Back in January I read Byung-Chul Han’s Shanzhai: Deconstruction in Chinese (MIT Press, 2017), a deceptively-thin book which I finished in a couple sittings, but which has captivated my attention ever since I finished it. An essay on “decreation,” Shanzhai explores the history of Chinese thought viz. originality and reproduction, while also critiquing Western notions of originality.
Because the past while has been more or less the usual (editing, prepping Infinite Zero, etc.; the tedium that has to get done), I thought I’d share what I’m reading, plus some thoughts that have come from it.
First a bit of background: for a long time I’ve had pretty eclectic reading habits, but for the past year or so, I’ve been really enamored with psychology and its various schools of thought. Partly I think it’s because it lends itself to so many aspects of life, which then bleed rather naturally into writing. Put another way, having something like a semi-stable landscape of the human mind in general is really helpful in character development. All of this has somewhat organically led me to studying theories of consciousness, which led me in turn to two books, both from the mid-twentieth century.
It occurs to me that there’s a significant parallel between this neo-Platonic idea of eternity in relation to time and the mental phenomenon of a writer weaving their ideas into a narrative. In the writer’s mind, a story is held all at once, rather than in successive stages; the reader/viewer (whether we’re talking about novels or film, or any storytelling medium really) experiences that total image incrementally, in stages, as it gradually unfolds before them. Though it sounds like a simple point, it seems to me to spell out a significant reason for believing the writer and the reader/viewer experience the same story in markedly different ways.