Three of best from Gao Yang
Updated: 2011-02-18 08:15
Three of the best from Gao Yang
Three works by the late Taiwan writer Gao Yang (1922-1992), famed for his historical novels, are being introduced to the Chinese mainland by Beijing Jiban Book company.
Xiao Fengxian tells the tale of Xiao Fengxian, a well-known prostitute in the early 20th century. Despite her fame there are no authorized records and even the exact dates of her birth and death are unknown. But she is remembered for rescuing Cai E, a famous general with whom she had a touching relationship.
Gao vividly paints the subtle emotional struggles of the characters while maintaining a taut narrative.
Grass-root Heroes is based on the battles against Japanese pirates in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) who landed on China's coastal areas, supposedly to "pay tribute" but who actually bullied Chinese and colluded with local bandits.
The upright official Zhu Wan was assigned by the Ming government to clear these pirates from coastal Zhejiang province. The novel tells stories of how Zhu and his forces resisted the invaders.
Making the History focuses on two decades of the life of Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925), who led the 1911 revolution that ended imperial rule. The book describes how Sun united Chinese people both at home and abroad and how he fought tirelessly until the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) was overthrown.
Swamplandia! has style in spades
In 2006, Zoetrope published a story by 24-year-old writer, Karen Russell. That story, Ava Wrestles the Alligator, featured a lusciously strange setting (an alligator theme park in the Everglades) and a tough young heroine with a dead mother and an absent father, as well as a weird problem: how to save her resented-yet-beloved older sister from eloping with a ghost.
A few months later, Russell's first story collection, St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves, with Ava Wrestles the Alligator leading a crazy procession of nine other Florida swampland stories, won her wide acclaim, and in 2010 she was chosen as one of The New Yorker's "20 Under 40" top fiction writers. Now her fans can sink their teeth into her first novel, Swamplandia! (Alfred A. Knopf), a sort of expansion of and sequel to that alligator story. Vividly worded, exuberant in characterization, the novel is a wild ride: Russell has style in spades.
War and Peace for 21st century
The first time as tragedy, Karl Marx said of history's repetitions, the second time as farce. He didn't suggest a mode for the third time, but Carlos Fuentes does: the telenovela, the interminable soap opera of conspiracy and delusion, capitalism and its demons.
Destiny and Desire (Random House) is a novel that sprawls and circles, not exactly a parody of War and Peace, but certainly a spectral, playful revision of the idea of a novel that competes with history.
It offers lavish quantities of comedy, satire, allegory, fantasy and brilliant political commentary; makes coded allusions to recognizable celebrities like the communications magnate Carlos Slim; evokes the work of Spinoza and Machiavelli; includes ghosts, graves, murders, a voluble flying prophet and a talking severed head.
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