book review #1 《草样年华》

Okay, the upside, my Chinese is certainly getting better. The downside, my English is certainly getting worse. Like um, writing in English is actually hard now. This has to be the hardest entry I've ever written. Christ. Understandable. But. Too fast too fast. 草样年华II by 孙睿 Finished September 21-26

过去,我们大学生是大熊猫。 现在,成了被遗弃的接头野猫。

I gave myself a limit of two weeks a book, which means. After plucking a couple of never-heard-of bestsellers with nice covers and anecdotes at the local book store, I've arrived at the junction of being a book wiser, a few Chinese characters richer, and a stomach full of fury. It might seem like having finished a book a week and two days before the set two week limit is a testament to the quality of the book. It actually means having thoughts of "okay, that's it, I'm not reading this shit" after every chapter, but I've made some sort of a mental vow to finish every book I start here. But with all its bestselling and grabber - "a classic novel read by over 10,000,000 college students," 《草样年华 》falls not only short, but flat on its face, so flat if it ain't flat enough I want to punch the author's face flat myself for wasting trees, ink, and not to mention, my time. But it's not the time I'm worried about at this moment. Time I've got. It's the sheer amount of unhappiness and LACK of escapism this book provides.

Then again, contemporary Chinese lit, if nothing else, is always a slap in the face.

But this book lacks the spirit and soul of Lu Xun. It lacks the bones - a theme, a message, a point, and all that is fine, just fine, except satire only goes so far before wit become sour and then dour, and I swear I've never hated more a protagonist, a supporting cast, and the one with the guiding hand - the author.

Why the hate? Worse yet, why the apathy turned to hate because I'm so entirely apathetic toward the well-being of every individual in the book (and this, ladies and gents, is how you know a novel fails, complete and utter apathy). Well, the bits and the pieces of the book are all promising. It starts out sharp as we meet the narrator, or rather, the narrator's mind. It's a brilliant bird view introduction that glides through the social and economic changes of China from the observations of a recent college grad. He dips in the soulless, capitalist markets of new China, makes sarcastic comments, talks about the ills of getting into and going to grad school, makes scathing comments, reflects on his roommates in college, expatiates on his ex-girlfriend... makes more world weary remarks. The beginning was nothing if not sharp, and if it were reduced to an essay just then, all would have been okay, I would still have hope for twenty-somethings writing books in China. Unfortunately, the book ended when the expository is finished and the story began.

I think that's the main problem with this popular genre of fiction (愤世嫉俗? A mix of world weary youth disillusion / black humor? A most unfortunate execution wrought from coming of age syndromes?) written by the doomed after-80ies generation. The book ends when the story begins. They should all just write articles with sharp commentary, instead of dragging it on and on for 250 pages and sagging the minds of their readers. Or maybe, twenty-something year olds just don't have enough stories.

What is the story? Well, there is no story, no good story, no salvageable story. If we try to pinpoint a linear story. It's a recent college grad from an mediocre university still very much in love with his ex-girlfriend who is in France got hit on by some random chick who knew him when he was in a band in college and they went out on the ground that if his ex-girlfriend in France came back he would be back with her and then goodie she did come back and he went back with her but the new girlfriend won't give him up and tries to break the old relationship, but that didn't work, but in the end the protagonist and his girlfriend broke up anyway for miscellaneous, stupid reasons.

The most memorable parts of the book are not any twists in the plot or ANY, and I repeat ANY OF THE CHARACTERS. In fact, all the characters are smart but trying, jaded and bloated, and very very annoying. The most memorable parts of the book are when the narrator reflects on a nut or a bolt of the college experience, but even those are overshadowed by the tinge of cynicism that drowns any credibility he has.

But honestly, even writing about this book makes me unhappy.

Next up, Murakami's After Dark is already translated into Chinese. It is considerably more difficult. Why do I feel like a 汉奸?