This is mostly just an update about my efforts to fulfil my promise since I posted on February 28, 2023 (Writing for and with Aaron(1). Over the past month, I have been writing on a daily basis and have finished drafting almost a full chapter of 40 pages while I also attended the AAS as a panel commentator, and then went with Ruoyun and our daughter to the Harvard campus ( to fulfil one of Aaron's wishes) before visiting NYC and Columbia.
This may not sound like a lot for many, especially for those colleagues who can write a chapter within one or two weeks, but this chapter has been my biggest mental block for the last three or four years, without which I would have finished this book long time ago. So this breakthrough means enormous progress on my part for this book project. The reason for this progress is that I now have had a renewed sense of urgency. I can recall a somewhat similar sense of urgency before probably only twice: I unexpectedly received job offers when I just wanted to test the market and then had to finish the remaining chapters of the dissertation within a tight schedule before we had to relocate for the new job, and when I had to get my first book out in time for tenure several years later.
Among other things, this sense of urgency compelled me to forge ahead in writing, regardless of whether I feel perfectly satisfied with the analysis or conceptual framework of this chapter or the book itself. These kinds of so-called perfectionist concerns and self-doubt used to generate a lot of mental resistance and frustration every time I tried to finish this part of the book manuscript, and such "perfectionism" resulted in long procrastination and growing frustration with the project and with myself, as typically seen in cases of writing mental blocks. Of course, I have never anticipated to get the breakthrough in such a tragic way, but I suppose this is life, in all its mysterious and sometimes totally unpredictable and nonsensical forms.
With that roadblock almost gone, I am moving on to finish the two remaining chapters and can now realistically expect to finish the book manuscript later this year, hopefully by the end of the summer. Completing this book will not just be a long overdue closure but also allow me to speed up the writing for two other book projects that I have been drafting, which have been considerably slowed down because of the former's incompletion.
As I put in the prefaces to the two forthcoming Chinese books from Shangwu yinshuguan (including a collection, coedited with Ruoyun, of conversations with international scholars and one volume of my own research articles), all these forthcoming and ongoing book projects owe their existence at least partly to the time that we could have spent with Aaron but didn't, so all our books will be dedicated to Aaron from now on. If nothing else, this should give me enough motivation to finish the several books in the next few years.
I plan to report back whether I have finished drafting the second book by the end of the summer. Ideally, I should have also written more chapters for the other projects by then. For scholars like us, "the calamity of long life" (to quote Shakespeare's Hamlet) may at least have the benefit of writing more books, I suppose. Then I can almost imagine hearing Aaron say "Dad, you have really done a lot within a such a short time. Good job!" That will be far more satisfying to me now than hearing any book winning a major book prize, as vain as I might have been. When pain and love get so deep, they can overshadow anything else, one might say. Writing has become my primary means of grieving and remembering, at least for now.
P.S. Aaron and his little sister once jokingly said that they would attend Harvard together in the future. So we took his sister to the Harvard campus during our AAS trip in March to fulfil his wish, hence the cover image taken there.
As Aaron could not join us in this trip to Boston/NYC, I have added to Aaron's website the following video recording of the virtual waterfalls in the LaGuardia Airport we saw on our way home. Aaron would have enjoyed watching this.