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Vertical Motion

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3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  70 ratings  ·  19 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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Open Letter Books
27th out of 63 books — 16 voters
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China Fiction Book Club
76th out of 110 books — 17 voters


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Community Reviews

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Alta
May 17, 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
...more
Amari
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
...more
Daniel
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
...more
Jacob
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
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
Alyssa
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
...more
Eadweard
Original and dream-like short stories, I enjoyed them very much.
Simon
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
...more
Literary Review The
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
...more
Ferris
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
Dylan Suher
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
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.
Lisa
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.
Max
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.
Bridget
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.
Tze-Wen
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.
Karen
Feb 15, 2015 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 07, 2012 John Beynon marked it as to-read
Fader's What We're Reading - The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle (10-05-12): http://www.thefader.com/2012/10/05/wh...
Tony Gaxiola
I guess that I do not have a deep enough understanding of Chinese Culture to fully appreciate this book.
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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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