For years I stayed away from social media, but finally succumbed at the end of November last year. Everyday I ask myself why I blog, tweet and post on facebook.To ascertain why I write and do social media, I took the time to compare a “social media novelist“, Tao Lin, who wrote “Taipei” and three Nobel Laureates of Literature: Svetlana Alexievich writes in Russian, Gao Xian Jian writes in Chinese and French, Moyan writes exclusively in Chinese.(China and Russia are both lands of strifes and great literature, and I want to know how people cope with suffering and pain with writing.)
Regardless of Amazon or Goodreads, Lin scores high in numbers but not rating though. I thought his book is awful and boring, I could not figure out how he managed to get an agent and even Vintage as publisher when it’s all about drugs and sex. He could be flogged in Singapore. Being a resident of Taipei, I am most annoyed that McDonald’s and convenience stores were the landmarks of Taipei in his novel.
I was very moved by “Voices of Chernoby” that I blogged,I could only find the Chinese translation version, surprisingly published by an unknown local company in electronics. I wrote the city library to purchase her “Zinky Boys”about Russia’s war with Afghanistan and her latest book “Secondhand Time” about fall of Russia to come out in May. I had studied Gao and his works thoroughly a few years ago and can really identify with his autobiogrpahy novel “One Man’s Bible”. I love Moyan’s creative and humorous “Life and Death are Wearing Me Out”.
Taipei, by Tao Lin, a New Yorker of Taiwanese descent.
In UK, the Telegraph named it a “robotic, self-involved novel” and the Guardian, “the first truly social media novel” along with the quote “the most interesting prose stylist of his generation” by a renowned author in a similar genre.
In US, LA Times labeled the author as a “shameless self-promoter with amoral, affectless voice designed to shock with Facebook generation’s droid-void personality”. Wall Street Journal considered him best known as a provocateur, citing how his arrest was turned into the book “Shoplifting at American Apparel” later adapted into a movie and his advertising shares for the royalties for an unfinished novel and successfully raised US$12,000.
Svetlana Alexievich 2015 Nobel Laureate of Literature, Ukrain-Belarusian
Documentary novel or literary reportage is her signature. She said the two most important words in Russian are “war” and “prison“. “I lived in a country where dying was taught to us from childhood…..We grew up among executioners and victims….We were taught to love people with weapons… Suffering is our natural resource.”
Yet she thinks the filthier and bloodier things are, the more room there is for the soul.The purpose of art is to accumulate the human within the human being.” I am always looking for words of love. Hate will not save us. Only love. And I have hope..”
Gao Xian Jian 2000 Nobel Laureate of Literature, French-Chinese.
“Freedom is in the heart and it simply depends on whether one makes use of it. If one exchanges freedom for something else then the bird that is freedom will fly off, for this is the cost of freedom.”
“Look clearly at this moment of time and at the same time to scrutinise the self.”
“Humankind seeks a purely spiritual activity beyond the gratification of material desires and refuses to be strangled by society in its quest for spiritual salvation.”
“Someone speaks or writes, whether he is listened to or read is for others to choose.”
“Literature transcends ideology, national boundaries and racial consciousness in the same way as the individual’s existence basically transcends this or that -ism.”
Moyan 2012 Nobel Laureate of Literature, China
His pen name means “don’t talk”, he said he talked too much as a boy. He was expelled as a fifth grader, grew up as a herder with animals and plants and learned from the street storyteller. He is very down-to-earth and honest like his upbringing, a villager, “hunger” and “poverty” were themes in all his writing. He honestly admits his original goal to write was to have three meals of Chinese ravioli a day but summarizes why he writes now as :
1) I have something to say.
2) There are many things in society that I feel a duty to write about.
3) Explorations to innovate literature as art.
On his deprived childhood, he quoted Lao Tzu,
“Fortune depends on misfortune.
Misfortune is hidden in fortune”
For his Nobel Prize Banquet Speech, he ended,
“The Greatest Use of Literature is it has No Use” , resonating Chuang Tzu’s “Use of No Use is Great Use”.
After reviewing all four authors’ writing, life and thinking, I am clear why I write in 2016:
1) my spiritual salvation: reading and writing.
2) my duty to write about conflicts, dislocation and loss in the world.
3) exlore innovating ancient Chinese classics to relate to modern life.
4) I free myself from being useful to others. I won’t exchange my freedom and self-fulfillment for social media traffic.