What I’m reading 我在讀什麼?

I have been jumping from book to book lately, so going to post what I’m reviewing next in the hope that this will put a little pressure on me to stick with one all the way through. I started I Am China by Xiaolu Guo, but not overly impressed by what I’ve read so far – a tired story about a Chinese dissident rocker who is seeking asylum in the UK that right now is seeming a little bit pretentious, somewhere between an Amy Tan novel and Ma Jian’s Red Dust, except not as edgy, equipped with dullish references to the Beat generation (((((Kerouac’s overrated))))) and China’s misty poets – but going to give it a chance, because I completely misjudged Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad and ended up loving it – so going to put it on the back-burner, and I am currently nose-deep in the long-awaited counterpart to Li Ang’s (李昂) 1997 work 《北港香爐人人插》 (Everyone sticks it in the Beigang incense burner) called 《路邊甘蔗眾人啃》 (Everybody nibbles on the sugar cane at the side of the road). The new book, published this year deals with men and power, whereas the previous book dealt with women and power. I haven’t read the previous book, but have heard interesting things about the author. I’m also interested to see if the “restricted to ages 18 and over” label stuck on the front is actually warranted, or is just a marketing technique.

 

The other books I’m lining up are 《馬橋詞典》 (A Dictionary of Maqiao in English) by Han Shaogong (韓少功), recommended to me by Chris Peacock, so looking forward to it.

I’m also going to give Yu Hua a second chance after the average but disappointing 《活著》 (To Live).

maqiaoyuhuaGot any recommendations? Reading any books that you are enjoying? Or read these books and want to have your say, comment below and I’ll get back to you.

I’ve also got a review of A Touch of Sin by Jia Zhangke in the pipeline, it’s a great film.

余華之《活著》書評 A Review of To Live by Yu Hua

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余華的短片小說我念大學時就讀到幾篇了,讀到時候感覺很新鮮——尤其是〈現實一種〉這篇——人物跟敘事者對小說中的血腥行為保持客觀的距離、漠不關心的態度,似乎主角在害他弟弟時也沒有多留意就心被分到光線那邊去。讀了許多年的刻版式的課文的我突然感覺有了活力——原來中文也有不濫情的、現代主義小說。不過,看《活著》看到一半又有一點失望,余華在這個作品中的敘事形式很像寫實主義的那派「傷痕文學」或賽珍珠的《大地》,只是以平民的視野去敘事內戰、文化大革命時期的那段歷史。這當然不見得是不好看,只是我在念高中時看這類型的小說看膩了,例如《野天鵝》、《落葉歸根》等等。

然而到最後(死了很多人之後)又讓我想到史坦貝克之《憤怒的葡萄》悲觀的收場。只是余華似乎跟史坦貝克的意圖不同,到最後富貴還是以正面的態度繼續活著。他那樣地接受所謂的「天意」令人想到台灣新電影的風格,尤其是《戀戀風塵》。

This was a an average but ultimately disappointing read from an author whose short stories promised something more. ‘A Kind of Reality’ had an interesting narrative style, completely unengaged from the tragedy that occurs in the story, To Live, however, seemed derivative of a lot of the scar literature I read as a teenager, like Wild Swans, Life and Death in Shanghai, and Falling leaves return to their roots. Not that these books were bad, it’s just that I expected a more interesting technique from Yu Hua than a more or less straightforward narrative, although Yu Hua distinguishes his story somewhat in being less critical of the Communist Party than other novels in the genre. The almost Job-like persistence of Fu Gui, despite the death of his entire family brought to mind the determinism of the New Taiwanese Film wave, particularly films like Dust in the Wind. Although I identify more with the outlook of Steinbeck at the end of Grapes of Wrath or Hemingway at the end of A Farewell to Arms.