About Pillowbook

Eat. Mother. Write. Read.

Re-write. Film.


7 Weird/Random Things About Me.

What is P i l l o w b o o k?

  • an art-house movie directed by Peter Greenaway wherein we learn that Ewan MacGregor has charms other than his dimples.
  • a Kama Sutra-ish tome that has a kinky reputation, probably involving geishas and a fetish or two. (Um, NO. That would be shunga. Minus the geishas.)
  • a compilation of jottings by an insomniac, about how to fall back asleep. (Very possibly.)

Sei Shonagon was a Japanese woman who served at the imperial court around 1,000 CE. She wrote poetry, prose, and many many lists. Together, they’re known as The Book of the Pillow (Makura no Soshi).

By turns cranky, sublime, opinionated, sensual, witty, hushed, harsh, refined, and acutely observant in her writing, she aspired to capture life’s transient beauty through sharply etched brief notes, in the spirit of mono no awaré.

I admire her voice and economy of style, her ability to write freely with no concessions to commercial considerations. I’m an American of Chinese descent, and I often need to remind myself that despite the long and vexatious relationship between China and Japan, neither culture is purely good nor bad.

Shonagon was a minimalist. But me, I’m a bit more prolix. And the sheaf of paper next to my pillow is a laptop with a glowing light that sometimes sleeps on the bed next to me, when I’ve stolen one too many hours from my own sleep to write something that needs writing.

This is my P i l l o w b o o k.

Where am I?

I live and dream in the city of Angels.

All the places I’ve lived, in rough chronological order:

Madison, WI;

Oswego, NY;

Port Jefferson Station, NY;

Bethesda, MD;

Ithaca, NY;

San Francisco, CA;

Oakland, CA;

San Mateo, CA;

Seattle, WA;

Los Angeles, CA.

11 thoughts on “About Pillowbook

  1. haha! good point! Thanks for being my first comment EVER- I had read your stuff earlier in the day too. Is that how blogger works? I need a manual…

  2. I’d love for you to check out the grassroots Obama video we just launched today. It’s a group of parents telling why they support Obama. You can find it at http://www.dirtandnoise.com/.

    I too lived in Madison. I loved it there…if only it weren’t so freaking cold.

  3. Linda,
    I am afraid of Twitter. I am afraid of being a Twit, all day long, in 140 words or less. Already I’m late for an Oversharers Anonymous meeting because I’m updating this blog.

    But yes, it’d be great to meet at Blogher. Details on the panel where I’ll be talking in a post soon.

  4. Dream the dream of the Tao and awaken for the multitude,

    Thank you for your awareness, the care, the concern the yearning…

    The lines in my hands speak softly
    as the day choruses into night
    yawning light enters

  5. We met at a party, and I recently got a pretty strong email about McCain that I thought might be good for Momocrats. Wanted you to vete it first. If you think we should publish it there, let me know how to get it to you:

    Hi, this letter was written by a well known comp lit scholar, who has published in Jump Cut. I found it enlightening and grim, as a personal encounter with McCain. Pass it on to any interested friends. Warmly, Julia


    Julia Lesage
    [personal info redacted]

    English Department, Univ. of Oregon
    Eugene OR 97403


    It was just before John McCain’s last run at the presidential nomination in
    2000 that my husband and I vacationed in Turtle Island in Fiji with John
    McCain, Cindy, and their children, including Bridget (their adopted
    Bangladeshi child).

    It was not our intention, but it was our misfortune to be in close
    quarters with John McCain for almost a week, since Turtle Island has a small
    number of bungalows and their focus on communal meals force all vacationers
    who are there at the same time to get to know each other intimately.
    He arrived at our first group meal and started reading quotes from a pile of
    William Faulkner books with a forest of Post-Its sticking out of them. As an
    English Literature major myself, my first thought was ‘if he likes this so
    much, why hasn’t he memorized any of this yet?’ I soon realized that McCain
    actually thought we had come on vacation to be a volunteer audience for his
    ‘readings’ which then became a regular part of each meal. Out of politeness,
    none of the vacationers initially protested at this intrusion into their
    blissful holiday, but people’s buttons definitely got pushed as the readings
    continued day after day.

    Unfortunately this was not his only contribution to our mealtime
    entertainment. He waxed on during one meal about how Indo-Chine women had
    the best figures and that our American corn-fed women just couldn’t meet up
    to this standard. He also made it a point that all of us should stop Cindy
    from having dessert as her weight was too high and made a few comments to
    Amy, the 25 year old wife of the honeymooning couple from Nebraska that she
    should eat less as she needed to lose weight.

    McCain’s appreciation of the beauty of Asian women was so great that David
    the American economist had to move his Thai wife to the other side of the
    table from McCain as McCain kept aggressively flirting with and touching

    Needless to say I was irritated at his large ego and his rude behavior
    towards his wife and other women, but decided he must have some redeeming
    qualities as he had adopted a handicapped child from Bangladesh. I asked him
    about this one day, and his response was shocking: ‘Oh, that was Cindy’s
    idea – I didn’t have anything to do with it. She just went and adopted this
    thing without even asking me. You can’t imagine how people stare when I
    wheel this ugly, black thing around in a shopping cart in Arizona . No, it
    wasn’t my idea at all.’

    I actively avoided McCain after that, but unfortunately one day he
    engaged me in a political discussion which soon got us on the topic of the
    active US bombing of Iraq at that time. I was shocked when he said, ‘If I
    was in charge, I would nuke Iraq to teach them a lesson’. Given McCain’s
    personal experience with the horrors of war, I had expected a more balanced
    point of view. I commented on the tragic consequences of the nuclear attacks
    on Japan during WWII — but no, he was not to be dissuaded. He went on to
    say that if it was up to him he would have dropped many more nuclear bombs
    on Japan. I rapidly extricated myself from this conversation as I could tell
    that his experience being tortured as a POW didn’t seem to have mellowed out
    his perspective, but rather had made him more aggressive and vengeful
    towards the world.

    My final encounter with McCain was on the morning that he was leaving
    Turtle Island. Amy and I were happily eating pancakes when McCain arrived
    and told Amy that she shouldn’t be having pancakes because she needed to
    lose weight. Amy burst into tears at this abusive comment. I felt fiercely
    protective of Amy and immediately turned to McCain and told him to leave her
    alone. He became very angry and abusive towards me, and said, ‘Don’t you
    know who I am.’ I looked him in the face and said, ‘Yes, you are the biggest
    asshole I have ever met’ and headed back to my cabin. I am happy to say that
    later that day when I arrived at lunch I was given a standing ovation by all
    the guests for having stood up to McCain’s bullying.

    Although I have shared my McCain story informally with friends, this is
    the first time I am making this public. I almost did so in 2000, when McCain
    first announced his bid for the Republican nomination, but it soon became
    apparent that George Bush was the shoo-in candidate and so I did not act
    then. However, now that there is a very real possibility that McCain could
    be elected as our next president, I feel it is my duty as an American
    citizen to share this story. I can’t imagine a more scary outcome for
    America than that this abusive, aggressive man should lead our nation. I
    have observed him in intimate surroundings as he really is, not how the
    media portrays him to be. If his attitudes toward women and his treatment of
    his own family are even a small indicator of his real personality, then I
    shudder to think what will happen to America were he to be elected as our

    [email sig redacted]

  6. Hey! Love your blog and thought you might be interested in the new http://www.FeministsForObama.org website which has a great side-by-side issue comparison of Obama and McCain on issues historically important to women such as the Fair Pay Act, domestic violence prevention, breast cancer research, reproductive rights and health. Also check out their three new striking web videos: http://feministsforobama.org/Videos.htm

    Take care and keep up the great work!

  7. ABC’s hit parenting show SUPERNANNY is looking for families!

    *Are you fed up with your kids and had enough sassy back talk, disrespect and shenanigans? If you think your family could use a visit from America’s #1 nanny, Jo Frost, contact us now!

    We are searching for unique families with toddlers to teens with ordinary to extraordinary circumstances.

    To apply to be on the show, nominate another family for the show or for more information, go to http://www.supernanny.com, or contact the casting department directly at TDejillo@ShedMediaUS.com or call (323)904-4680

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