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Tripmaster Monkey: His Fake Book

3.46 of 5 stars 3.46  ·  rating details  ·  779 ratings  ·  58 reviews
Driven by his dream to write and stage an epic stage production of interwoven Chinese novelsWittman Ah Sing, a Chinese-American hippie in the late '60s.
Paperback, 352 pages
Published June 10th 1990 by Vintage (first published April 15th 1989)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,398)
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Robert Wechsler
I was led to this amazing novel by critic John Leonard, who called it “the Great American Novel of the Sixties,” even though it was written in the 80s. Although it is trying, and even, surprisingly, dull at times (hence a 4.5), this is a reading experience like no other, a controlled acid trip (hence the “tripmaster” in the title) through Chinese-American history and the protagonist’s anger, humor, imagination, lust, and retelling of Chinese tales.

Not a single one of my Goodreads friends has rea
Michael Boxall
The setting of Maxine Hong Kingston’s first novel seems as remote now as the rural China of her two earlier books. In mid-1960s San Francisco the women’s movement, gay rights and the lengthening shadow of AIDS were unknown. The city had not yet seen a computer, let alone a cell phone, and instead of tweeting and texting people were forced in those benighted times to meet face to face and talk.

Enter silver-tongued Wittman Ah Sing, just out of Berkeley and drawing his pea jacket closer against the
In the '60s, a hippie poet, Wittman Ah Sing, quits his job, hits on girls, goes to parties, argues politics, kinda sorta gets married, and puts on a play based on Chinese novels and folktales. Part homage to Chinese culture, part apoplectic diatribe against Caucasians' exoticizing of Chinese Americans, the novel blends humor and rage, story and stream of consciousness.

At times, I grew bored by Wittman's endless rantings on American racism or his overlong tellings of Chinese tales; much of the no
I so wanted to like this book. Suen Wu Kong, the Monkey King, is by far my favorite figure in Chinese mythology... but I just got bored by it, found it hard to get through...
Read too much like Catcher in the Rye--overly jaded narrator, rather irritating.
This book was crap. Mostly gibberish with a smattering of plot. Don't waste your time.
Oy. Monkey Magic this was not.
So far to hard. I couldn't finish this boring and confusing book. The setting is very clear but the plot is one big puzzle. The story shifts from talking to a girl to walking in a park to telling the past. The style is similar to having many chapters in one chapter. Each memory or moment can have a meaning that correlates to each of the other events. A composition or a montage of things that share the same purpose. There are a lot of old pop culture references that in todays world make us say "w ...more
Frank Kasell
The question: is Wittman Ah Sing a) Chinese, b) American, c) a beatnik, or d) all of the above. The answer is, of course, d) all of the above, but that leads very naturally into the next question: which comes first? Is he an American of Chinese heritage? Is he a Chinese beatnik? Is he a Chinese man who happens to live in San Francisco? I suspect these are the sorts of questions about primary identity that many immigrants and children of immigrants ask themselves. Wittman was born in the U.S. and ...more
Vernon Ray
When I picked up this book it looked interesting. I love Monkey stories, especially Monkey stories that work into the modern world. (Yes, the 60s still count as modern.) If you want that book go read American Born Chinese, if you want a book written in stream of consciousness from a boring crazy person read this book.

I just got to where I was asking myself multiple times per page, "what exactly is going on?" I was answered with lists of buildings in San Francisco and judgments on the many peopl
There is so much to take from this book its probably not possible on just one time through. Alternately vivid and clever, and labyrinthine and dreamy, and consistently hilarious, it can be disorienting. I found myself skating through the nearly-nonsensical parts taking them for ambiance and enjoying the trip, and circling underlining copying some one-liners and paragraphs that were so crisp and wise.
I wrote my English thesis on this book and its connections to the jazz of the 1960's. I love this book with everything I have. I sincerely recommend it to everyone. Wittmann Ah Sing, the protaganist, is on a crazy journey of self-discovery throughout the novel and the world he creates for himself is beautiful and broken.
Laura KJ
just one of those books that beats you over the head with its point, no subtlety there. she has a good point about a relevant topic, but it could have been edited down significantly to make it more powerful. i really had to motivate myself to finish it.
Underlines and bookmarks tear through my copy. Every time I read it a learn or see something new...totally wonderful example of asian american lit and more than that...a damn fine magical realism that transcends racial cultural boundaries.
Ryan Mishap
I just could not get into the writing style of this coming-of-age-in-college-in-the-sixties novel. The main character is not a sympathetic guy, and I never found out if it got better.
I first read this in college, and have subsequently read it at least three times. It's held up.
Absolutely loved this! Why didn't I read it ages ago (whenever it was that I bought the book)? The aspiring writer Wittman Ah Sing roams San Francisco and the East Bay a year after graduating from Berkeley, in around 1963 (Kennedy is still president), being a beatnik and the trickster monkey of Chinese legend (The Journey to the West).

Sure, Wittman Ah Sing isn't always admirable, but he's a pretty irresistible character. There's an energy in certain characters and in certain books, which is a yo
Second try, years apart, abandoned again. But this repeated
sampling added to my appreciation of the author's recent and
wonderful "I Like a Broad Margin to My Life" where Tripmaster's
role is essential to the richness of that book.

But now (third try, spring 2012) I did read it all, and loved it, warts and all. (I have warts, it has warts, but we're OK.) Whatever she writes seems to deserve the phrase a reviewer used about her "The Woman Warrior":
"...a poem turned into a sword..."
maybe I should try again - I picked this up with fond childhood memories of The Woman Warrior and I simply can't get into it.
It's pretty hard not to dislike Wittman Ah Sing. You'd think he'll remember to not be racist or sexist since he's supposedly all about Kerouac and Ginsberg but nope! He will recite Rilke in the bus out loud, he is painfully paranoid, but with all the disorienting, experimental prose, everything falls flat for me. I couldn't feel anything; no sympathy, no sadness; it's not funny, it's just weird/absurd (in the really bad way.) The only thing that could have the slightest potential to redeem it mi ...more
A really great book shows us how everything is great and worth to die for
Oct 14, 2013 Pinky added it
Monkeys! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. They're pretty damn funny.
Jules gave me this book. I loved it like a mirror.
(this is a blurb. for full review, click here:

Tripmaster Monkey was at once fascinating and thought-provoking. Although it was a bit long-winded and certainly difficult to get through--with long sections of prose that really seemed to describe nothing at all--I loved the references to popular culture, literature, and most of all, the Chinese-American experience. Kingston's style was hard for me to get used to, but I eased into it after the first couple o
May 16, 2007 Amy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: own
I picked this book up because the title caught me. I'd already read Warrior Woman in my Multicultural lit class, and I think there was a list of other books by the author in the copy the school set us up with (or we were encouraged to buy our own copy so we could notate in it, either way) and I know it was mentioned in class this unusually titled book. I decided to hunt down a copy.

The main character is an artist, and as such his life becomes caught in the middle of reality and day dreams. It's
Allyson Shaw
I love this weird book, which is tedious in parts, unlikable sometimes and ambitious. I love that it devolves into this meta-spectacle, a celebration of DIY stagecraft and political happenings. It seems very much to me a celebration of something we have lost, this ability to create reality in real time, IRL with others, in a Temporary Autonomous Zone-- to make your own fun, without having to plug it in. Greasepaint, cardboard landscapes...

Also, the politics here, the meditation on the hybrid ide
Heather S. Jones
Oct 25, 2007 Heather S. Jones marked it as to-read
i have read about a quarter of this book -- plan to finish someday soon. :) it's wonderfully eccentric! some things i noted down from the text were: "It must be that people who read go on more macrocosmic & microcosmic trips -- Bibilical God trips, the Tibetian Book of the Dead, Ulysses, Finnegans Wake trips. Non-readers, what do they get? (They get the munchies)"; "Are you mocking my natural paranoia?"; "Let us be honest about it, then; we have no theatre, anymore than we have God: for this ...more
Aug 02, 2007 Dereck rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: own
This book is about a Chinese-American living in California in the 1960s. I am caucasian, I've never been to Califronia, and I wasn't born until the mid eighties, so how could I possibly relate to this book? Well Maxine Hong Kingston is able to put me in his place very well. While reading it, you kinda feel like a Chinese-American living in California in the 1960s. She just keeps the whole thing so simple, and oddly, Wittman Ah Sing's (the main character) life seemed to parallel mine in many ways ...more
Nov 08, 2008 Lisa rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Hannah Sahud
"Tripmaster's" dream-like (drug-induced?) theatrics are a bit over the top but it is an enjoyable adventure in storytelling. Kingston explores the Chinese-American experience through the eyes of a recent liberal arts graduate immersing himself in the playwrighting scene of 1960's San Fransisco. The tale is steeped in personal exploration, wrapped in Asian mythology and sprinkled with the dramatic flair of aunties retired from vaudeville. The scene in the toy department has a Sedaris-esque humor ...more
While this is obviously excellent and well worth reading, I had a hard time getting through it. There is just SO MUCH going on all the time. I know for sure I didn't catch anywhere near all the references; my lack of knowledge of Chinese folk tales is way worse than I realized. Let me put it this way. Ezra Pound would have been ecstatic to read a book with so much cultural reference going on -- that is, except that he was a giant bigot and two of the main themes here are 1. racism in America and ...more
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She was born as Maxine Ting Ting Hong to a laundry house owner in Stockton, California. She was the third of eight children, and the first among them born in the United States. Her mother trained as a midwife at the To Keung School of Midwifery in Canton. Her father had been brought up a scholar and taught in his village of Sun Woi, near Canton. Tom left China for America in 1924 and took a job in ...more
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