A Book of Changes

I’m very pleased to be able to announce that I’ve just signed the contract on my novel-of-sorts, “A Book of Changes: Sixty-four Chance Pieces” with the excellent Earnshaw Books, purveyors of all good things China-related.

The book should be out some time in the first quarter of next year, and will be available in the UK, USA and East Asia. This project has been a long time in the making — it started out seven or eight years ago with an interest with Calvino’s literary experiments, and the idea of playing with the I Ching (易經) as a literature machine capable of generating new and surprising stories: because what is divination, I asked myself, if not the creation of new and surprising stories?

At that point, I knew next to nothing about the I Ching; but once I’d got started, I found myself getting drawn in to learning Chinese — something that had never been a part of the plan — and then later, conducting research in China. Some books are black holes: get too close and they suck you in. The I Ching is such a book.

The final novel, A Book of Changes, has sixty-four chapters, one for each of the hexagrams or gua () of the original I Ching. It is also a book that blends fiction and non-fiction (as well as footnotes and other scholarly apparatus) in a fashion that is, frankly, pretty close to indecent in a novel.

Anyway, the launch is still a way off, but I’ll post a picture of the cover when that has been decided on, and more news towards the time that the book is published.

This book of changes has been one of those projects that has far outstripped my initial intentions. It has led me into all kinds of fun China-related avenues, and as a result of embarking upon that idea some seven or more years ago, I now spend a good deal of my time working on Chinese texts and thinking about Chinese literature and philosophy. There are, in other words, further projects brewing, but I will leave those, too, for future blog posts…

Comments

Sid K
Reply

Looking forward to it! I thoroughly enjoyed your essay on the I Ching that you published in Aeon magazine. I come from the hard sciences, so I always tended to look on the I Ching as mumbo-jumbo. Your essay really opened my mind. This was my favorite line from that essay:

“And if I still use this weird, ancient divination manual, it is not because I want to flee from reason into the comforts of irrationality, nor is it because I believe the book contains a deep ancestral wisdom. Instead, it is because the I Ching repeatedly prompts me to go beyond false certainties and to create new and unexpected possibilities. In this way, divination might not be the enemy of rational thought but could be a means to its fuller flourishing.”

The wisdom of the I Ching is similar to some computer science wisdom I read the other day: “When in doubt, randomize.”

Also in this spirit, I enjoyed this webpage called Contradictory Insight:
http://gimbeltech.com/clearerthinking/contradictory_insight.html#.U-A3MYBdWD1

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