Monday, February 21, 2011

Book #39: Looking for Diversions

"I often fell asleep on top of my manuscript, then woke with a swollen cheek.  Sometimes, when the wall clock's silver hands pointed past twelve, I would imagine I was hearing things.  Those sounds would recur, like the snoring of the electrical repairman next door, the boom of a crane on a far-off building site in the dead of night, or the hum of the refrigerator in the kitchen." 
                                                                                                     -Wei Hui, Shanghai Baby
After a three day stretch of living in my pajamas, I finished writing the last chapter of my book yesterday.  I stole one of my boyfriend's cigarettes to celebrate and huddled in my bathrobe on our snow-crusted patio overlooking the park, a cold lucidity filling my lungs.

I wanted to feel tranquil and savour the moment, but just the opposite was so.  Editing.  Ugh.  I have one week to edit the manuscript as a whole before turning it over to my editor for her final comments and revisions.

I realized this morning that I definitely prefer writing to editing.  There's something so much more satisfying about putting pen to paper and forming words afresh compared to cutting and moving stuff around.  A few hours of editing simply doesn't make me feel like I've had my dose of writing for the day. 

Seeking some diversion from the task at hand, I picked up Shanghai Baby, which I've been reading intermittently over the past couple weeks, and found myself suddenly engrossed in the final chapters.  It's an autobiographical novel by Wei Hui, a young Shanhainese writer who lives a madcap, near schizophrenic life - caught between waxing lyrical about Henry Miller and Marguerite Duras and lusting after the latest Yves Saint-Laurent wallet.  While writing and secluding herself with her own thoughts - some of which are surprisingly beautiful reflections on the ephemeral quality of twenty-first-century life - she also finds time to engage in games of love and deceit at Shanghai's hot night spots, bringing into focus a city made for film noir, full of old world glamour, decrepit architecture, fast money.  My favourite scenes are almost reminiscent of the films of Wong Kar Wai (speaking of whom I may watch Fallen Angels tonight to reward myself for making some headway with this editing business).

Photo from: here


Naomi said...

Congratulations on finishing your last chapter! I'm with you - I hate editting especially other people's reports. Good luck!

Leslie Shimotakahara said...

Thanks! I think the key is to indulge in lots of pleasure reading between editing sessions.


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About Me

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Toronto, ON, Canada
Leslie Shimotakahara is a writer and recovering academic, who wanted to be simply a writer from before the time she could read. Hard-pressed to answer her parents’ question of how she would support herself as a writer, Leslie got drawn into the labyrinthine study of literature, completing her B.A. in Honours English from McGill in 2000, and her M.A. and Ph.D. in Modern American Literature from Brown in 2006. After graduation, she taught English at St. Francis Xavier University for two years. Leslie woke up one morning and realized that she’d had enough of the Ivory Tower. The fact that she wasn’t doing what she wanted to do with her life loomed over her, and the realization was startling. It was time to stop studying and passively observing life and do something real instead. She needed to discover herself and tell her own story. This blog and the book she has written under the same title (Variety Crossing Press, spring 2012) are her foray. Leslie's writing has been published in WRITE, TOK: Writing the New Toronto, Maple Tree Literary Supplement, and GENRE.