Is it really four years since I last marked this day by going over to the Asian? In the meantime they’ve built another San Francisco on top of San Francisco. Girl on the train with a choke collar and beautiful mohawk, a face so unlined she must be closer in age to R. than to me. J. says: I think you’ve suppressed yourself, gotten used to dissolving yourself in duty and agreeability. I know what that’s like and it’s not good. If you can’t stand to turn attention on your own self, it’s a massive overcorrection.
What have I learned since 35? More kanji. What it’s like to have a good job (spoiler: it’s both good and obviously still a job). I want to say that going to Korea was subtly “life-changing,” without too much melodrama, but I’m not ready for the follow-up questions.
Apparently I was thinking about renunciation four years ago too, long before I finished my unfashionable novel and started putting it in the mail (a process that’s sapped more of the last six months than I could wish). Thinking about renunciation is not the same as renouncing. Probably I don’t know how to do it, and this is why people have spiritual advisors. Trying to smother the self doesn’t work, but you want to clear out the garden; by default I’m attracted (too attracted?) to spareness and solitude, Ni Zan landscapes. Why aren’t there any people in your paintings, they asked Ni Zan; and he said, I don’t know that there’s anyone around in the world.
They don’t have Ni Zan in San Francisco of course; you have to go to Shanghai or Taipei for that. But there’s plenty of art without people. Chao Shao-An’s Gorges seems (through my eyes overtrained by photography) to be saying that there’s a right and wrong way to get at Meng Jiao’s gorge poems. There really are gibbons and ghosts of the mind; he’s not making that up. Still the world needs tending. The next hurricane just landed.