An Excess Male

Source: The Verge (9/12/17)
Maggie Shen King’s novel paints a picture of future China that’s not far away
Men must share wives as a result of the one-child policy
By Shannon Liao

Photo by Andrew Liptak / The Verge

For three decades, China has been running what amounts to a huge social experiment: a one-child policy that limits each family to have only one offspring. The policy has led to a greater gender imbalance than the global average. In 2015, Beijing relaxed this policy to allow two children per family. But in Maggie Shen King’s debut novel, An Excess Male, China continues to face this real-world dystopian scenario.

In an alternate timeline set in the near future, the one-child policy has continued for several decades, radically changing the social structure. In this world, a woman can take up to three husbands, depending on how “patriotic” a family decides to be and how desperately in need of cash they are. Continue reading

Idle Talk under the Bean Arbor

MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce S. E. Kile’s review of Idle Talk under the Bean Arbor: A Seventeenth-Century Chinese Story Collection (University of Washington Press, 2017), by Aina the Layman, edited by Robert E. Hegel. The review appears below and at its online home: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/kile/. My thanks to Michael Berry, MCLC book review editor for translations, for ushering the review to publication.

Enjoy,

Kirk A. Denton, editor

Idle Talk under the Bean Arbor:
A Seventeenth-Century Chinese Story Collection

By Aina the Layman
Edited by Robert E. Hegel


Reviewed by S. E. Kile
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright September, 2017)


Even though some new shoots with tender leaves are growing up the bean arbor that I set up some days ago, the bean vines have not yet entirely covered the arbor, and beams of sunlight still shine through empty places among the leaves. These spaces are like storytellers who break off at some crucial spot in the middle, leaving gaps that make the audience unhappy. But let’s be done with that troublesome talk. (23)

Aina the Layman, Idle Talk under the Bean Arbor: A Seventeenth-Century Chinese Story Collection Ed. Robert E. Hegel. Seattle: Washington University Press, 2017. 288 pp. ISBN: 978-0-295-99997-5.

The most elaborate frame-story narrative in traditional Chinese literature is now available in English for the very first time, thanks to the impressive collaborative achievement of editor Robert E. Hegel and nine of his current and former students who did most of the translation work.[1] Idle Talk under the Bean Arbor (豆棚閒話) by Aina jushi 艾衲居士 (Aina the Layman) is a thoroughly enchanting early Qing departure from the conventions of the Ming vernacular short story (huaben 話本). It is such a departure, in fact, that to call the volume a “collection” of “stories” is to disregard many of its most vibrant elements. Continue reading

Chinese Subjectivities and the Beijing Olympics review

MCLC is pleased to announce publication of Wendy Larson’s review of Chinese Subjectivities and the Beijing Olympics (Rowman and Littlefield, 2017), by Gladys Pak Lei Chong. The review appears below and at its online home: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/larson4/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC book review editor for literary studies, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk Denton, editor

Chinese Subjectivities and the Beijing Olympics

By Gladys Pak Lei Chong


Reviewed by Wendy Larson
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright August, 2017)


Gladys Pak Lei Chong. Chinese Subjectivities and the Beijing Olympics. London/New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2017). vii, 283 pp. ISBN 978-1-78660-009-7 (PB), £29.95/$44.95.

Chinese Subjectivities and the Beijing Olympics is a sociological study of the way in which various actors, including the Chinese state, the population at large, and geopolitical forces combined to produce a shared understanding of the Beijing Olympics in 2008, and to drive engagement, accommodation, and resistance among Chinese citizens. Closely following the work of Michel Foucault, Gladys Pak Lei Chong examines the usefulness of famous concepts such as disciplinary power, biopower, and governmentality in deciphering how the Chinese population participated in the Olympics, and the meaning of their engagement. Chong’s data comes from interviews with taxi drivers, volunteers, and others who worked on the Olympics in different capacities. She also studied TV productions and the Internet presence of anything concerning the Olympics, as well as texts, advertisements, posters, photos, and other promotional materials, all collected or examined in four fieldwork trips to China and Hong Kong. At the core of her study is the ethnographic observation of participants, observers, and interlocutors of the Beijing Olympics. Continue reading

The Cultural Revolution on Trial review

MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of Man He’s review of The Cultural Revolution on Trial: Mao and the Gang of Four (Cambridge UP, 2016), by Alexander C. Cook. The review appears below, but is best read at its online home: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/manhe/

My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

The Cultural Revolution on Trial:
Mao and the Gang of Four

By Alexander C. Cook


Reviewed by Man He
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright July, 2017)


Alexander C. Cook, The Cultural Revolution on Trial: Mao and the Gang of Four. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. xv, 277 pp. ISBN: 9780521135290 (hardback).

“What did it mean for the Chinese to use a legal trial to address the injustices of the Cultural Revolution?” (10). Alexander C. Cook raises and answers this key question in The Cultural Revolution on Trail: Mao and the Gang of Four. Conducted over the winter of 1980-81, the Gang of Four trial was the defining event of China’s post-Mao transition in legal, political, and cultural senses. Not only did it signal a return to law and order after the chaos of the Cultural Revolution, it affirmed the continuing rule of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its authority to render a verdict on China’s recent past. Despite the trial’s importance, there has been little English scholarship on the subject, due to the inaccessibility of archival materials and, paradoxically, the widespread availability of “partially redacted courtroom transcripts” (4). The former is an expected bureaucratic hurdle, but the latter is also problematic because the “linguistic engineering” (9) of such documents is apt to make outsiders complain about the empty jargon, leaving only insiders alert to “the heavy freight of meanings that words . . . could convey” (10). Not content to allow these factors to let the trial languish in an “analytical black hole” (7), Cook has devised a compelling means to tackle the issue. Alternating between chapters that focus on legal documents and court proceedings (dealing with the indictment, testimony, and verdict, respectively) and chapters on relevant literary works (in the genres of reportage, psychological realism, and personal memoir), Cook succinctly unveils the legal, political, and cultural meanings hidden in socialist legal and literary narratives, as well as the broader political and social implications of the trial. In other words, by reading legal documents in a literary way and literary narratives politically; Cook demonstrates to outsiders and insiders alike that there is something intriguing and far-reaching about this apparent “show trial.” Continue reading

When True Love Came to China review

MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of Haiyan Lee’s review of When True Love Came to China (Hong Kong UP, 2015), by Lynn Pan. The review appears below, but is best read at its online home: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/haiyanlee/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC book review editor for literary studies, for ushering the review to publication.

Enjoy,

Kirk Denton, editor

How the Chinese Fell in Love with Love, Caveats and All:
Review of When True Love Came to China

By Lynn Pan


Reviewed by Haiyan Lee
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright June, 2017)


Lynn Pan, When True Love Came to China. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2015. vii, 325 pp. ISBN-9789888208807. Hardcover. $65.00/£54.95.

In her novel Dept. of Speculation (2014), Jenny Offill relates the experiments of the nineteenth-century French doctor Hippolyte Baraduc who claimed to have photographed the emotions. Allegedly, he found that different emotions produced different images on the photographic plate: “Anger looked like fireworks. Love was an indistinct blur.”

After Baraduc, no photographer has attempted to replicate this feat. But the wordsmiths of the world—the novelist, poet, playwright, and the occasional philosopher—never cease trying to limn that indistinct blur. And it is, familiarly, the European men and women of letters who have done most of the heavy lifting, with their invention of a sublime, exclusive, all-engulfing, and bound-for-matrimony love that goes by the name of “romantic love” or “true love.” Continue reading

Queer Marxism in Two Chinas review

MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of Jia Tan’s review of Queer Marxism in Two Chinas (Duke UP, 2015), by Petrus Liu. The review appears below, but is best read at its online home here: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/jia-tan/. My thanks to Jason McGrath, MCLC book review editor for media studies, for ushering the review to publication.

Enjoy,

Kirk A. Denton, editor

Queer Marxism in Two Chinas

By Petrus Liu


Reviewed by Jia Tan
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright June, 2017)


Petrus Liu, Queer Marxism in Two Chinas. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015. 256pp. ISBN: 978-0-8223-5972-2 (Cloth: $84.95) ISBN: 978-0-8223-6004-9 (Paperback: $23.95)

In the past two decades, the term “queer” has gained increasing academic momentum in China studies across disciplines such as history, sociology, anthropology, film and media studies, communication, and literary studies. What does it mean to queer China studies, and where is this emergent field of queer China studies moving? And conversely, what is the significance of this sub-field for the broader field of queer studies? Petrus Liu’s Queer Marxism in Two Chinas is a timely and highly original book that provides theoretical interventions to the above questions. Taking into account the geopolitical implication of the “two Chinas,” the People’s Republic of China and Taiwan, Liu proposes the framework of queer Marxism as an antidote to major debates and concerns in both queer studies and area studies. Continue reading

Revolution and Its Narratives review

MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of Nicolai Volland’s review of Revolution and Its Narratives: China’s Socialist Literary and Cultural Imaginaries, 1949-1966 (Duke University Press, 2016), by Cai Xiang. The review appears below but is best read online at: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/volland/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Enjoy,
Kirk Denton, editor

Revolution and Its Narratives: China’s Socialist
Literary and Cultural Imaginaries, 1949-1966

By Cai Xiang
Edited and translated by Rebecca E. Karl and Xueping Zhong


Reviewed by Nicolai Volland
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright March, 2017)


Cai Xiang, Revolution and Its Narratives: China’s Socialist Literary and Cultural Imaginaries, 1949-1966. Ed. and trans. by Rebecca E. Karl and Xueping Zhong. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2016. xxix, 450 pp. ISBN-13: 978-0-8223-6069-8.

The past decade has witnessed a renaissance of studies on Chinese socialist cultural production—including literature of the 1950s and early 1960s as well as that of the Cultural Revolution. This trend is observable in both English- and Chinese-language scholarship. Dialogue between these academic communities, however, remains limited, at least as far as published output is concerned. While translators have made available to Chinese readers many English-language studies of, say, Republican era history, the amount of literary criticism translated into Chinese remains limited (with the exception of theory); this is especially so for critical studies of post-1949 literature. Flows in the opposite direction, from Chinese to English, are an even rarer species. Nonetheless, several translation initiatives over the past decade have set out to bring more of contemporary Chinese literary criticism to the attention of English readers. These include Hong Zicheng’s (洪子誠) A History of Contemporary Chinese Literature, translated by Michael Day; and Debating the Socialist Legacy and Capitalist Globalization, a volume of essays edited by Xueping Zhong and Ban Wang.[1] With Cai Xiang’s (蔡翔) Revolution and Its Narratives, translated by Rebecca Karl and Xueping Zhong, we are given a monograph-length study that contains a wealth of fresh and original observations on literature from the 1950s and 1960s, all the while offering insights into current (21st century) academic debates in China. Continue reading

Interview with Scott Savitt

Source: LA Review of Books Blog (5/31/17)
Crashing the Party: An Interview with Scott Savitt
By Matthew Robertson

Editor’s Introduction: The China Blog often publishes something at this time of year that looks back in one way or another to the June 4th Massacre of 1989, an act of state violence that curtailed a national movement whose biggest protests took place at Tiananmen Square.  This year is no different.  Our June 4th anniversary post this time takes the form of an interview with an eyewitness to the demonstrations and crackdown of 1989, Scott Savitt, who has recently published a memoir, Crashing the Party: An American Reporter in China, which deals in part with the dramatic events that convulsed Beijing and captivated television audiences around the world twenty-eight years ago. Matthew Robertson, a researcher and translator, conducted the interview, which begins after a brief introduction he provides to Savitt’s life and Crashing the Party, which Publisher’s Weekly describes as the work of a “smart, thrilling memoirist.” -Jeff Wasserstrom Continue reading

The Cultural Revolution on Trial review

Source: LA Review of Books Blog (5/17/17)
The Trial of the Gang of Four: As History and Current Events
By Liz Carter

Forced confessions, show trials, and crises of legitimacy. These are topics covered in Alexander C. Cook’s important book, The Cultural Revolution on Trial: Mao and the Gang of Four, which Cambridge University Press published in November. They are also issues China has been facing recently, as Xi Jinping has sought to consolidate power and bolster faith in the Communist Party. Cook’s primary purpose is not, however, to offer a cautionary tale about history repeating itself, but to put forward a novel framework for understanding historical trauma, its roots, and its repercussions. Continue reading

Red Legacies in China review

MCLC and MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of Xing Fan’s review of Red Legacies in China: Cultural Afterlives of the Communist Revolution (Harvard University Asia Center, 2016), edited by Jie Li and Enhua Zhang. The review appears below, but is best read online at:

http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/xingfan/

My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Enjoy,

Kirk A. Denton, Editor

Red Legacies in China:
Cultural Afterlives of the Communist Revolution

Edited by Jie Li and Enhua Zhang


Reviewed by Xing Fan
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright March, 2017)


Jie Li and Enhua Zhang, eds., Red Legacies in China: Cultural Afterlives of the Communist Revolution>. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center, 2016. 424 pp. ISBN: 9780674737181

Red Legacies in China: Cultural Afterlives of the Communist Revolution pays close attention to three interconnected questions: What constitutes red legacies in post-Mao China? How do these red legacies interact with the present? And what do we make of these interactions? The anthology includes twelve essays whose authors employ multidisciplinary, multifaceted, and multidimensional approaches, interpretations, observations, and reflections. Red Legacies in China is an important title for scholars, educators, students, and general readers who are interested in the cultural legacies of the Communist Revolution, read in the context of China’s economic, political, and ideological transformations. Continue reading

Shenzheners review

Source: Chinese Literature of the Americas 紅杉林: 美洲華人文藝 (12.1, Spring 2017)
China: Loneliness behind Sound and Fury—– On Xue Yiwei’s Shenzheners
Reviewed by Amy Hawkins

There is a temptation commonly indulged amongst China watchers to bemoan the loss of the “real China”. With the rapid urbanisation and globalisation of the past few decades, China is, of course, not what it used to be. Where there were once stony paths and local residents nursing flasks of boiled water, you can now buy decaf soy lattes. The “locals” you meet in any given city in China are unlikely to be anything of the sort – one of the many demographic changes that have reshaped China’s landscape is the huge migration of people towards the cities and new economic centres of China. This is most evident at Chinese New Year, when tens of millions of people return to their hometowns to celebrate Spring Festival with their families, and become part of the biggest annual human migration in the world. The cities are deserted. Continue reading

Can Xue’s Frontier review (1)

List members who read my review of Frontier should know that the word “regressed,” an editorial intervention, in the phrase “Ge Fei and Yu Hua regressed to representational prose,” has been changed back to my original “returned” in an updated version online. I in no way meant to imply that authors’ choice to re-engage with literary realism constituted “regression.”

Canaan Morse <canaan.morse@gmail.com>

Can Xue’s Frontier review

Source: Music and Literature (3/14/17)
CAN XUE’S FRONTIER
Reviewed by Canaan Morse

Frontier by Can Xue tr. Karen Gernant and Chen Zeping (Open Letter, March 2017) Reviewed by Canaan Morse

Frontier by Can Xue tr. Karen Gernant and Chen Zeping (Open Letter, March 2017)

Reading is an act that requires memory. As a reader’s eyes move through text, the connections between sequences of events, characters and parts of the psyche, or even such micro elements as first and last sentences, and even subject and predicate, only become comprehensible when they can be recalled and reconstituted in the human mind. Likewise, the act of narration traditionally involves a mnemonic operation: the narrative includes “first” and “last” sentences, and introduces characters, themes and plots in ways that reward the use of memory. At the heart of this dialogue between narrator and reader is a pact of comprehensibility, enforced by tradition; two thousand years ago, Aristotle demanded that time, place, and action be unified in drama, but that compact had been around long before he, and continues to hold sway in the mainstream today. Even as innumerable creative writers have bent or broken that pact in innumerable ways, most of us begin a book with the fundamental assumption that it will be upheld on a sentence-to-sentence level. Continue reading

The Edge of Knowing review

MCLC and the MCLC Resource Center are pleased to announce publication of Laurence Coderre’s review of The Edge of Knowing: Dreams, History, and Realism in Modern Chinese Literature (University of Washington Press, 2016), by Roy Bing Chan. The review appears below, but is best read online at: http://u.osu.edu/mclc/book-reviews/coderre/. My thanks to Nicholas Kaldis, MCLC literary studies book review editor, for ushering the review to publication.

Kirk A. Denton, editor

The Edge of Knowing: Dreams, History,
and Realism in Modern Chinese Literature

By Roy Bing Chan


Reviewed by Laurence Coderre
MCLC Resource Center Publication (Copyright March, 2017)


Roy Bing Chan. The Edge of Knowing: Dreams, History, and Realism in Modern Chinese Literature. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2016. xi, 221 pp. ISBN: 9780295998992; $50.00 (hardcover)

The historical stakes, ethical pitfalls, and representational limitations of Chinese realism as a twentieth-century literary practice constitute well-worn terrain for the field of modern Chinese literature. Indeed, one might even suggest that these concerns are foundational to the discipline as a whole. Whether in the erstwhile construction or ongoing deconstruction of Cold War-era Chinese literary historiography, realism—and its discontents—must always be reckoned with. More specifically, the preoccupation with the real remains a—if not the—dominant historiographical thread connecting the literary engagements of the May Fourth generation, the critical realism of the 1930s, and the effort to remake the world through literature and art undertaken during the Mao period. We, collectively, know this narrative by heart, and although there may be some disagreement on the particulars—what about modernism? to what extent are all-out critiques of realism anachronistic?—we generally abide by this account’s basic tenets. Continue reading

Iron Moon review (2)

I’d like to second Martin Winter’s praise. Prof. van Crevel’s review is a masterpiece that balances nuanced judgments, a wide-angle view, and deftly-chosen details about both the book and the film.

It will be interesting to see — perhaps five years from now — what impact the two Iron Moons and all the publicity will have had on the (surviving) poets.

Andrew Clark <aec@raggedbanner.com>