:: 3:AM Asia

Images, Text and Modern Feints: Dongyoung Lee’s I can’t and the Material of Meaning published 01/07/2020

One is of course tempted to suggest that Lee’s work constitutes a rigorous update of those Surrealist precedents that presciently if hastily staked-out the subterranean tell of structuralist intuitions. Lee’s work must surely be wondering what these supposedly old parlor tricks can do to the plausible differences between language, semiotics, art, philosophy, etc., after the dubiously permitted “language turn” redux of the 1960s. I can’t’s conceit about scientificity and textual hermeneutics is something of a send up, though it is meanwhile aboundingly rich. Material will not stop writing about itself; indeed, strictly, it will not stop writing itself.

Albe Harlow on I can’t give you an answer as matters stand by Dongyoung Lee.

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Rumble in the High Himalayas published 24/06/2020

La means ‘a mountain pass’ in the Tibetan language. My first acquaintance with this two-letter word was the fictional place name, ‘Shangri-La’, in James Hilton’s novel, Lost Horizon. Kashmir is described as a ‘Shangri-La beneath the summer moon’ in an iconic Led Zeppelin song. I recently happened to bump into Robert Plant, the co-writer of the song, in the lift of the hotel where I work and mentioned to him that the lyrics of ‘Kashmir’ are always buzzing in my head. He told me it was a one-of-a-kind song and couldn’t be repeated. In fact, it was Lhasa, on the far side of the Tibetan Plateau, which conjured up the images of a Shangri-La for Kashmiri traders who travelled along the Silk Road. The name Ladakh is derived from the Tibetan word, La-dvags, which means ‘a land of high passes’.

By Iqbal Ahmed.

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A Longer Trip Back Home published 11/02/2020

My mother spends all her wages on cigarettes. My mother, a waitress at a café in the center of a suburban residential area at the edge of the world. In the afternoon, the café is filled with ladies. They are housewives coming from elegant houses at the edge of the world, killing time. Mother and the ladies play mah-jongg every Wednesday at the café, in the center of the town, where the smoke of cigarettes wafts stronger than the scent of coffee.

A short story by Hiromi Suzuki.

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A Life Spent Looking at the Sea: On Me & Other Writing by Marguerite Duras published 17/12/2019

Enthrallment before the sea is characteristic of a desire for obliteration, for those who conflate destruction with freedom. It is the dissolution of manmade boundaries; it holds what we know of eternality. For her, it has been executioner, conductor, arbiter, and lover. Mad, shining, occasionally ripped with laughter. Her lines corrugate like the water’s surface, her rhythm resembling the cyclical tide. To pursue a subject for a lifetime and to remain steadfast in the faith that it will always provide, that has been her gift as a writer. This volume of work is summoned from a lifetime of believing in the wealth of the world as material—that love will never be satiated, that insanity will always rear from amongst the ordinary, that the sea will never empty.

Xiao Yue Shan reviews Me & Other Writing by Marguerite Duras.

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Four Fragments from the Prince’s Tomb published 06/05/2019

As he approached the end of his task, he found himself filled with doubt, not just about the way in which he had made use of Prince Kim’s notes, but about his own life and his chosen path altogether. He was increasingly aware of the vast divide between the deep intentions which animated the texts, and his personal preoccupations. His meditation practice had almost disappeared in daily activities. He reviewed what had become a little book and doubted that anyone would find it readable, much less comprehensible. And, even though he was strangely confident in the way he had assembled and edited the text, he was not sure that he comprehended it himself.  Completing the last section intensified all his uncertainties.

By Douglas Penick.

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On Yukio Mishima’s Star Being Made Available for The First Time in English published 24/03/2019

Not so in Star,
whose pace is exponential
beginning with quiet humdrum,
breaking [perhaps he will kill himself] toward
rapidity [perhaps he will kill his girlfriend],
and ending when this hero,
very suddenly, kills no one,
returning to the same humdrum
full-circle, through the ensō.

Oscar Mardell reviews Yukio Mishima‘s Star.

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Naming the Dead: Wang Bing’s Dead Souls published 10/01/2019

The question of how this process of naming and recalling of names fits with the wider questions of testimony and silence in Dead Souls is vital for understanding how to approach these events, of what it means to create an archive of such atrocious human actions. Testimony, silendce: the two are in continual contestation throughout Dead Souls and its understanding of the film as archive.

Daniel Fraser reviews Dead Souls.

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Re-Enter the Dragon published 13/11/2018

Apart from soccer players, the two biggest sports stars for kids like me in the UK in the early seventies were the boxing heavyweights Muhammad Ali and Henry Cooper—even if they were eclipsed in my schoolboy milieu by the likes of footballer Bobby Moore. I also used to see a teacher at school who was a black belt in karate practice his katas; unfortunately our Christian fundamentalist headmaster who had been in a Japanese prisoner of war camp— and as a result had an aversion to anything from the east—wouldn’t let Mr Beach teach us how to break bricks with our bare hands! As a kid I watched the Batman TV series so it is probable I was exposed to Bruce Lee’s guest appearances as Kato before I learnt he was the ‘king of kung fu’.

An extract from Stewart Home‘s new book on Bruceploitation. Boom!

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Stewart Home’s Bruceploitation Groove published 13/10/2018

If you look carefully there’s something about all of Home’s work that remains consistent. He’s interested in forms of cultural work that is marginal but marginal for a reason. It’s often a sleazy, porny, low-brow sentimentalism he develops and pivots off, one that appeals to clear-cut psychological gratifications rather than sly rational evidence for whatever. He doesn’t waste time on normative theory for consumption by bourgeoise academics and vanguardists of both left and right. He is trying to work out and understand the mechanisms by which Marxist psychology and epistemology works which entails in part understanding better the Marxist theory of ideology.

Richard Marshall reviews Stewart Home‘s new book on Bruceploitation.

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The Sōseki of Prague published 21/08/2018

This seems to be the pattern; all attempts to research Kafka and Japanese literature suggest influence going in the opposite direction to what one might expect. I only find out about Kafka’s influence on Japanese literature, and mostly post-Second World War literature. Kafka is an influence on Murakami (author of Kafka on the Shore) and on Kobo Abe (who is said to be the “Kafka of Japan”). Nowhere is anyone calling Kafka the “Sōseki of Prague”.

By Duncan Stuart.

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