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Introduction to Phenomenology

The fourth and final class of the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research course took place last night. The course was taught by the historian of philosophy Michael Stevenson. I signed up to learn more about Edmund Husserl, but Husserl led me to the much more interesting figure of Merleau-Ponty. What have I learned? Better understanding of Descartes' method of doubt. Franz Brentano's attempt to distinguish between mental and physical phenomena. Husserl's adoption of one of Brentano's criteria, that of intentionality as the distinguishing mark of consciousness. Consciousness is always the consciousness of something. Husserl's foundationalist attempt to build on Descartes' cogito, ergo sum by innovating the phenomenological reduction, i.e., to treat as irrelevant the "reality" of the outside world and as indubitable the "reality" of the intentional act. Merleau-Ponty's re-interpretation of the phenomenological reduction: the chief lesson of…

Magazine and Two Novels

Watched Pop-up Magazine with ML at the BAM last Thursday and enjoyed it very much. The writing was so-so but the stories were well-chosen and sequenced for their intrinsic interest. The graphics, consisting of drawings, photography or animation, and the live music certainly added to the theater of putting up magazine stories on stage.

Read Monique Truong's The Sweetest Fruits and thought it was a return to form after the unexciting Bitter in the Mouth. Of the three narrators telling of their life with Lafcadio Hearn, I found Alethea Foley the most compelling. The voice of the former slave was less fatalistic than the other two, and the effort of both Lafcadio and Alethea to start new lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, was more interesting than the fading of Ionian culture into modern Greece or of the Shogan era into Meiji Japan.

Down with a cold and so spent the whole of President's Day at home with a book. So glad I did. Finished reading Rawi Hage's novel Beirut Hellfire Society

Thank you, Okechukwu Nzelu

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Thank you, Okechukwu Nzelu, for this wonderful and sincere tribute. I'm truly humbled. You write and write, for yourself, in your quiet room, and lo and behold, what you have written means something to someone else. It's a miracle, this writing business. I'm so moved by the magic of it tonight. Thanks, Michael Schmidt, for publishing THE PILLOW BOOK in the PN Review. Thanks, Kenny Leck and Math Paper Press, for publishing it in book form. And thanks, Keisuke Tsubono, for translating it into Japanese, and Matthew Chozick, for publishing the bilingual edition under Awai Books.

3rd Gaudy Boy Poetry Book Prize

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We're pleased to announce that the 3rd Gaudy Boy Poetry Book Prize is now open for your entries. The Prize is awarded annually to an unpublished manuscript of original Anglophone poetry by an author of Asian heritage residing anywhere in the world. The winner receives book publication and USD1,000.00. Past winners were Lawrence Lacambra Ypil and Jenifer Sang Eun Park (2018 co-winners selected by Wong May), and Paula Mendoza (2019 winner selected by Vijay Seshadri).

This year, we're honored to have the poet, fictionist, and critic Cyril Wong judge the prize. Cyril Wong is the Singapore Literature Prize-winning author of poetry collections, Unmarked Treasure and The Lover’s Inventory. A past recipient of the National Arts Council’s Young Artist Award for Literature, his poems have appeared in anthologies by Norton and Everyman’s Library, and have been translated into various languages.

You can find the guidelines …

Playing in the Dark

In these lectures-turned-essays, Toni Morrison provides a very suggestive approach to the critical study of classic American literature. Arguing that literary whiteness is constituted against literary blackness—freedom against slavery, innocence against experience, civilization against savagery—she calls for the study of what she names as Africanism in literature produced by white writers. This is not so much for the purpose of critical subversion or ideological rallying as for the richer, more complex, and more nuanced study of American literature. She demonstrates this approach in brief analyses of Willa Cather's Sapphira and the Slave Girl, Poe's The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, and Hemingway's novels. I wish she had more room, in either the lecture series or the book publication, to deploy the approach to the works of Thoreau and Henry James, both reckoned to be American masters. The comment on Melville's Moby Dick

In the Public Interest

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FOTO: unknown photographer/agency, "[(L-R) Lim Chin Siong, Fong Swee Suan, S. Woodhull] Released People's Action Party detainees at Middle Road and S.T.C. Union." (caption provided by AsiaOne), 1963  On 2 February 1963, 113 people—anti-colonial activists, trade unionists, students, and politicians—were arrested in the security operation code-named Coldstore and detained without trial in Singapore. The British operation, carried out with the urging of Lee Kuan Yew, aimed ostensibly at crippling the Communist movement, but was actually directed at defeating the left-wing Barisan Sosialis party, led by Lim Chin Siong (pictured above), that was formed after breaking away from Lee's People's Action Party. The latter story has since been erased by the PAP narrative of successful national development after the defeat of Communism.
There are eerie echoes of Singapore's past in Trump's attempt to bribe the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden. In both in…

The Author

I wrote a poem for Kevin Kwan, yes, the author of Crazy Rich Asians. Thanks, Hsien Min and QLRS, for publishing it.

Chinese New Year celebrations. Had lunch and lo hei at West New Malaysia with Kim L, Dee M, Joel A, Melinda, Zhi Yuan, and Guy. Having steamboat dinner at Patsey's place tonight in Croton-on-Hudson.

On Monday, announced the 4th cycle of Singapore Unbound fellowships: two writing residencies in a Southeast Asian country of the fellow's choice.

Started on Wednesday the 4-class course on phenomenology with the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research. The instructor is Michael Stevenson, a historian of philosophy. Brentano's distinction between mental and physical phenomenon, picked by Husserl in his Logical Investigations, with the emphasis on "intention," to be glossed as the "aboutness" of consciousness. Consciousness is always the consciousness of something. Hard, but interesting.