Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book

Maxine Hong Kingston, Author, Charles Elliott, Editor Alfred A. Knopf $19.95 (340p) ISBN 978-0-394-56831-7
The long-awaited novel by the author of the award-winning China Men and The Woman Warrior is outrageously clever, surrealistically imaginative, mordantly witty and funny--in spots. It is also densely overwritten, tedious and fatally mired in a literary device: at intervals, the narrative comes to a halt when the hero, Wittman Ah Sing (his name itself a pun), narrates the plot of his play-in-progress, a swashbuckling fantasy featuring a huge cast of characters headed by Wittman's alter ego, the legendary Monkey King, ``master of change,'' and including 108 bandits who battle their enemies in a free-for-all. Hyperkinetic, hypersensitive and hyperverbal, Wittman is a sporadically engaging character; a fifth generation Californian, Berkeley graduate and self-styled beatnik, he feels alien to both his Chinese heritage and the American culture that stereotypes him and others of his race. Kingston displays her considerable talents in some scenes that stand on their own as literary gems. But while much of the book is propelled by a bitter comic vision, many passages bog down in literary allusions, Wittman's often jejune introspection and the seemingly interminable scenes wherein the Monkey King holds center stage. (April)
Reviewed on: 04/01/1989
Release date: 04/01/1989
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-679-72789-7
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