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The Dog: Stories

3.69  ·  Rating Details ·  203 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
"Jack Livings's stories of China are marvels of the imagination." —Paul Harding, author of Tinkers

Set in the shifting landscape of contemporary China, Jack Livings's The Dog explodes the country's cultural and social fault lines, revealing a nation accustomed to rations, bitter struggle, and the stranglehold of communism as it confronts a generation rife with the promi
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published August 5th 2014 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published April 2005)
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Mar 05, 2015 karen rated it it was amazing
also we are best friends now

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this is one of the finest short story collections i have ever read.

there are only eight stories total, but what they lack in quantity they more than make up for by being delivered in this consistently perfect, strong voice detailing the frequently frustrating struggles of the citizens of modern china and their conflicts between collective and personal will and the sacrifice of private desires to the necessary public facade.

in the crystal sarcophagus,
Jack Living's The Dog is a collection of eight stories set in contemporary China. Although the author is not Chinese, he has lived in China for some time as an exchange student and English teacher - but does this small window in time give him a real insight into the minds of the Chinese and the nature of their country?

An author who does this splendidly is Robert Olen Butler, whose A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain is a collection of stories narrated by and about Vietnamese, living in Vietnam
Feb 05, 2015 Trish marked it as put-aside
Shelves: fiction, asia
This book of stories has received much critical praise. Livings seems to have some of the real grit of China embedded in his stories and seems to have caught the wildly blunt, even cruel, language of the Chinese countryside and the off-kilter reasoning of city residents. But somehow Livings' work left me with the disturbed feeling I get when I read Mo Yan. I appreciate their skill but don't like their writing.
Jul 28, 2015 Roxane rated it liked it
I just didn't connect to these stories. Not the book for me.
Aug 31, 2014 Marybeth rated it liked it

Read this kind of distracted at the pool. Quality conversation behind me that I had to listen into. Guy and girl discussing how he wasn't that into this girl. The girl asked him, 'did you like it?' His reply, 'yes I'm a guy. But, I'm not going to date her.' My faith in humanity and China has been restored via a public pool, a can of up and up sunscreen, and a bikini. Pretty good little book but some of the stories got kind of boring. I liked the one where the wealthy factory owner got in troubl
Mar 29, 2015 Sarah rated it really liked it
Finally, a short story collection that I absolutely loved! I thought this day would never come. Livings is amazingly gifted at creating little nuggets of storytelling that pull the reader right in from the get go. Whole little worlds created in sentences, characters with complete backstories woven deftly into their short stint on the main stage. An intricate pie of different slices of Chinese life.
Aug 08, 2014 Tina rated it it was ok
This collection of short stories focused on post-Mao communist China failed to really grab me. Most of the stories are very bleak and either involve cynical, irredeemable characters or no real characterization at all. This is the type of writing that I feel critics and the literary types love, but I personally have no taste for. I just don't like reading about a sort of vague malaise, there is so much of that type of thing out there it seems. The one story I did like was "The Crystal ...more
S.H. Villa
Aug 02, 2015 S.H. Villa rated it did not like it

I read the first of these stories, The Dog, and felt like I didn’t need to know more. But one shouldn’t judge a book of stories by just one. So I read on.

The stories are well written. He no doubt got A’s in his writers’ course. (In Iowa.) The description on his web site is: richly imagined. And they are. Widely varied as to place and people.

So I arrived at the end, thinking I had some small insight into life in China; a sad life it was. I eagerly read about the author – how he’s lived many years
Jul 20, 2015 Jeff rated it it was ok
This book was very well reviewed and appeared on many " lists " but, I must say, I do not see it. That is not to say a couple of the stories are not interesting, they are, perhaps the buzz was just too much for the product. Stories of note include " The Crystal Sarcophagus " which tells of the work involved and the incredible sacrifice of the artisans involved in completing the resting place for Chairman Mao. " An Event at Horizon Trading Company " is an almost farcical look at a stock office ...more
Cheryl Wadhwa
Aug 09, 2015 Cheryl Wadhwa rated it it was amazing
I loved immersing myself in this book with characters that were relatable, where I felt like I could empathize with them and have an emotional connection to them, all while enjoying the writing tremendously. Not knowing much about China or its culture, I appreciated learning more about it in a way that didn't seem distant as I might have been anticipating. The stories give us glimpses into different aspects of Chinese life and what certain circumstances might be like. And the writing really is ...more
Jun 28, 2015 Jeca rated it really liked it
The writing is superb, but the stories are relentlessly bleak, making the collection readable and dispiriting at the same time. Despite the dignity of many of the main characters, there's a reservoir of sadness throughout this book. Livings' respect and pity the ordinary men and women who make modern China run comes through like a sip of cold water in desert sands. It's a take I haven't really experienced before and it does what the best fiction can: expands the sense of common humanity behind ...more
Aug 21, 2014 Drew rated it liked it
2.5 out of 5. I can't really say much more. The collection came across my desk carrying some intrigue but, in the end, I found it a little listless. Not quite to the point of being boring - but I just never really got into it. I expected to be transported and instead felt very conscious of being right smack where I was. Perhaps a problem of expectations - but so it goes, you know?

More at RB:
Brian Goeselt
Sep 13, 2014 Brian Goeselt rated it it was amazing
Jack Livings "The Dog Stories" left me in awe. I wanted to know how this guy knew so much about China and the Chinese? I wanted to know how much of the material in these stories was actually true. And I wanted to know where I could get more! These short, intense vignettes stare openly at the most compelling and sometimes painful contradictions and growing pains of an emerging and increasingly emerged China. If you find China interesting, read this book. You will not be sorry you did.
Jun 13, 2015 Lisa rated it really liked it
Very highly recommend. These are not uplifting or cheerful stories—every one of them is slightly-to-very menacing, even the one that is also funny—but I came away feeling like I was offered a good series of capsules of life in contemporary China (and one from the '70s after the death of Mao) in the way that fiction can really take on that task.

Folks who say they don't like short stories might want to get over that for this one. It's worth it.
Nov 10, 2015 Ken rated it really liked it
A fine collection of stories by an American writer set in China. Oddly, the longest one, about workers tasked with constructing "The Crystal Sarcophagus" for Mao back in '76, was for me the least engaging. Others -- especially the stories about a misunderstood retiring journalist ("Mountain of Swords, Sea of Fire") and one about a factory owner who more than bristles at being told he must donate to earthquake victim relief efforts ("Donate!") -- are masterful. A most worthwhile collection.
Sep 08, 2014 Alan rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
An excellent collection of short stories that captures the turmoil caused by the rapidly changing societal norms in China. From the death of Mao to current day, these stories capture snapshots and moments in the life of ordinary people as they wrestle with complex issues of economics, politics, race, sexuality, and juxtaposition of the old and new.

These short stories are all set in Red China, which is interesting esp. in the early stories, but begins to sag as a novelty in the middle ones. It was a long march through the one about Chairman Mao's sarcophagus. The last two stories, humorous and peppy, picked up the tempo a bit. Bookended with strength, like many collections, then.
Nov 25, 2015 Joshua rated it it was ok
Competent writing, and nothing more. Probably, I've taken off a star because of high expectations (praise, PEN award), which maybe isn't fair, but nonetheless those expectations were there and not met. The writing is fine, as are the story structures, but almost like they're from a manual. There's nothing special about any aspect of this book, though there's nothing obviously bad either.
Stephanie Tanton
Jul 02, 2015 Stephanie Tanton rated it really liked it
Stories that uncover the everyday life of contemporary China through the tough choices they face with the conflicting pulls of their cultural values and contemporary life.

Set in the outlying provinces, the racial clashes add to the complexity of the villagers' lives. Not an uplifting book, but a better understanding of the diverse cultural backgrounds of modern day China.
John Krafft
Feb 22, 2015 John Krafft rated it it was amazing
I lived in Beijing for five years in the 80's and speak Mandarin. This book of short stories captures contemporary China better than anything else I have read. The stories are varied, poignant and beautifully written.
Feb 02, 2015 Ellen rated it really liked it
These stories set in China are not for the fainthearted; Livings takes on the harsh poverty of people's lives, both literal and emotional, offering the reader an unvarnished look into the universality of greed, passion and survival instincts.
Short story collection set in post-Mao China. The first story, The Dog, hits hard, causing me to pause before reading the rest, which I then did almost straight through. Curious to know where the ideas came for each of these stories...
Sami Mardini
Interesting short stories about China in the 80s. Interesting wrioting style but hardly measures up to expectations set by NYT Kakutani.
Mary Huff ray
Jan 04, 2015 Mary Huff ray rated it it was amazing
Wonderful. With each story you feel like you are transported to whatever province in which the characters are living.
Nick Varchaver
Aug 21, 2014 Nick Varchaver rated it it was amazing
Gorgeously written, evocative, an absolute jewel. Livings absolutely sucks you into the world of his stories in a few quick sentences. A treat to read...
Maggie Ensminger
Aug 17, 2015 Maggie Ensminger rated it it was amazing
Enjoyed these stories. Set in China....vividly explores the culture and times of a contemporary China. Heartbreaking, and amazing in it's portrayal of society.
Lillian K
Nov 06, 2015 Lillian K rated it liked it
Fun quick stories that capture a wide range of experiences had in China. Not my favorite read on China, but certainly thought provoking.
Garrett rated it really liked it
Dec 27, 2015
Hannah Berg
Hannah Berg rated it liked it
Dec 21, 2014
Magi rated it really liked it
Apr 29, 2015
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Jack Livings is the author of The Dog: Stories. His work has appeared in A Public Space, The Paris Review, StoryQuarterly, Tin House, The New Delta Review, Best American Short Stories 2006, The Pushcart Prize XXXIII, and The Pushcart Prize XXXVIII. Livings is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford. He lives with his family in New York.
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