Monday, February 11, 2008

In Memory of a Cyber Friend

On January 19, in response to my request for reading recommendations, he posted in my Zoertrope cyber room:

As adverse as I am to tooting my own horn, here's a little piece that generated a lot of controversy KIN OF THE DEVIL.

I thanked him and bookmarked the link, but did not read the story right away. When I eventually read it, I did not tell him how much I liked it.

On January 30, he died.


I "met" David Veronese in another writer friend's cyber room in 2004. In that lively room he did not post as often as many others, but there was an odd humor that made him stand out. Though I enjoyed his wit very much, I was wary about people I did not know well and would not invite anyone to my cyber room before a long period of observation.

One day I workshopped a personal essay in the friend's room. David suggested:

And how about something a razor's width more dramatic, more consonant at any rate with the atmosphere of the rest of the story, but preserving somehow the New World (galaxy?) touch until it hits the "circle"... (e.g. in extremis: The narrator catches her daughter with a male in a murky/dreamy candlelit/aquarium laden basement. Words are exchanged, crying, a misunderstanding? Wait! That music in the background... The Boxer Rebellion, The Wu Tang Clan... Mao says: "Romantic love is class love..." Call on everything, ring every doorbell... Delicate, large footed girlchild hovering at the edge of the imaginal... Tinker away, Xujun, pick up the baton and lightly whack the editor twixt the orbits of his eyes

I was inspired by his suggestion, but thought he had faked the Mao quote for humor and I cracked up. It was so like what Mao could have said, yet the way David phrased it was very westernized, it was really funny to my Chinese ear. When I told him this, David responded,

Xujun: truth be told, the only thing that wasnt 'fake' in my 3am descry, was the quotation from Mao.

I realized David's version wasn't far from what Mao said, "In class society, every kind of thinking without exception is stamped with the brand of a class." I was impressed by his knowledge. I think it was after that I invited David to my room.

We had many stimulating discussions on writing and he was always very supportive. Once, I lamented on an agent rejection, and David said,

Don't think that I'll ever forgive her, Xujun

One has to be a writer who received numerous rejections before a final acceptance to appreciate the solace such humor could bring you.

On another occasion, David wrote me:

hi xujun: just read your story in night train. what a brilliant and intriguing piece. the fascinating backdrop of non-tourist china is the magical ingredient. our minds are so brainwashed it is somewhat electrifying for me to read :"It was not in the newspaper because this kind of news had no benefit to our country's stability and unity."

He understood the irony in my story, and I truly appreciated him telling me it.

I never met David in person. I learned about his death from another cyber friend Saturday. I had not told David how good his writing was in Kin of the Devil, or in The Operation.


Myfanwy Collins said...

A beautiful, touching tribute, Xujun.

Ellen said...

Oh, Xujun, this is a perfect tribute!!

Stephen Prosapio said...

Very touching tribute.

Maryanne Stahl said...

lovely words for a sad occasion. thanks for sharing pieces of the evolution of your friendship.