillfully enough to describe the atrocious things of which it is so difficult to write? I do not think so. This is not what she meant to say.

For everyone, a moment comes in which she or he must utter this "I can," which does not refer to any certainty or specific capacity but is nevertheless, absolutely demanding. Beyond all faculties, this "I can" does not mean anything--yet marks what is for each of us, perhaps the hardest and bitterest experience possible: the experience of potentiality.


He is potential...on the basis of which he can also not bring his knowledge into actuality....but not making a work for example. Thus the architect is potential insofar as he has the potential to not-build, the poet the potential to not write poems.

(Agamben, Potentialities, "On Potentiality")

eric asked me why i stopped writing, i said, i will in my own time. perhaps i am writing too much about writing. perhaps this self-reflexivity is important too. perhaps there are things that i cannot write about, i tell eric, i will, in my own time. perhaps i have simply abused the word too much, how often have i said, "i promise," "i can," "i forgive," "i love you" without knowing what i was saying. Agamben would tell me, that is simply the structural collapse within language, and the inevitable condition of language, language can only have potential to signify if it can inhabit the privation, the abyss, the limits of signification. when you realise this, you will realise that everything you write is the absolute abyss, that absolute collapse. i want to go that, to enter into the absolute abyss, but it is tiring, and i will do it, (an unfortunately this is becoming me and justin's favorite word), later. always later.

i'm also working on this play by calderon. this particular passage is to the spanish golden age as hamlet's to be or not to be speech is to the english renaissance

I dream that I am here
of these imprisonments charged,
and I dreamed that in another state
happier I saw myself.
What is life? A frenzy.
What is life? An illusion,
A shadow, a fiction,
And the greatest profit is small;
For all of life is a dream,
And dreams, are nothing but dreams.

(Life is a dream, la vida es sueno)

Sunday, April 27, 2008
i got home really late last night. i wasn't doing anything crazy or anything, i was driving. except that it really, really scared me, because at the lake, there was something there. what is that, i asked. flickering lights nearby, and the sound of fire, balls of fire. when we drove out, there was no one, absolutely no one where the lights had come from. only a mist rising in the afterrain.

and then i had that horrible guilt complex, i texted him, and i said sorry, i shouldn't have been out so late, and gotten myself into an uncomfortable, awkward, one-to-one, potentially physical, situation. nothing happened, because i'm a lot more mellow and sure of myself, my body. but it was a reflex from before--how whenever i was out, i'd be overwhelmed with an irrational guilt, and i would be met by with irrational anger, coming from another city.

he called back. he is in another city, and he has a different face. because i always fall in love with cities when i leave them. you don't owe me any apologies, he laughed, honestly. and i then i laughed too, finally. and then--although i don't know how we got there, oh yes, because he started talking about his grandma who makes the best fried rice ever--i talked about that fantastic night market in yantai university, the best fried rice ever (it even had tomatoes and cucumbers in it) the woman who cooked with dirty hands, the best food ever, the cheapest watermelons. and then i did my remarkable translations, conversions, "it was so big it was the size of 3 manhattan blocks," and that strikes me as hilarious to have said that. i think if there is ever a way to leave the past, it might be through him.


other random thoughts: eric says he is writing a systems proposal based on my paper on metaphorical displacement, i am so intrigued; sasha tells me she has broken the kosher prohibition against bread, maybe i will write a poem about that; also, he is writing a song about the circus that came to new york, we are planning to write about mary blumberg, the scam artist on craigslist who scammed me almost; i have found temporary housing with a 60-year-old man who paints for a living, on the far east side in stuyvesant and alphabet city. i have never been so far east in nyc before. after that i will be moving in with a columbia med student and a disabled woman called denise.

Friday, April 25, 2008
eve was smarter than adam
he's writing a song, he says. what's it about i ask, i'm not telling you, he says. so that means it's about me, i say. you're horrible, he says. what's it called, i ask. providence, he says. that's horrible, i say, and tacky too, please change the title. what the hell, he says, you're horrible. change it to, "i do kungfu and kill people while cooking with the other hand," i say, "change it to horseshoe crabs"
i'm writing about forgiveness for one of my papers. i also attended a talk yesterday, the speaker was speaking about the renaissance through pictures. at least eve was smarter than adam, he said, adam was stupid, he didn't make a choice like eve, he just took what landed in his plate.

/ on another note, i am sad that i probably didn't get the job--will call them on monday--that looking back at my old writing, i had a lot more to write about than i do now. then, everything was sublime. now my mind is a cesspool that is festering with flies, ambitious plans and living plans, emptied of faith, without an opinion, devoid of compassion. i felt like a robot at work at the press today, one of the editors downstairs said, "god you're too young to be in this place when it is so beautiful out, tell your boss you are sick." last night i dreamt i was a mother. it sucked being a mother.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008
i'm so blue today. new york city gets you down like that i think. bloo.

Monday, April 21, 2008
got in late. was a good trip. we laughed a lot at the tacky manhattan skyline from weehawken, and the neon NEW YORKER, i relieved old memories in washington square park. the trees were in full bloom, and the village was pretentious and collegiate and flamboyant and flirty and bookish all at one--all the contradictory impulses of NYU in spring. gotta love that school. it was wonderful just being in the children's publishing division surrounded by books and passionate in s&s. i don't know how it went, and how the international student status looks, because they dont get a lot of international students applying obviously, and i sounded really stupid trying to explain what OPT meant. this f1-status. im psyching myself that im not getting it. anyhow i'm probably a lot better after this trip, and after issues have been cleared up. and at least i have discovered something about myself: that i hate shortlines and greyhounds. 12 hours on the road up and down new york state by yourself, with random people trying to talk to you and ipods blasted around you. godawful. i actually got homesick for ithaca halfway through, and upon arriving at port authority at the shitty route 20 booth. i'm so in love with ithaca that i'll be coming home every other weekend bound for ithaca in the summer. nothing beats tompkins county! local pride! whoo hoo:) i ought to get some sleep. cos tomorrow is a big day.

Saturday, April 19, 2008
children's book week
it's children's book week soon.

love how there're all these events created within the circle. good marketing techniques.

growth dividends
i typed out my ic number for the growth dividend website to collect my $250 that the wonderful government has given me. i felt really weird--i haven't typed out my ic number in 4 months, but it came back to me like the rush of water that tugs at your body when hits the water after months of not swimming, the same rush of water that compels your limbs to move, and in that second your body has forgotten that it forget how to swim, and you are swimming like a fish. first time receiving hand-outs from the government. i got nauseated by myself, i got nauseated with the government--why not use the money to open a singapore publishing house? on impulse, donated everything to the arts (my mother would kill me if she found out what i did with the money so my mother is not going to know.)

i ran today, through the route jm brought me on, it was twilight. twilight through the forest on your own, running up the hill strewn with leaves towards the top of the hill, where a big plain lies, open field that stretches out and, in the center of it, a single tree and a swing.

i also went to say hey to sarah today. somehow it was really important to me i saw sarah as just sarah, lovely sarah, sarah who stresses, sarah with eyeliner, sarah and chocolate, just sarah.

he mowed the lawn today "mouth tastes like grass, dirt and gas." someone is baking gingerbread men in the kitchen. passover is a fridge full of challa loaves and baklava. in the kitchen, i break bread on my own. passover is a time to be joyful and grateful, a time to be asked to be forgiven.

Thursday, April 17, 2008
at least a little bit
long week, passover week, insomnia week, phonecall, phonecall. 3am, 4 am. talk about remarriage. talk about gratefulness. goodnight, don't let the crabs bite.) irritating derrida and his cat. interview in the city on monday, big interview. need haircut, and to figure out how to use In Design. tiffany, save me! thank god for tiffanies. will i get to see you, asked. want to, at least a little bit, said. i, incidentally, want to see you too, replied, at least a little bit.

Monday, April 14, 2008
a big room
i am not staying in harlem in summer, i have decided to go all midtown with a professional model as a roomate. it's going to be hilarious. i will probably get totally homesick and lonely, so i am making sure there is a place i can return to in ithaca time and again. i might possibly get a chance to see ted leo in hoboken, jersey, cos justin got tickets for a vegan cult band, which the jersey indie circle suspects is actually him. that's all very cool.
i sent out an email to someone last night which was full of rage, it was so angry that i surprised myself, and i am subsequently exhausted this morning. but i woke up absolutely sure of myself. wake up, sleepy, i felt the sudden urge to say, to no one in particular. wake up, sleepy, i wanted someone to say. you know what i'm thinking? of a big room that is completely unfurnished. i'm thinking of you raking leaves in the lawn with your dad, a chip off the cheesy joke block, you say. he's just dyed his hair. there's duct tape on the car's side mirror. you're going to go running. we have no expectations about the weather, we've never had any.

Saturday, April 12, 2008
when the thunder called
thanks to everyone for their opinions on forgiveness--yeah pak, maybe we can talk soon (i haven't spoken with you forever.) i did talk about forgiveness again last night. it was a wonderful conversation, one of those crazy 2am conversations, despite the fact that he was back from some law party in the city probably flat out in bed where he was, and i was tired. i talked about how the idea of forgiveness, immediately places the forgiver in a position of power, the forgivee(?) in a position of willing sacrifice of power, the power is that which is structured by a system of morals in which we are living in. this mutual consent and reciprocity (i remember what we said, "forgiveness is like a kiss") is the cementing of a kind of power dynamic, this is what i meant by "forgiveness is the closing of the system, that ultimate foreclosure." and then i had all these questions, is forgiveness a negation of what you've done, an alteration of memory (remember that aphorism "to forgive is to forget"?); and if we argue --like he did that forgiving isn't forgetting--if it doesn't change what you've done, how is it so that there is that mysterious, enigmatic process where suddenly everything is ok? i honestly believe that to some extent forgiveness is impossible, forgiveness itself implies the paradoxical attempt to remove the anger and disappointment you felt, from the act itself. but the truth is, the anger and disappointment is what constituted the act for you. forgiveness is like repression, that attempt to smooth out the edges through self-persuasion. and if you disagree and say, some wonderful thing, some process of translation, reconfiguration is taking place through the command, "i forgive", what on earth is that?

he didn't diss my crazy stuff on language and power, but put things in perspective. he agreed that we're structured by arbitrary morals, and language does encode the categories good and bad (thus the moment we enter into the symbolic space of society and language, we are guilty, that's original sin, it's not the mythical category that we tell to the children) then he said, but the notion of forgiveness suggests that moral categories are in flux, there's something very fluid within language that disallows congealing of right and wrong within language itself. (if i forget everything in this conversation, i'll remember that. but there were lots of moments to remember in that conversation.) forgiveness is that ambivalent drive, what was the word he used, the intangible, and then some annoying french phrase, which basically translates to "the i don't know." and he told me that forgiveness might actually not be a speech-act, and it transcends language. then he started talking about animals, and there was that open question, do animals--without words--forgive? maybe they just forget, i said.

my dog was put down last night cos both his kidneys failed. my parents called me, heartbroken. i am secretly glad they are heartbroken. at least they have something to latch onto, now that i'm not at home. maybe i am cruel that way. i am glad he doesn't have to be limping around, undignified and pathetic. we were sitting in my room, listening to the thunder (there was lightning, and it felt like a tropical storm, did you know?), when they called. i felt nothing. when i went back in december, one of the sadder things was that my dog--ailing, 12 years, arthritic, had forgotten me. the other sadder thing was that my grandfather started mistaking me for other people. i don't know how it all comes together, language, memory, forgiveness. it is such a secret. i have forgotten people, i have mistaken people for strangers too. i have not forgiven, merely forgotten, and in my failure to forgive, i have started breaking down the concept of forgiveness, wearing it down, waiting for it to walk out on me. if i have failed to understand, forgive me.

Thursday, April 10, 2008
i'm playing with some ideas. i'm interested in the theoretical idea of forgiveness. the more i think of forgiveness, the more i think it's a terrible, terrible thing. forgiveness as a speech-act, upholding what, power, ultimately, the story of forgiveness also a teleological narrative. i understand genesis now, i understand the meaning of original sin, how it is inextricably intertwined with political functions, and language as a political function. this is why i can't become a christian, i finally realise. i'm so relieved i finally understand. this is not to mean that i don't believe in a god, but i don't believe in a christian god.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008
mothers and brothers
virginia is 46, she is one of the grad students i have renaissance english class with. she has two daughters. we have a strange relationship, a little awkward, because i'm the age of her daughter, but sitting next to her in class and sharing my book with her when she forgets to bring her texts, or borrowing books from her. walking out of class: dawn, are you biking home? me: yes, virginia, i am. virginia: in the dark? me: yes. virginia: oh what would your mother say if she knew you were riding home in the dark? me: my mother doesn't know. brian, another grad student chips in, yeah she got bitten by a horse, you know? virginia: this is why i can't send my kids to college. me: brian, stop telling everyone about my exploits. suddenly everyone else (it's not a big class, just 5 of us) starts asking me about my horsebite. john: i used to work on a horse farm, we'd kill any of the horses the moment they bit anyone. oh god, this is horrible, i say, it's like adopting a whole lot of mothers and brothers. you better give us your medical records, brian says, we might also need to sign parental consent forms. i laugh, say goodbye.

the upshot of it is i am going to a doctor and getting a rabies shot tomorrow.


i went to the lake tonight. it was my first time running in the dark. you don't know how it feels like, the mist rising to your face. the moon was so close i swear i could have touched it. i didn't dare go further, afraid of animals. i am also afraid of horses now. i didn't say much else, but i did say one thing in class today, "forgiveness, is the closure of the language system; but prospero's reaching out to an unnamed audience, to ask for forgiveness is the re-opening and the rupturing of that system." brad replied, "yes, but that is also the end of his magic." "yes," i said, "that's true, very true."


at the end of the magic, i am neither lonely, nor happy, nor regretful, nor wistful, simply indifferent. if i were in love, i wouldn't have run to the lake in the dark, that is simply not what someone in love does. i decided to turn down tara's offer in the end, i don't want to stay in a flat in spanish harlem filled with lesbian musician-type columbia grad students, with a curtain partitioning us. if i lived like that i would be at leon's all the time. i want a place where i can dissolve into the city soundlessly.

Sunday, April 06, 2008
clearing up
i dreamt about the mother last night again.
why are you always so stressed and unhappy, she asked me. i had come home at 4 am, i had forgotten his block address in the dark, i groped upstairs, and she was telling me to pick up my hair from the floor. she wasn't speaking in any language, but i understood her.
because i have a lot of work, i said. how come you never go home, she asked? because my house is full of people, my brother is married, i have a sister, it's a lot of noise, i said. is this the baby's bag? i asked, picking up a woolen and denim sling bag, it's cute, realising that i had not been playing with the baby very much in the past few days.
what language was i speaking in? it was neither chinese or hokkien or english, it was a language of murmurs and no consonants.
i took out a paper towel, and i begun clearing the entire room of my hair. she was watching me, not spitefully, just quietly. after that, i took a broom, and begun cleaning the bedroom.
your every posture reminds me of myself, she said.
and then the alarm went off.
someone was asking me if i wanted to go running.

Saturday, April 05, 2008
today i took up jm's car, and we went up to the plantations. we stopped at the stables, and i met this donkey called black jack. donkeys have this way of looking very intellectual. they stood stock still when we climbed over the gates. it's too strange, they're a little too still, almost hostile, he said. but black jack melted to us when we held out our hands to him, and stared up at us with the most philosophical eyes ever.

there was a horse called sparky that i thought was playing with me when it tried to nuzzle the sleeves of my sweatshirt. i laughed a little, nervously, because i wasn't sure if it was playing with me, or being violent. and then, it sank it teeth into my left wrist and wouldn't let go. i decided not to freeze, but acted casual. its teeth eventually slid from my wrist to my sleeve. there was no blood, but red teeth marks, and the skin turned purplish and bruised. i was very shaken, because suddenly the horse seemed like a familiar, deranged man that i couldn't read, someone who wouldn't let go even when i said, stop that's enough. and when i looked into its face, it was like looking into the face of hysteria.

we left, climbed back over the gates, he offered to drive, but i decided to drive. i'm home now, icing the bruise. maybe it's all the derrida and his cat literature that i've been reading, and how for a long time, how memories of being afraid were cast out of my mind--i have been very happy and preoccupied with books and things for some--it shook me a little, not the horse, but the sense of utter helplessness, incomprehensibility, when i laughed and said, ok, that's enough, as though it would understand. and i know that even if i write this, i am utterly alone. not jm, who was there, nor anyone would understand, the absolute alienation of asking a horse to let go of your skin.

Friday, April 04, 2008
very interesting
New HarperCollins Unit to Try to Cut Writer Advances
By MOTOKO RICH, April 4, 2008

HarperCollins Publishers is forming a new publishing group that will substitute profit-sharing with authors for cash advances and will try to eliminate the costly practice of allowing booksellers to return unsold copies. Robert S. Miller will oversee the new unnamed publisher.

In a move that surprised many industry insiders, HarperCollins announced on Thursday that Robert S. Miller, the founding publisher of Hyperion, the adult books division of the Walt Disney Company, would leave his post of 17 years to lead this new, as yet unnamed entity.

The new unit is HarperCollins’s effort to address what its executives see as some of the more vexing issues of the book industry. “The idea is, ‘Let’s take all the things that we think are wrong with this business and try to change them,’ ” said Mr. Miller, 51. “It really seemed to require a start-up from scratch because it will be very experimental.”

The new group will also release electronic books and digital audio editions of all its titles, said Jane Friedman, president and chief executive of HarperCollins, a unit of the News Corporation.

“At this moment of real volatility in the book business, when we are all recognizing things that are difficult to contend with, like growing advances and returns and that people are reading more online, we want to give them information in any format that they want.”

The new group is entering a difficult market for books generally. Citing economic uncertainty, the Borders Group announced last month that it was considering selling itself. Barnes & Noble also said it expected first-quarter results to be slightly down from the previous year.

Author advances and bookseller returns have long troubled the publishing industry. Best-selling authors can command advances so high that publishers often come away with slim profits, even for books that are significant successes. Publishers also sometimes offer high advances to untested authors in the hopes of creating new hits, but often those gambles do not pan out.

Ms. Friedman said the new group, which will initially publish just 25 titles a year, would offer “low or no advances.” Mr. Miller, who was most recently president of Hyperion, said he hoped to offer authors a 50-50 split of profits. Typically, authors earn royalties of 15 percent of profits after they have paid off their advances. Many authors never earn royalties.

Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, a literary agent, said: “I’m not cynical about it, and I’m open to ideas, but I think it’s too soon to say what the validity of it is. These words seem fine and interesting, but how does it benefit the author and how do we find our readers?”

Under standard practices, booksellers can return unsold books, saddling publishers with the high costs of shipping and pulping copies. Mr. Miller said the publishers could share with authors any savings from eliminating returns. A spokeswoman for Barnes & Noble declined to comment on HarperCollins’ plans.

Robert P. Gruen, executive vice president for merchandising and marketing at the Borders Group, said that it was premature to comment specifically on the new business, but he said, “We generally support the idea of looking at potential solutions to a return system that is not working well for the industry as a whole.”

The new group, which Ms. Friedman is calling a studio, will most likely publish hardcover editions priced at the low end of the market, around $20 a copy. She pointed to some of the titles that Mr. Miller had published while at Hyperion as models, including “The Five People You Meet in Heaven” by Mitch Albom and “The Best-Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.”

Mr. Miller’s exit from Hyperion follows the departure in January of Will Schwalbe, editor in chief, to pursue an unspecified Internet-related project. Ellen Archer, publisher of Hyperion, will take over as president from Mr. Miller.

Also on Thursday, Weinstein Books announced that Rob Weisbach left his post as president and chief executive to pursue other publishing opportunities.

At HarperCollins, Mr. Miller said he was considering offering both e-book and audio editions of the hardcovers at no extra cost to the consumer.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008
i'm tired. i am in need of a good night's sleep. i smashed my full length mirror today, like a drunk. wear socks, he suggested. i will wear socks, and uggs and duct tape over the uggs for good measure, happy? very stylish and hot. i also got invited to a professor's acreage. she's got a flock of 12 endangered native indian sheep, 4 dogs and 3 cats. one sheep has pneumonia because of the unpredictable weather. that sheep has blue fleece.


i miss the city. i can't wait to be back again.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008
summer ambitions
i have, admittedly been horribly distracted. got a call from a small literary agency that they'd be happy to have me for reading of unsolicited letters, manuscripts, slush piles, and drafting rejection letters. it's unpaid, but i would love the experience. especially, when they said they would like me to help out with translation and subrights deals.

i have a phone interview with a huge publishing firm on friday. if i get the internship, it will be absolutely disgusting, and completely commercial, 9-5, slap in midtown, at the peak of the publishing season, very depressing, totally sell-out. but i'm going to read the publishers weekly everyday, because i totally want to learn how to be a sell-out. commercialism is the necessary, circuitous route that has to be taken for the world to be able to afford classic paperbacks. i used to be all idealistic and stuff, but i realise to move books across the world, you have to institute necessary evils.

...it's the first time i've heard him detached and valiant, and suddenly the banking crisis seems horribly real, and he seems horribly real.

when i was young, my mom would always tell me my eyes were bigger than my mouth, and i'd never be able to finish what was on my plate. it's times like this when i wonder, should i really have left the city? but other times, i think, it's good i left the city, i'd be totally paranoid, totally ambitious, stretching myself all over the place to juggle work and study. i mean, two months in ithaca, and i started searching for all the publishing presses here, if i stayed on in manhattan, it would have been ridiculous. i like america. i like new york city. things are happening in the city. the ugly and beautiful, the beautiful can only be manufactured through the ugly, and my eyes are bigger than my life and my abilities allow. i would give up a lot for a job in book publishing where i feel i was actually moving books to places. i would give up past loves, past memories, so much that it would probably break the hearts of those who have ever loved me.

this is messed up - happy april's fools:)
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[publishing] Publishers Weekly . Dystel & Goderich . New York Center for Independent Publishing . Association of American University Presses . Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators

[people] clarisse . nurul . aunty zarina (ummi's bakery) . jeremy . pak . cyril . softblow . karen & kenny (booksactually) . eric . joel .

[other loves] digitaljournalist . ballet dictionary . poetshouse . urbanwordnyc

[me] dawn, singapore, new york city, ithaca.

[yesterday] holding on tight -- vol ii
death and new york city
ever get afraid of sounding stupid, boring, uninfo...
sleep activism
things im excited about
thinking about flight
accents and attractions
i got an on-campus job--production assistant at th...

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