Note: This is an encore post from 2005 and originally appeared on the 1947project.
“Knowledge is desirable, but learning is pleasure.”
That is one of the sayings of Author Helena Kuo, who came a long way from her native China by way of Europe—but does not pose as a Lady Confucius.
The pretty young author of “I’ve Come a Long Way,” “Westward to Chungking” and other books, never seems to stop. She writes articles, book reviews, short stories. She takes lessons. It was the lessons that inspired that “saying.”
Helena Kuo was an intermittent presence in Los Angeles, having visited in 1942. The author of several books, including one for children titled “Giants of China,” she was also a technical advisor on the 1943 Alan Ladd film “China.”
Kuo occasionally contributed reminiscences and short stories to The Times, including a demure romance about a Chinese girl who has to choose between her love for an American youth and returning to her homeland.
She often used aphorisms as a point of departure, such as: “The sages do not consider that making no mistakes is a blessing. They believe, rather, that the great virtue of man lies in his ability to correct his mistakes and continually to make a new man of himself.”
In 1956, she married noted watercolorist Dong Kingman and they collaborated on a 1980 book “Dong Kingman’s Watercolors.” She died in 1999.
The most interesting thing about Kuo—at least for dedicated readers of this blog—is that she was the house guest of Dr. George Hodel at 5121 Franklin Ave., arriving in mid-July as she was at work on a novel about a courtesan. This was a busy period for Dr. Hodel, who was presumably rather occupied doing away with Dorothy Montgomery (May 2), Laura Trelstad (May 11), Anna Diresio (May 12), Rosenda Mondragon (July 8) and Marian Newton (July 17), at least according to “Black Dahlia Avenger.”
One might wonder how Dr. Hodel managed to be a proper host for a visiting female author (and an attractive one at that) while allegedly up to his neck in gruesome murders of women. But to quote another of Kuo’s sayings: “Neither talk of other people’s shortcomings nor refer to your own excellence.”