Tuesday, September 25, 2007

In the Shadow of History

I like the idea of blogging with music, so we're going to start doing that. Now, when I link to a song, it's through Napster, which is now 100% legit. The song is free and you don't need to log into anything to listen to it. The way it's legit is that you can only listen 3 times (to each song) before it asks you to buy that particular track.

Today's song is... We Didn't Start The Fire by Billy Joel.

Also, I'm now allowed to officially announce that I'm part of the Cybils awesomeness that is once again happening this year. I'm helping with the Middle Grade/ Young Adult non-fiction. Nominations start on October 1st, so start thinking and then get over there!!!!

Also, I'm hanging out at Geek Buffet today blogging about the morals of Communist Kitsch Chic.

And now, a book. It's one of those ones for grown-up type people.

Big Breasts & Wide Hips: A Novel by Mo Yan

Now, to preface this, I have to say that Mo Yan is my favorite author. Hands down. His depictions of Modern China are wonderful and his language is lush. So lush, especially when compared to most other Chinese prose. I almost puked Red Sorghum reading the scenes in when the Japanese invaded. I could taste the garlic while reading The Garlic Ballads.

Not everything he writes gets translated, so a new Mo Yan novel is to be savored. To the point where I've owned this for a few years now and never read it. It just sat on the shelf, waiting. Waiting for a time when I could pick it up and read it slowly and fully enjoy it.

Now, it was a perfectly fine book. But not one of his best, leaving it a bit of a disappointment.

The story is of the Shangguan family, who live in Northeast Gaomi Country in Shandong Province (almost all of Mo Yan's works take place here).

Shangguan Jintong is the only boy in a family of 9 sisters. He's obsessed with breasts, particularly those of his mother-- he isn't fully weaned until around the age of 17. This novel tracks the family through the 20th century-- a pretty tumultuous time in Chinese history. Unlike most historical novels, history isn't a main character--it's just a small part of the background noise, with a few exceptions. Because of this, I'm wondering how much sense parts of it will make to people not acquainted in modern Chinese history. The section leading up to WWII and going through the success of the Communist Revolution is confusing at best. Now, it was confusing to those who lived through it, too, but...

According to the introduction, Mo Yan wanted to write a story feauturing strong female characters. Now, most of his work features strong female characters and, outside the character of Mother, I'm not entirely sure this one does. Many of the sisters are introduced and then disappear. Many are not well fleshed out and I wouldn't call all of them strong by any means.

Now, if this had been by anyone else besides Mo Yan, I'd be much more enthusiastic about it, but I expected more of him.

Now, to eagerly await the March release of Life and Death are Wearing Me Out. In the meantime, if you haven't read his work yet, pick up a copy of Red Sorghum-- you won't be disappointed.


Bkbuds said...

Wow, thanks for linking to Cybils. You've sent quite a few people our way. We appreciate the boost, especially now that we're officially open for business.

Thanks again!

Jennie said...

I'm glad people are heading over. I can't wait to see what all gets nominated!