THE VINTAGE BOOK OF CONTEMPORARY CHINESE FICTION
This anthology, a revision of one published by Picador in the U.K. in 1998, contains 21 stories equally divided between urban and rural settings, mostly granting a view of life in modern China unlike anything presented to us by the news media. The perspective throughout the book is consistently childlike, without the ambivalence of most modern fiction in English: all women are exceedingly beautiful or plain; men are clever, dull or merely dutiful. Life follows the simple parameters of Communist dictum: birth, marriage, one child (two if it's a rich or aristocratic family) and death. Decidedly tame in tone and subject matter, the tales offer only mild, glancing criticism of Communism; they often focus on single characters who disrupt the social fabric through small "rebellions." One such example is "Black Walls" by Liu Xin-wu, which portrays the confusion in a small town when word spreads that an old man is spray painting the wall of his apartment black. In "Fate," by Shi Tie-sheng, an egotistical writer describes his anger and confusion at being rendered a paraplegic after he runs over an eggplant on his bicycle and is thrown in front of a truck. This bland anthology describes a China that appears poor and claustrophobic, but somehow still provides a context for romance, dreams and the occasional tragedy. Agent, Judy Daish. (Nov.)
Forecast:The Vintage brand will lend this modest anthology some cachet, helping to land it on many an undergraduate syllabus.