Thursday, September 19, 2013

Joy Luck Club: Reading Log III

September 19
35 Minutes

(67-83) Last part of Book One (Feathers from a Thousand Li Away): Ying-Ying St. Clair, "The Moon Lady"

The bulk of this segment is a flashback to when Ying-Ying was four and was taken to Tai Lake by her family for the Moon Festival. The family boards a boat. Later, she falls off the boat, is rescued by fishermen and taken to shore, watches a dramatic enactment of the story of the Moon Lady and the Master Archer of the Skies, and then is found by her family. The recurring motif is the idea of having a secret wish. At the end of the dramatic presentation at the park, Ying-Ying approaches the Moon Lady to share her secret wish with her. Throughout most of her life she is unable to remember what that wish was. Now, as an old woman, she remembers. The section ends with this:

     I remember everything that happened that day because it has happened many times in my life. The same innocence, trust, and restlessness, the wonder, fear, and loneliness. How I lost myself.
     I remember all these things. And tonight, on the fifteenth day of the eighth moon, I also remember what I asked the Moon Lady so long ago. I wished to be found.
It seems significant that she claims that what happened that day "has happened many times in my life." What does it mean, what does it feel like, to be in the habit of losing yourself?

(87-98) First part of Book Two (The Twenty-Six Malignant Gates): Waverly Jong

I haven't finished this section yet, but the first part deals largely with Waverly's early fascination with and talent for chess. She starts out by watching her older brothers Winston and Vincent playing with a set they got as a Christmas present at a church fair. For them, it's just a game, and they are soon bored with it. But for her, "The chess board seemed to hold elaborate secrets waiting to be untangled" (93). At first she teaches herself the game by reading about it. Later, she comes under the tutelage of a chess player at a Chinatown playground named Lau Po:

Over the weeks... I added new secrets. Lau Po gave me the names. The Double Attack from the East and West Shores. Throwing Stones on the Drowning Man. The Sudden Meeting of the Clan. The Surprise from the Sleeping Guard. The Humble Servant Who Kills the King. Sand in the Eyes of Advancing Forces. A Double Killing Without Blood. (95)
I liked this section, mostly because I've been a chess player all my life and can understand Waverly's intuitive connection with the game. At one point she comes to the realization that "A little knowledge withheld is a great advantage one should store for future use. That is the power of chess. It is a game of secrets in which one must show and never tell" (95). So that's another motif involving the keeping of secrets.

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