Last night’s meeting of The Artist’s Bookshelf proved to be such a brain-stimulator, that I had a difficult time winding down and getting to sleep. Well, maybe the Peet’s double-espresso I consumed in the lobby beforehand had something to do with my heightened state of neural transmittitude. And maybe all that chatter about Freud and the interpretation of dreams left me so fearful of what I actually might dream (and what it might mean!), that I subconsciously avoided lapsing into prolonged periods of REM.
The focus of our free-wheeling discussion, Mr. Muo’s Travelling Couch by Dai Sijie, led us to a number of unexpected destinations including, but not limited to: contemporary Chinese art, the iconic status of Sigmund Freud, cross-cultural issues encountered in the translation of fiction, current Chinese funereal customs, and the allegedly voracious sexual appetite of Chairman Mao.
We spent a considerable amount of time marveling over the current Huang exhibit, and generally agreed that it somehow aided our understanding and appreciation of the novel under discussion, perhaps because both works seem to embrace and embody a number of paradoxes: East/West, pharmacy/alchemy, contemporary/ancient.
We were fortunate that two of the book-club participants had spent considerable time in China (one in Taiwan, one in mainland China), and were thus able to guide us through some of the cultural nuances that might otherwise have sailed right over our semi-clueless heads.
We ended the evening by pondering a quote from the novel, which seemed in an eery sort of way, to not only evoke the spirit of our discussion, but to acknowledge the artists whose work we had so enjoyed encountering :
“ But not even artists, a breed apart, understand the meaning of dreams. They merely create them, live them, and end up as the dream of others.” – p. 281