Interview with: Xu Xi
by Ryan Meath
How does living in the north country influence your writing?
It’s isolated so the primary influence is that there’s no excuse not to write.
Who or what do you count as your nonliterary influences on writing?
Jazz, esp. Thelonious Monk & Bud Powell; also a rootless lifestyle.
How intimidating was it writing your first novel, and how did you keep up the motivation to complete it? Did it feel, initially, like an insurmountable task?
Not in the least intimidating, but the book wasn’t much good. It’s not worth feeling intimidated. It’s much more important to recognize the worth of the final product which, in my case, was a good learning exercise.
Many writers experience difficulty trying to create a balance between their work life and personal life. How do you accomplish this?
You prioritize everything according to how truly important something is, and for me, writing was important enough to sacrifice certain aspects of personal life that seemed less necessary.
Having some teaching experience, do you think it’s possible to truly teach a creative pursuit like the writing of fiction?
What can you teach a painter, a sculptor, a musician? Technique, yes, but art and music come from the wellspring of humanity, and how the artist taps into it is up to her. Ditto for the writing of fiction.
Have you seen any of the films of Hong Kong filmmakers Kar Wai Wong (In the Mood For Love, Chungking Express, 2046) or Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle, Shaolin Soccer) and, if so, what do you think? They’ve both been receiving a lot of Western attention lately amongst film students.
I’m basically not that much of a film buff and don’t try too hard to keep up. I watch some of the Hong Kong films and tend to prefer the indies like Wong Kar Wai, Fruit Chan, Ann Hui, Evans Chan etc. Film is a natural form for the city and has a much richer tradition than e.g.: literature, and film has been very successful in capturing the ethos and spirit of my hometown.
Your website mentions you as being very active in bringing Asian literature stateside. How does it feel that, in recent years, authors like Ha Jin and Haruki Murakami have received so much Western success, winning awards and being published in highbrow publications such as The Paris Review and The New Yorker?
Finally? What took so long?
Any advice to young or struggling writers?
Read, write. Forget the struggling. Youth too will pass.
Xu Xi’s WEBSITE