Back Again to Pham Thi Hoai’s “Nine Down Makes Ten,” Begun Over a Month Ago

Self frequently alternates between books.  One of her current readings is the Trevor Carolan anthology, Another Kind of Paradise:  Short Stories From the New Asia-Pacific.  The story she left off reading before she left for Venice was Vietnamese writer Pham Thi Hoai’s “Nine Down Makes Ten.”  The anonymous narrator parses all the various lovers she has had.  She was on lover # 8 before self left for Venice.  Self will resume:

I did not know whether I was worthwhile or mundane, but this was not really the issue.  I was grateful to this man and enjoyed the taste of his affection, despite a small stubborn girl within me who refused to cooperate.  She said:  According to this particular mode of obsession all objects are equal, and then I am no different from a potato or an ant, but if people like to manufacture an obsession by constantly stoking their own engine, then by all means they should go ahead.  Gradually I learned to repress that obstinate girl and ignore my uneasiness with the difference between artificially produced obsessions and primeval obsessions.  Let Proust distinguish between the two, or the column “Mothers Advise Daughters” in some woman’s magazine; I am interested only in my own obsession and its consequences.  The most ironic aspect of its unforeseen consequences was that he and I both became pitiful victims of the obsession.  It forced him to wait by every street on which I might pass, to pull me away from all activities, no matter how fundamental to existence:  eating, sleeping, seeking work; it interfered with all my relationships, with my family, colleague, friends, and expanded into all areas and times that I liked to save to myself.  I no longer had my own space, time, or lifestyle; my environment was upset, my psychological state was upset, my language went out of my control.

The piece goes on.

Self would also like to inform dear blog readers that yesterday afternoon, she and The Man watched The Reluctant Fundamentalist, Mira Nair’s new movie, showing at the Aquarius.  Self loved the music, and the passion of the lead actor, a Wall Street yuppie whose small act of defiance (growing a beard that makes him look more “foreign” after 9/11) leads him to commit to larger and larger causes that have nothing to do with his job or with making money.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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