Thursday, August 8, 2013

Jonathan Spence, blogged, revisited.


I am in the process of archiving interviews and other journalistic work I've done in this blog, in the course of which I sometimes actually take a little time to revisit what I'm posting into the blogosphere.

Ezra Pound once said: "You have an obligation to visit the great men of your time." I am no acolyte of Pound, far from, and not particularly keen to be reminded of him, but his dictum comes to mind because in the course of my interviewing I have had nothing less than the privilege of conversing with, in my view, some of the finest and most challenging writers and thinkers of our time.


They imprinted and reeducated me. There was no one school, course, or symposium where such a disparate bunch could have been gathered.

Interviewing gave me rare access.

This comes to mind because I'm taken, again, with what one interviewee said to me, namely Jonathan Spence, perhaps our foremost scholar of Chinese history and culture, and, not least of all, a superb writer. My exchange with him is at:


The labels with which I tagged that blog post — including Mao, Marshall McLuhan, memory palaces, and Harold Bloom — indicate the range of Spence's interests.

Since that conversation, Spence has written another marvelous book — "Return to Dragon Mountain: Memories of a late Ming Man" (2007). This is a unique study of a unique sensibility, one not quite like anything we are likely to find in the West, and, as always with Spence, something close to a prose masterpiece.

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