China appears twice in Sleep (see 10 FINGERS and “I Was Thinking,” where the phrase “Chinese lamps and Indian fans” may acknowledge that MM had already sought illumination and relief from the two greatest Asian traditions). As I noted in my Introduction to MM:SC, however, Sentence of the Gods also includes six books that embody Chinese culture more profoundly. Engendering (in the Northeast Asian tradition of embedding Confucian texts for memorization) incorporates two central, classical texts, one the Analects; Revolution makes use of all three major Chinese traditions. MM studied in Chinese with a Chinese painter, has lectured on, and has made use of, three dynastic types as “subtexts” for books in HERA. In Excelling he recorded, in situ, his 1992 trip with a Chinese friend to Hong Kong and thence by boat, train and plane to Shanghai, Chongqing, Chengdu, Kunming and Guangzhou. Life will contain yet more Chinese material. Why the title Excelling? Because, though we have life, we nonetheless wish to go beyond it. (See China’s continual capacity for reinventing itself.) Perhaps Aphrodite makes such “excelling” possible. In this final “corner book” Morrison himself seems to ask, “Is contemporary China dominated by Aphrodite or by El, by love, that is, or by fate?” Only time will tell. By Excelling Life have we arrived at death? Read on.
The full text of Excelling
The opening paragraphs of Excelling in French translation