Tuesday, June 03, 2008
The closest I’ve come to Wyoming is well, Nevada (so says Google maps). Wyoming is a place I can hardly imagine, yet Annie Proulx’s Close Range: Wyoming Stories cut straight to the heart. I think it’s best described as Michael Knight did in a Wall Street Journal review: “Ms. Proulx writes with all the brutal beauty of one of her Wyoming snowstorms.” (via Powells). The best known of the stories is of course the romance of Ennis and Jack heartbreaking Brokeback Mountain, which was of course made into the Academy Award-winning movie. But all the other stories, of harsh, unforgiving lands, filled with lonely cowboys, despite being worlds away from what I know, are completely absorbing and affecting.
And on another continent....
It's not normally a book I would pick up, but the Picador Book of Contemporary Chinese Fiction seemed like a good introduction into well, contemporary Chinese fiction. There were even a couple of names I recognised (although hadn't read), like Su Tong (he of Raise The Red Lantern) and Wang Meng. Many of these short stories have morals behind them, such as Lin Xiu-wen's Black Walls, where a Mr Zhou is seen by his neighbours painting the walls and ceiling of his room black. The neighbours call a meeting and discuss what they should do and consider calling the police. Of course, one neighbour's young grandson pokes his head into the meeting and asks, why, if Mr Zhou is only painting his room and not everyone else's, do they kick up such a fuss? (groan). While this (and others) made me feel like I was reading a Moral Studies textbook, the collection on the whole was rather entertaining. It helped that most of the stories are pretty short and easily read while waiting for the bus. One of my favourites is Wang Meng's The Lovesick Crow and Other Fables, on the other hand, is quite a delight. The fables, such as The Comedy of Ducks, where ducks are riled after the publication of The Ugly Duckling: "Down with lakewater! Down with the farmer! Down with the turkeys! Down with the Chinese people!" they cry. The farmer, of course, solves the issue, the way a farmer will.