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Vertical Motion

3.58  ·  Rating Details ·  111 Ratings  ·  27 Reviews
Two young girls sneak onto the grounds of a hospital, where they find a disturbing moment of silence in a rose garden. A couple grows a plant that blooms underground, invisibly, to their long-time neighbor's consternation. A cat worries about its sleepwalking owner, who receives a mysterious visitor while he's asleep. After a ten-year absence, a young man visits his uncle, ...more
Paperback, 186 pages
Published September 13th 2011 by Open Letter
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Feb 24, 2012 Amari rated it really liked it
When I finished the first story, I went directly back to the beginning and started it again. It didn't take long to realize that I was in the presence of greatness.

The surrealism present to some degree in each of the stories began to wear on me somewhat after a while and I lost my drive to try to figure out what was lying underneath. However, as I read, I did start to feel more attuned to the absurd in daily life. This was pleasant, comfortable and weird. It's very positive when a book of short
May 16, 2012 Alta added it
I had read Five Spice Street—one of the most original novels I’ve ever come across—by Can Xue, so I knew what to expect when I opened Vertical Motion. The latter is a rather eclectic collection, from the title story, written in a dry, impersonal tone, in the voice of a “little critter” that lives deep under the earth, to more emotionally-colored stories, such as “Cotton Candy,” in which a child, fascinated with a cotton-candy machine, daydreams about being a vendor.

This collection, although les
J.M. Hushour
Dec 02, 2016 J.M. Hushour rated it it was amazing
Fast to become one of my favorite living authors, Can Xue (dirty snow) is perhaps one of our world's best expressors and exemplars of that kind of grim, but lovely-in-a-foreboding, angle of our nature. In this collection, it's a vertical axis of descent and ascent that binds the stories together, with images of inherence, inverted inversion, and a strange plastic organicity centered on growth inward and outward all at once that re-defines itself constantly. Can Xue says that she writes emotions ...more
Dec 05, 2011 Daniel rated it it was ok
Finally: I can put this book away and move on to other short fiction.

I am not sure what to say about this anthology. I was looking forward to reading some weird stories from a Chinese writer, and I was happy to include a new female writer in my repertoire. As it turns out, these stories are so weird as to be nonsensical at times. I never felt attached to a character or an idea, and I felt only a small stirring of emotions in a few stories.

The old adage applies here: this was not my cup of tea. I
Sep 24, 2011 Jacob rated it it was ok
October 2011

Some possibilities:

1) Can Xue isn't a very good writer, and/or
2) Karen Gernant and Chen Zeping aren't very good translators, and/or
3) poetic and dreamlike magical realism really isn't my thing.

I would explain more, but I could barely finish the collection--so I really don't have the motivation to write a proper review.
Jim Elkins
Oct 09, 2012 Jim Elkins rated it did not like it
Shelves: chinese
Can Xue may be China's "one possibility" of a Nobel (a terribly outdated thing Susan Sontag said, quoted on the cover -- now it has the unfortunate resonance of China's rejection of the Nobel as a tool of Western politics) but there is no evidence for it in this book. These stories are sometimes astonishingly inventive, in a continuous, unedited, stream of consciousness way, but they are so loosely written that I continually lose faith in her control of the sense, affect, direction, purpose, or ...more
Chad Post
May 13, 2011 Chad Post rated it really liked it
DISCLAIMER: I am the publisher of the book and thus spent approximately two years reading and editing and working on it. So take my review with a grain of salt, or the understanding that I am deeply invested in this text and know it quite well. Also, I would really appreciate it if you would purchase this book, since it would benefit Open Letter directly.
Didier Vanoverbeke
Nov 24, 2015 Didier Vanoverbeke rated it really liked it
aA haunting, macabre collection of tales that often left me uncomfortably hooked. A few stories feel like the underground counterparts to Cosmicomics, pretty much every other entry is filed to the brim with decrepitude, eroded lines of communication, warped perceptions, and broken boundaries. Thoroughly enjoyable, if you ask me.
Jul 20, 2014 Eadweard rated it really liked it
Original and dream-like short stories, I enjoyed them very much.
Literary Review The
Feb 06, 2013 Literary Review The rated it it was amazing
By Drew Calvert

For The Literary Review
Volume 54 "The Rat's Nest"

The books and films that have come out of China this past quarter century suggest a
country in profound disorder. Some have highlighted the plight of migrant workers
(the world’s largest “floating population”); others have satirized the nouveau riche. One
or two have cast its polluted cities as twenty-first century dystopias. For Chinese artists
of all kinds, absurdity reigns supreme. In the opening scene of a documentary by filmmak
May 12, 2017 Carrie rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017, 2017-favorites
I suspect this is a love-it-or-hate-it type of collection; I loved it - it's such a rare and total pleasure to read something so original and so deeply strange, but anyone looking for tight, accessible writing and who recoils at the word "experimental" should be warned. Her stories aren't easily described - they're dreamy, yes, but also grounded in striking material imagery; vividly visual, but relentlessly disorienting. In short: they're very, very weird.
Sep 06, 2011 Simon rated it it was amazing
Unique, strange, and very readable. Highly recommended for anyone interested in contemporary short stories or Chinese literature. In particular, fans of early Borges will enjoy these stories for their similarities to some of the master's greatest work.

These are not short stories in the traditional sense – they read more like impressionistic prose poems. Xue uses dream-like ambiguity and illogic to explore various characters' consciousnesses in depth. A few stories involve unnamed, perhaps imagin
Apr 27, 2015 Alyssa rated it really liked it
Vertical Motion, a collection of short stories by Can Xue, is a surreal dream about something, about nothing, no maybe about some vague notion about old people, and the inevitability of slowly breaking down and ceasing to exist.

...never mind, these stories aren't really about anything. Yes they are.

I really enjoyed a few of these tales, as they reminded me of some of my dreams. The many recurring subjects, themes, and personifications give the strange collection a sort of purpose, a symbolic im
Bob Anderson
Oct 19, 2016 Bob Anderson rated it liked it
Maybe I’m too dumb to read this book. Can Xue’s short stories dwell completely in the world of the dreaming: the narrators have a dream-knowledge kind of omniscience, events follow one another not via plot but by random synapse firings, and all the other strange peccadilloes of the dreaming mind are revealed in their turn. It’s a nice effect, but that’s all it is. After finishing each one, all I have gained is the confusion, wonderment and vague unease that follow an actual half-nightmare. If yo ...more
Feb 17, 2012 Ferris rated it it was amazing
Open Letter translation......Think subconscious, subterranean (literally and figuratively), and subversive! Think lyrical dreamscapes! Think brilliant! This is an absolutely outstanding collection of short stories. Can Xue's writing is breathtaking! Her writing makes me think of Kafka.....of Rushdie.....and David Foster Wallace. This is a collection of stories into which the reader must give themselves over and ride the tide of language, imagery, and power. Not for folks who need clear-cut plot. ...more
Apr 13, 2015 Amelia rated it it was ok
Recommended to Amelia by: Sheryl
This book is so weird. It is beautifully written but there's no sense to it at all. It's like someone was on LSD but was very good with words and wrote beautiful nonsense. Of course, short stories are meant to stand alone and these do. Some are from the perspective of a critter (the best, I think), some from the perspective of a child, others from the perspective of an adult. The setting are all sorts, including underground, in the countryside, in a big city, etc. But, so many of the stories hav ...more
Dylan Suher
May 02, 2013 Dylan Suher rated it liked it
I think Can Xue's work gets better as she gets older, though I really do need to get under the hood with this stuff, because I can't imagine translating it. Her style still remains "unbought and unbossed," but the themes her stories address are broader, there seems to be less play for play's sake. The two bookends (which astoundingly were unpublished in Chinese at the time this volume was published in 2011), "Vertical Motion" and "Papercuts," are among the best she's ever done. Also special ment ...more
Will E
Aug 10, 2011 Will E rated it really liked it
Very fun to read, though elusive, collection of short stories. Reminds me of Yoko Tawada, though Tawada tends to be more nightmare-y, where the stories here are more like regular dreams, with flexible internal logic and reality. "Vertical Motion," "An Affectionate Companion's Jottings," "The Brilliant Purple China Rose," "Red Leaves" are the highlights off the top of my head.
Aug 26, 2013 Lisa rated it it was amazing
This was my first book by Can Xue, but I absolutely fell in love with the dream-like descriptions in her book. From this collection of short stories, I very quickly added Can Xue to a list of my favorite authors. As a collection of short stories, if you read one and aren't particularly found, don't mark it off immediately, but instead try another one.
Aug 22, 2011 Bridget rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads
These stories were all very interesting. I enjoyed them, but I didn't understand all of them probably because of a cultural gap. I will definitely try to read more. I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.
Timothy S
May 19, 2016 Timothy S rated it liked it
Truly interesting, inventive writing, though the ideas became a bit muddy at times. And perhaps that was because of the translation, though I doubt I'll ever read Chinese, so I may have to wait for another translated version to come out! Overall a worthwhile read.
Sacha Laski
Mostly this was too bizarre for me to appreciate the stories; but the prose (or the translations, at any rate) had some fantastic bits and pieces. A lot of the descriptive language was fresh to me and gave me a bit of inspiration.
Jul 17, 2014 Max rated it liked it
Leuke verzameling van short stories waarin sommige erg surrealistisch zijn en het moeilijk is om een touw aan vast te knopen, en andere wat 'normaler'. Vooral het sluitverhaal: Papercuts en The Brilliant China Rose waren erg goed.
Tony Gaxiola
Oct 14, 2011 Tony Gaxiola rated it it was ok
I guess that I do not have a deep enough understanding of Chinese Culture to fully appreciate this book.
Oct 07, 2011 Tze-Wen rated it liked it
Surreal and difficult to grasp. I thought I had an inkling of an understanding, but the author's interviews prove me wrong. Need to sit on this for a while before putting my thoughts on paper.
Aug 04, 2011 Karen marked it as lost-interest
This was a Goodreads Giveaway that I simply could not get into. Not sure if it was the cultural difference or just that my mind doesn't fathom things the way the author did. Sorry.
John Beynon
Oct 06, 2012 John Beynon marked it as to-read
Fader's What We're Reading - The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle (10-05-12):
Tim Howd
Tim Howd rated it liked it
Feb 19, 2014
Deniz rated it liked it
Apr 11, 2015
Robert Howell
Robert Howell rated it really liked it
Apr 16, 2012
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Can Xue (Chinese: 残雪; pinyin: Cán Xuĕ), née Deng Xiaohua (Chinese: 邓小华), is a Chinese avant-garde fiction writer, literary critic, and tailor. She was born May 30, 1953 in Changsha, Hunan, China. Her family was severely persecuted following her father being labeled an ultra-rightist in the Anti-rightist Movement of 1957. Her writing, which consists mostly of short fiction, breaks with the realism ...more
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“The thing I love watching most is the swirling cotton candy. The contraption for making it is like a flat-bottomed pan. One puts sugar in it, turns the crank, and after a while, a large shimmering ball emerges; it’s like cotton—and like silk, too. Indeed, there’s nothing lovelier.” 2 likes
“To show my revulsion, I jumped on the tea table several times and pretended it was an accident when I knocked the phone off the hook so that there couldn’t be any incoming calls.” 1 likes
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