What I’m Reading Dec 2015-Jan 2016 我最近在看什麼書?

Just a quick update on what I’ve been reading and what I plan to read over the coming months.

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I bought a book called 《斷代》 by  Taiwanese author Kuo Chiang-sheng (郭強生) after the salesperson recommended it at the GinGin Bookstore and have just begun to read it. I suspect the title is a piece of wordplay, as it can mean “to divide between distinct periods of history” and by extension hints that the book goes into the division between the older and younger generation of gay men in Taipei and the driving ideologies behind their attitudes (this certainly seems to be the case from what I’ve read so far); in addition to this, however, 「斷」 also means “cut” and 「代」can mean “successor” – which suggests the title also points to the gay experience as the final generation of a family (in that they cannot reproduce). This put me in mind of a passage from Chu Tien-wen’s (朱天文) brilliant Notes of a Desolate Man (《荒人手記》):

我站在那裡,我彷彿看到,人類史上必定出現過許多色情國度罷。它們像奇花異卉,開過就沒了,後世只能從湮滅的荒文裡依稀得知它們存在過。因為它們無法擴大,衍生,在愈趨細緻,優柔,色授魂予的哀愁凝結裡,絕種了。

《荒人手記》,朱天文,時報文化,二版,臺北市,65頁

Translated by the talented Howard Goldblatt as follows:

Standing there, I seemed to understand that many erotic nations must have appeared in the course of human history. They were like exotic flowers that disappeared after blooming but once. Later generations could only dimly detect their existence amid vanishing, decaying texts, for they could neither expand nor grow. They became extinct in the frozen sorrows of indetermination and slow degeneration.

Notes of a Desolate Man; Chu Tien-wen, Howard Goldblatt; Columbia University Press; 2000; pg 45-46; (Fair use)

This suggests homosexuality is a radical identity free from the constraints of heteronormativity, where erotic pleasure can take precedence over the biological imperative to see sex as a means for reproduction and the continuation of a nation or a family’s name. This conception of the gay identity as a form of sexual liberation-the opening battlecry of the gay movement-is quite distinct from the contemporary focus of the mainstream gay movement, led to some extent by Dan Savage, which is aimed at getting people to see homosexual relationships as akin to heterosexual relationships and homosexuals as ordinary people.  I hope that the conflict between these two different conceptions of homosexuality ends up being the focus of this book.

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The second book in my queue is from a list of books that Mark Zuckerberg has recommended. It’s 《三體》 by Chinese writer Liu Cixin ( The book already has an English translation by Ken Liu called The Three Body Problem but I’m going to try and give the Chinese a go.) It’s part of a science-fiction trilogy, but haven’t heard much buzz about it in Taiwan yet.

In terms of English-language books. I’ve recently read DuneElizabeth is MissingThe Casual Vacancy and The Girl on the Train, all of which I enjoyed.

Let me know what you’re reading or give me some recommendations in the comments section below. I also welcome guest posts, so feel free to contact me!

 

2 thoughts on “What I’m Reading Dec 2015-Jan 2016 我最近在看什麼書?

  1. Pingback: A Foreigner By Any Other Name: 阿凸仔/阿兜仔/阿啄仔 | Translating Taiwanese Literature

  2. Pingback: Taiwanese Phrase: ‘Washing your Trousers while You’re Picking Clams’ 摸蜊仔兼洗褲 bong lâ-á kiam sé khòo | Translating Taiwanese Literature

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