Mian Mian Says

Mian Mian 棉棉 is a writer from Shanghai.

A mainstay of the 00后 Beijing-Shanghai art community, Mian Mian’s confessional blog writings published in On High In Blue Tomorrows《于忧郁的明天升上的天空》 are scattered with bands, albums, films, poems and lyrics, some of which I have collected here for you to enjoy.

There is something about trawling that I like. The thrill of a bargain genetically inherited from an Asian bloodline. The delight in digging through second-hand records in the wooden coffers of Wellington’s record stores. The flick and pluck of counterfeit DVD sleeves in Hong Kong night markets. So the street front pù miàn 铺面 bookstores of China, where cheap deals are recited over a megaphone like a modern day sales mantra, are essentially my spiritual homeland.

Last year, amidst the stacks of dusty, plastic-wrapped reprints of ancient primers and gaudy coloured children’s books, I found a copy of On High In Blue Tomorrows by Mian Mian. Intrigued by the choppy hair and dark shades of the figure on the front cover, I took the book home and entered the personal recollections of a writer, music-lover and survivor of addiction, often dubbed as a New Generation Writer 新生代作家.

Mian Mian On high
Image by Kiwese.

Mian Mian gained a reputation as a post-Mao era, 70后 (born in the 70s) wild child, with the publication of her sex, drugs, rock ‘n’ roll novel Candy《糖》in 1999, based upon her own life experiences as a party girl flitting between Shanghai and Shenzhen. In the 80s era of reform and opening up, Deng Xiaoping saw Shenzhen transform from a tiny fishing village to a ‘special economic zone’ full of factories, new cash and people from all over the country trying to make it.

In the early 90s, a young Mian Mian ran away from Shanghai to join the action, as with new money brought parties, drugs and hedonism. Heartbreak, hopelessness and heroin followed. In 1995, her parents dragged her out of Shenzhen and placed her in a Shanghai rehab clinic. She published her first book two years later. Candy was published in the same year as Wei Hui’s Shanghai Baby《上海宝贝》, which is also about drugs, sex and parties and also banned in China. The two books are often likened in this way.

Mian Mian’s prose in On High In Blue Tomorrows is colloquial and clear, it reads like a personal journal. It is not heavy with literary descriptions or obscure chéngyǔ 成语 (idioms), which means as a learner, it is easy to read and enjoy.

“My books are not for intellectuals,” Mian Mian said to Jonathan Napack in an NY Times interview almost fifteen years ago, “my readers are in the streets, in a disco, listening to cool music.”

The inner sleeve reads:

棉棉的文字大多关于解放,自我毁灭自我拯救,她自己的生活在最近也经历了“戒烟,戒酒,食素”的巨大改变”

Mian Mian’s writings are mostly about liberation, self-destruction and self-rescue. Her personal life has recently undertaken a huge change with giving up smoking, drinking and eating meat.

The blog entries date from 2005 to 2008, through which she writes about the illness and death of her father, her reflections on her previous life and novels, being a writer, her relationships with friends, the universe and Buddha. Her posts touch on daily life and encounters – trying to give up smoking, going to YY’s club in Shanghai, as well as a lot of movie watching at home.

Below I have included some of the music and films she mentions in these entries written in brown along with my own English translation in black. She often mentions and promotes the work of her friends, which is what blogs are for, right?

Music
音乐
  • Jiang Xin 姜昕

2007年2月4日 
推存我的宝贝姜昕《我不是随便的花朵》!在阳光下听更美!这个像香草一样美好的女孩!
Recommend baby Jiang Xin's album 'I'm An Unusual Flower'! It is even better in the moonlight! She is as beautiful as vanilla!
我觉得人生最幸福的事就是你找到自己想走的那条路,然后在那条路上有很多新密的伙伴,所以我觉得《彩虹2006》这首歌其实想写的事这样的感受,而且《彩虹2006》是一个万能的桥梁,它不是人世间的桥梁,它能连接人于人的心灵和连接生与死,可以连接过去和现在。
I believe the happiest thing in life is finding the road you want to take, then having lots of close friends along that road. I think that's what 'Rainbow 2006' is about. The song is an all-encompassing bridge, not a bridge of the human world, but one that connects people and spirits, life and death, the past and the present.
跟姜昕聊天事一种享受,姜昕的纯净有一种力量,她会让谈话中的那些细节闪闪发光起来。
Talking with Jiang Xin is a pleasure. Her purity has power, she makes the little details come to life.
我问她:你相信爱上是因为对方漂亮,或者有才华,或者爱你吗?她坚定而迅速地回答我:绝对不是。爱情绝对是缘分。
I asked her: "Do you believe in love because the person is beautiful, or has talent, or because they love you?" She immediately responded: "Absolutely not. Love is fate."
她的状态,态度,以及她的歌唱,都是独一无二的。她用她的美丽,她的青春与音乐,爱与忧愁,以及命运,见证了北京那个再也不会回来的“underground”时代。
Her manner, attitude and voice is unparalleled. Using beauty, youth, music, love and troubles and destiny, she bears witness to a Beijing underground that will never return again.
  • Muma 木马

2006年2月21日 
木马乐队成为于1998年,乐队成员由木马(吉他/主唱),曹操(贝司),冯雷(键盘),胡湖(鼓)组成。
Muma was formed in 1998, consisting of members Muma (guitar/lead vocals), Cao Cao (bass), Feng Lei (keys), Huhu (drums)
有的人说听木马很冰凉,但我却认为那是另一个温暖。他们很实在地唱着忧伤,墓穴的青春,美好的年华,奇异的梦境。
Some people say that listening to Muma is cold, but I think it is a kind of warmth. They sing so honestly about grief, buried youth, the good years and strange dreamscapes.
木马乐队的三张专辑,我还是更多地倾向于前面的两张。
Out of Muma's three albums, I am most inclined towards the first two.
记得新专辑里的首歌《如果这的恨一个人那就是我自己》。仅仅只是一个名字,就让我看到他们依旧的固执。新的专辑并不让我失望,因为我已经在深夜里熟悉那样的声调,就如同我了解Radiohead的病态。
I remember a song off the new album called If There is One Person I Hate, That Person Is Myself. It is only a name, and I can see their old stubbornness. The new album doesn't make me lose hope, I'm already well-acquainted with that sound from the depths of night, the same way I have come to understand Radiohead.
在某年的深夜,我还在木马的声音中,在凌乱的大街上,房间里,拾捡我已经破碎的心。
Some years, in the late hours of night, I find myself in Muma's sound, on the streets of disorder, in my room, picking up my already broken heart.
  • Wild Children 野孩子

2007年5月24号 
一直忘了说了,在苏河艺术中心我看野孩子演出,一些下就开始流泪。回来听CD时也是这样。他们是如此干净!
I keep forgetting: I saw Wild Children play at Su He Art Space and cried. Back at home I listened to their CD and cried some more. They are so clean!
  • Sonic Youth

2006年4月6日 
If you want me to
I will be the one
That is always good
And you'll love me too
But you'll never know
What I feel inside
That I'm really bad
Little trouble girl
Remember mother?
We were close
Very, very close
Sha la la you taught me how to fit it good
Sha la la flow down life you understood
Sha la la curl my hair and eye lash
Sha la la hitch my cheeks and do my lips
Sha la la swing my hips just like you
Sha la la smile and behave
Sha la la a circle of perfection, it's what you gave
Sha la la then one day I met a guy
He stole my heart, no alibi
Sha la la he said: "Romance is a ticket to paradise"
Sha la la momma, I'm not too young to try
Sha la la we kissed, we hugged, we were close
Very, very close
Sha la la we danced in the sand
And the water rose - higher and higher
Sha la la until I found myself floating - in the sky
I'm sorry mother, I'd rather fight
Than have to lie
If you want me to
I will be the one
That is always good
And you'll love me too
But you'll never know
What I feel inside
That I'm really bad
Little trouble girl 
-SONIC YOUTH, LITTLE TROUBLE GIRL
我的好朋友Anto... 想起她我会想起这首歌。。。她给我发过这首歌的歌词,而这首歌我以前很喜欢。
My good friend Anto... when I think of her I think of this song... She sent me the lyrics and I also liked this song before.

 

Books
书籍
  • Lotus by Anni Baobei《莲花》安妮宝贝

安妮宝贝
Anni Baobei 安妮宝贝. Image from Smart Shanghai.
安妮宝贝的《莲花》我郑重地推存给大家。这本书我一看就哭。这是本被祝福的书,包含了重要的信息和动人的感情。我是个几乎不看书的人,而且由于我的时间表很满,我总是会翻到后面去看,接着我就开始后悔,这样看这本书是不尊重作者的,所以请大家不像我这么看。
I seriously recommend Lotus by Anni Baobei to everyone. One look at it and I cry. This book is blessed, containing important information and moving emotions. I'm not someone who reads books often and given my busy schedule I generally skim through to the end, but then I have regrets because this way of reading doesn't respect the author. So I implore you not to do as I have.
她写作跟我写作是很不一样的,但是有一点是一样的,那就是我们一直在寻找“意义”,这句话不是我说的,但是我觉得是非常对。
Our writing styles are very different, though similar in the way we are always searching for 'meaning.' This wasn't my phrasing but I think it is absolutely correct.
Films
电影
  • Love Streams《爱的激流》

今天看的另外一部电影也是很沮丧的电影。但非常棒!是美国的独立导演的先驱约翰·卡索维茨的《爱的激流》。
Today I saw another sad film, but it was so great! It was Love Streams by independent American filmmaker John Cassavetes,
这部电影是讲心里都有问题的姐弟俩的故事。非常细腻,生动,有趣,悲伤。我看的时候很沮丧。因为他们演的太好了。导演就是男主角,他太帅了!太爱他了!
This film told the story of two heartbroken people. Exquisite, lively, interesting and sad. The acting was so good. The director is the lead actor, so handsome! I love him so much!
  • Summer Palace 《颐和园》

2008年2月6日 
昨天看电影《颐和园》哭了很久。
Yesterday I watched Summer Palace and cried for ages.

Carmen《卡门》

2006年6月7日 
今天翻到部《卡门》。2004年的西班牙电影。我从没在任何一个文学作品,或者电影里找到一个跟我如此接近的角色,我看这电影看得有点看傻了,因为好多小细节都让我想起以前的我。太奇怪了,而且在最最关键的时刻,她居然跟我说了一样的话:要么你放了我,要么你杀了我,我不爱你。
Today I watched Carmen, a Spanish film from 2004. I never find characters that resemble myself in literature or film, so I was shocked to find so many details that reminded me of the old me. So strange, and at key moments in the film she would speak the same as I did: "either leave me or kill me, I don't love you."

And plenty more. Mian Mian has been pretty quiet on the writing front recently, but you can find her blog (which this book was based on) over on Sina!

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