(November 3rd, 2019) I was reading Lasch on confessional literature, and, of course, he says, "the popularity of the confessional mode testifies, of course, to the new narcissism that runs all through American culture," but he draws a line between self-disclosure that helps one to to achieve a critical distance from the self and then "self-disclosure to keep the reader interested, appealing not to his understanding but to his salacious curiosity..." which is usually self-disclosure left "undigested, leaving the reader to arrive at his own interpretations." I'm thinking about the artform of doxing right now, and not the actual act or the skill involved assembling the materials, but how they are presented, and how it differs from the self-confession, autofiction confessional (or more likely, for this example, I guess you would compare the presentation of materials from a doxing with a self-curated social media account, since that makes much more sense). I wonder if it's an internet age impulse to self-dox, to inoculate against your enemies doing it for you—but no, Lasch is right, it's just narcissism, most of the time. That goes for Marie Calloway and Daniel Lord, at least, to name two millennials that have spread their lives across the internet. I can tell you this: everything I've ever done, I've talked about it on the internet. I mean... almost everything, I think. There must be something. It might have been posted under my own name or anonymously on a message board or in an IRC channel. But I guess most of it, hopefully, is buried in fiction, which is mostly an unpublishable private literature. And the question of doxing, it makes me wonder this: since I have said—somewhere or in some form—nearly everything that I have ever done, what is there that I don't want anybody else to know? What information could be held over my head? Of course, that goes back to the art of doxing, and the curation, where even reasonable facts could be used for harassment. But no, what is there, really? What could really ruin me? I have the urge to write here what my guesses would be. I know I've admitted some of them before, somewhere on the internet. How narcissistic, indeed, to imagine that anyone would ever bother digging them up.
I have become less confessional, at least in these entries. I need time to go by. I am happy to give a detailed breakdown of my moral failings at twenty or twenty-five, but maybe I'm smart enough not to record more recent transgressions, or maybe it's a product of working for myself, not having a day job, and being, in a very, very minor way, a public figure. It could be that I have enough experience turning experiences into some kind of literary product that I am hesitant to spill my guts "undigested" here and now; it could be that I realize how banal any dark-ish thoughts or experiences are, without some kind of artistry applied to them; it could be that I've become dull and reliable as I've aged; it could be that I sense there's not much of a readership for the things I want to say; and it could be that I have found a way to process or even enjoy things by myself. I couldn't tell you.
The problem before was that when I wrote undigested work anonymously, it seemed to be good, and when I finally digested it, I was lying. I go back to things I wrote on the internet, a very long time ago, like an entry, here, more than a decade ago, about going to Lianyungang, in which I said I had met a Russian woman and went bowling. That is not what happened but it is based on some fact. A friend that went to Lianyungang with me did, as I recall, meet a Russian woman, but I believe she might have been a missionary of some sort, and I probably saw a bowling alley, but what actually happened on that trip is that I put a cinderblock through the Plexiglass door of a bar, where I had drank a bottle of tequila and spent most of the night blackout drunk, trying to fuck a chubby Colombian girl. It makes me cringe, thinking about the falsified version of the trip. I would often tell the story to friends, about how I tricked my friend into getting into a taxi, then went back to the bar, but, yes, it probably wouldn't work, just writing it out, even if it was digested beyond self-disclosure. It's fine to adjust the facts, but I ended up with something untruthful and dull. Just like the Beijing story, where I show up in the city and the country for the first time, and I have a fairly wholesome time exploring the city, and that's what I wrote down, when, in fact, I flew to Beijing, panicked and missed my flight, and invested most of the money I had just made selling my 1992 Chevrolet Beretta GT in two prostitutes that worked in the hotel spa that the black taxi took me to. I was fat and depressed and still full of paroxetine, huffing and puffing through a paid threesome in a country I was scared shitless to be in, and then I spent the rest of the time there in my hotel room, only occasionally leaving to buy cigarettes and Coca-Cola. That story is more truthful and has more possibility.
And then, also, sometimes I hesitate to write something down, even in a heavily digested form, because I think nobody will believe it. When I wrote about an extended stay in a rural Shaanxi juliusuo, it pained me to have people speculate that I had made the whole thing up. This goes back to doxing and the private fantasy of being savagely doxed—nobody ever doubts that! Looking at the horrific treatment that ***** ******** received, with chat logs and nude pictures leaked, one day, when she is middle-aged, I guess, looking on the bright side, and she is finally out of a detention facility for the crime of drawing policemen as pigs, she can look back on her dirty little exploits and her perfect, young body, and she'll have that, and nobody can ever doubt her credibility. And maybe the problem is with oversharing but also overexplaining. Maybe I should just let these thoughts go...
(November 4th, 2019) I don't have a thing about shoes or feet but this still doesn't need any explanation: I bought ****** a pair of white Air Max because I wanted to fuck her while she wore them and press their crisp leather sides to my cheeks. I bought ***** a pair of Gucci Jordaan horsebit loafers (this is not a sexy shoe but still) mostly because I wanted to fuck her while she wore them, on the bed in our suite, with her skirt still on, and for other, more practical reasons. Instead, we took a taxi into the city and walked over to eat crayfish at Hu Da and she tracked the soles across dusty early-winter late-night Gui Jie sidewalks. In the morning, ***** woke me up and **** ** **** while I was half awake and half hard. I didn't bother telling her to put the shoes on. I had already forgotten about them. She **** **** *** * **** ******* *** ***** ** **** *** **** *** **** ***** ***** ****** * ****** ** *** ****. I went to take a shower, after, she stood outside, inspecting herself, nude, in the mirror **** ** *** ***** ** *** *****. She said: "I'm skinny again." She had already eaten a hotel breakfast of bacon and eggs, and showered. I was in China to pick up an envelope and for a few meetings but taking ***** is a good excuse to leave the hotel. We walked through Wudaoying and I bought her tanghulu and a fake oversized cashmere Chanel pullover and fake stretchy Acne Blå Konst jeans and she wore them out of the store with her old clothes in a bag. and I took her to the Confucius Temple (I'd never been there before and I never went to Tiananmen or Qianmen until I walked by one time last year with Nick Stember, and I've still never been to the Great Wall) to pose in front of the statue of the Sage, and we sat under seven hundred year old cypress trees, drinking yogurt out of glass bottles. If I was alone, I would have laid in bed, watching RT and drinking Diet Coke until I was forced to leave.
(November 6th, 2019) Smoking a cigarette outside of a public bathroom on an alley somewhere between Guozijian and Fangjia Hutong, a man in his sixties or seventies asks me, "Where are you from?" I answer and he lights a cigarette and we stand for a while talking. I offer that I have been coming to Beijing for many years and the area has change immensely. I managed to find a topic he was passionate about and he began running through a list of recent demolitions. I took a guess at his accent—Henan, I said, and I was right—and he told me how he had come to Beijing fifteen or so years prior, following after his daughter, who had married a man that was involved in a construction business. The family still rented rooms in the neighborhood. He was not concerned with the demolitions erasing some historical character of the neighborhood but because they would eventually drive his family out to the suburbs. Like the Jiaodaokou policeman in Michael Dutton's "Building a Gift of Politics," the history of the Henanese contractor's son will not be recorded.
Gesturing across the room, out the window and over to the street in front of the police station, Liu smiles before breaking into a chortle: "D'you know what that lane, that one out front of the police station, was called during the Cultural Revolution?" he asks rhetorically, "Well that one was called Study Chairman Mao Lane!" A huge grin appears on his face. ...
Whatever brings a community together is sacred, says Bataille, and renaming streets was part of a series of ritual and often violent activities that would tear the community apart yet bring it together. This was affect built upon a violent division. It was built on the power of class struggle, a force that would drive groups apart yet, paradoxically, cement even more intense, passionately and tightly the group that struggled together against an enemy. "Could there be classes without a Church, without a sacret, without sacrifice? Could there be a society without spiritual power, radically separate from temporal power?", asks Roger Caillois.
"Nobody knows about these things anymore, and if you want to look them up you can't because there are no records", explains Liu Zhengxian as he offers up even more examples of absurdly revolutionary street names produced during the Cultural Revolution. He shakes his head, ruing not the name changes but the lack of recorded history. It is as though the lack of records has robbed him personally of his own time and place and in many ways, it has. ... The "rectification of street names", which saw the revolutionary ones taken down and the traditional ones returned, has been, in many ways, the rectification of China. Yet there is more to disinterring Liu's stories than correcting the historic record. These evocative tales, snippets of excess, and slogans of ultra-leftism shed light on moments of political intensity, of sacrifice, of devotion and extreme exuberance.And in Dutton's Beijing Time, written with Hsiu-ju Stacy Lo and Dong Dong Wu, the anecdote appears again and Liu laughs about the name changes: "It is embarrassed laughter, confused laughter; it's cover-up laughter, laughter designed to paper over the fact that in these days of rampant market development, the rectification of names in the Cultural Revolution seems almost too absurd to be believed. ... Here we sit, in a suburb trying so very hard to resurrect its distant past but simultaneously trying just as hard to bury and erase its more recent one."
And the man I spoke to somewhere between Guozijian and Fangjia Hutong didn't laugh but changed the subject. "Are those American cigarettes?" he asked. "Japanese, huh?" He said: "But, look, nobody can beat China now, right? We were beaten by so many countries, even the Japanese," and he gestured at my cigarette, "but now nobody can beat us. We don't want to interfere with other countries, either." And he went on for a while on that topic.
I tried to write a book about my old neighborhood in Tokyo and was told by two editors that the manuscript had the beginnings of a good book but lacked the voices of local people. Without even trying, standing in an alley in Dongcheng, I already had a man-on-the-street anecdote.
(November 7th, 2019) These must be the trips I fantasized about taking, all those years I spent in the country eating shit, going to jail, living off potatoes pulled from baskets in front of neighbors' doors in a six story walkup in Dalian, and always going back to do it again. I'm not sure if I ever did fantasize or dream about rising above extreme poverty. I didn't, I'm sure I didn't—I would have put myself in a more comfortable position long before I did. But whatever. I often worry that I've lost all perspective on the country because half the time I'm here on somebody else's dime, usually in a big city. But I guess, you know, most of the people in the small community of foreigners that make a living writing about China spent their formative years in Beijing, living much like this, while I was, of course, of course, keeping it incredibly real, goddamnit. So, yes, listen, I can spend the day ferried around in a car hired by ***** and go for ****** ** **** ******** ** ******* *** *** ***** *** ** **** ******** **** **** ** ****** ******** ********** *** *** *** *—well, fuck it, you get the picture. And there's a certain pride in it, for me, since a couple years ago, I was still working as a ********* *** ** * ********* ** ********* ******** ** * ***** and trying to find a way to make a living without breaking my body down. But I realize anybody reading this will either find it all ridiculous or not something that they could relate to. I probably shouldn't bring ***** with me on these trips, since it puts me in a good mood rather than a nostalgic, contemplative mood, and I do things like get drunk on champagne at ******** ****, overlooking an octopus sculpture advertising Panerai watches at ********** ***, sitting a few empty tables away from a couple that was so in love that they sat side-by-side, the man's hand so tightly clasped on his girlfriend's thigh that he could sniff it contentedly while she slipped away to the bathroom, and another couple who sat across from each other on a narrow two top and fed each other spoonfuls of panna cotta and mango ice cream and cotton candy grass (the panna cotta was shaped like a bunny). And I would comfort myself by saying, Well, how arrogant of me, to assume there is anything to be written about Beijing, by me, at least, and it's better to simply enjoy it, and the truth is always more interesting.