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Notes of a Crocodile

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3.76  ·  Rating details ·  917 ratings  ·  162 reviews
Set in the post-martial-law era of late 1980s Taipei, Notes of a Crocodile depicts the coming-of-age of a group of queer misfits discovering love, friendship, and artistic affinity while hardly studying at Taiwan's most prestigious university. Told through the eyes of an anonymous lesbian narrator nicknamed Lazi, Qiu Miaojin's cult classic novel is a postmodern pastiche of ...more
Paperback, 242 pages
Published May 2nd 2017 by NYRB Classics (first published May 11th 1994)
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Average rating 3.76  · 
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Michael
Jan 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: favorites, 2018
My full review, as well as my other thoughts on reading, can be found on my blog.

A coming-of-age story set in Taipei during the late eighties, Notes of a Crocodile follows an eclectic bunch of queer college students as they enter their first serious relationships and come to terms with their sexuality and gender identity in a vehemently homophobic milieu. The novel, narrated by the lesbian protagonist Lazi, is divided into eight loosely chronological notebooks, each of which consists of a
...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
It's so interesting to be reviewing this book of lgbt fiction from Taiwan on the same day that Taiwan's top court rules in favor of gay marriage, the first place in Asia to do so. When Qiu Miaojin was alive (she committed suicide at age 26 in 1995), times were different. Being a lesbian was a bit like being a crocodile in human skin (or vice versa), or so the metaphor goes... I think. Am I the one being too literal in my metaphorical interpretation or is it really that direct?

The writing is a
...more
Rachel
Aug 17, 2019 rated it liked it
An occasional pitfall of reading literature from a country other than your own is that you aren’t approaching it with the necessary cultural framework to make it comprehensible. This isn’t always the case, of course; some stories are more universal than others, and some books do a better job of contextualizing the relevant sociopolitical elements. But in Notes of a Crocodile, a book about a group of queer students in Taiwan in the late 80s, I felt desperately out of my depth, and I felt like so ...more
Khashayar Mohammadi
Sep 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: lgbtq, asian-lit
More like 3.5

I absolutely loved the bleak Romance and the endless self-loathing; BUT I DO NOT UNDERSTAND why the book was split into so many notebooks, each jumping back and forth in the story's timeline, each containing short chapters with abrupt endings and awkward transitions.

The fragmented narrative did not serve any particular purpose in the unfolding of the story, which made me question the very reason why the chapters were Pulp-fictioned together to form a patchwork novel that might have
...more
Jerrie (redwritinghood)
This book provides a very introspective look into the life of a college student who seems to suffer from depression and a lot of guilt over her sexuality. She struggles over her love for a woman who is very unreliable and is tormented by this. In the way of the very young, she can often come across as whiny or melodramatic. Still, this was an interesting look at how homosexual students in Taiwan in the late 80s dealt with societal pressures.
Inderjit Sanghera
May 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
The narrator's melancholic narrative is presented via a series of vignettes; some satirical, some epistolary, some flash-backs and some self-reflections, the narrator's incessant brooding and self-absorption can at times wear thin, with the originality of their style at times being undermined by the streak of fatalism which underlies the narrator's intense feelings of loneliness and isolation.

The narrator is a lesbian who resides in late 1980's Taipei and the novel explores her relationship with
...more
Sara
May 25, 2017 marked it as bailed
Shelves: owned-books
I finally ended up bailing on this one. I tried and tried again, but I think it's just not for me. Perhaps too avant garde for my taste? There were some insightful and beautiful moments, to be sure, but mostly I found it dense with melancholic introspection and weird in an unappealing way.
Will Dominique
I guess I’m one of the few who didn’t get the appeal of this book. I found it repetitive and so boring that i had to force myself to finish it by turning off my wifi—otherwise, I kept checking my phone after every couple of paragraphs, and it seemed like it would never finish. I feel like the majority of this novel was telling instead of showing: the author literally tells readers what each character is like and what their relationship with the protagonist is like (“to me, she was [adjective]”, ...more
Subashini
Aug 31, 2017 rated it really liked it

Miaojin is able to draw on the particularities of their individual dispositions without making the impossibility of queer relationships, at that precise historical moment in Taiwan, seem like the result of mere problems with individuals. In fact, all of these unhappy queer people in love with people they can’t be with begin to add up to a problem that is more than just personal failings. “I remember back in high school, we were a bunch of misfits, always having fun. There was something going on
...more
CaseyTheCanadianLesbrarian
A melancholic, introspective, dark book about being a queer new adult in 1990s Taipei. It reminded me of THE BELL JAR but also Oscar Wilde. Reading it was a bit like jumping back into grad school. This is a complex, fascinating book ripe for interpretation and historical/cultural analysis. It's the kind of book that I think would grow on me more if I got to talk about it with other lit nerds and if I had a teacher to situate it in its context. But I can appreciate it for what it is, even if it ...more
Jo
Jul 28, 2018 rated it liked it
I think this is one of the books where I can appreciate a lot about it but not necessarily enjoy it although up until Laxi’s relationship with Xiao Fan I was relatively engaged. If this was a novel written in the U.S. or U.K set 2018, the obsessive and self-destructive behavior around relationships by a group of college kids would probably have driven me nuts although I am aware that when I was that age, I probably channeled elements of this at one time or another.

What elevates it though is the
...more
Melanie (Mel's Bookland Adventures)
This book told in 8 notebooks is very reminiscent of the diary of a teenager. Full of angst, frustration, infatuations, self-doubt, exhiliration, downcast moods. Lazi, a Taiwanese teenager/young adult, finds that she is attracted to women, not that easy in 1989 Taiwan. Yet at the same time, her being a lesbian does not make this a difficult coming out story, as someone else in the Read Around the World Book Club said, Lazi happens to be a lesbian, but it is not her only defining characteristic. ...more
David
Jan 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: big-white-square
This was incredibly sad.

I read it twice.

Bits:
"Those wrenching eyes, which could lift up the entire skeleton of my being. How I longed for myself to be subsumed into the ocean of her eyes. How the desire, once awakened, would come to scald me at every turn. The scarlet mark of sin and my deep-seated fear of abandonment had given way to the ocean's yearning."

"If we'd been playing it cool like a pair of thieves, it was because our grand heist was drawing near. I anticipated, I schemed, I fretted. I
...more
Anna
Jan 20, 2018 rated it liked it
I picked this novel up at random in the library, knowing nothing about it beyond the blurb. Having read it, I wish there had been an afterword to tell me more about the author and cultural context in which it was written. Without that, I found it atmospheric yet oblique. The format is of a diary or set of reflections written by Lazi, a emotionally turbulent and self-destructive undergraduate student. She’s attracted to women and troubled by it, as her social milieu is implied to be very ...more
Sookie
Sep 29, 2019 rated it really liked it
Notes of a crocodile isn't just innovative in exploring sexuality but influential in its own regards. Its incredibly sad how the author committed suicide at a very young age of twenty-six.

Set in late eighties, the protagonist Lazi, is a bit self obsessed, mildly depressed, confused and is riding wave of late teen angst. The narrator begins at the start of their college days where she finds a senior attractive. The story moves from there, readers delving into her psyche as she goes about her
...more
Deborah
May 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Those who follow my reviews know that translated fiction is one of my obsessions, so I was delighted to discover NYRB's reissue of the Taiwanese cult classic of queer literature, Notes of a Crocodile. Described by its translator Bonnie Huie as a "survival manual for teenagers, for a certain age when reading the right book can save your life," Notes of a Crocodile nevertheless has much to offer adults, particularly those who are cisgendered.

I must confess to being confused by the book's structure
...more
Vivek Tejuja
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“Notes of a Crocodile” according to me is a lovely title for a book. I say this to establish it right at the beginning and get it out of the way. This was the third book I read in the women in translation month project and I think by far this has been one of the best (I’ve read six in all so far). There is something very reassuring and yet heartbreaking about this book that makes you fall in love with the prose. You realize it is a translation but it doesn’t matter. The effect is as much. It ...more
Sharanya Subramaniam
Trigger warning: Depression.

Well, there are some books that leave an indelible mark on our souls. This is one of those books. It will latch onto your memory and appear nonchalantly throughout your life, to remind you how it made you feel. The raw emotions in this book are just so... hard to digest. Hits you in the gut and kicks you hard, even after you have collapsed.

The story is set in Taiwan in the 1990s, where being queer was still frowned upon. The book describes the story of an unnamed
...more
Morgan
May 29, 2017 rated it liked it
Ahhhhh this book was affecting but almost unrelenting in its self-hatred. i'm not sure i needed to revisit what it felt like to be a depressed, self-harming almost-teen but this book certainly gave that in spades. i liked it and was engrossed, but it was more like something i just had to get through.
David
Feb 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Books like this make me thankful that I read Chinese. My gods, the metaphors, the flow, the emotions, and the perceptiveness - I really can't believe Qiu wrote this when she was in college.
tortoise dreams
Jun 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
A young lesbian comes of age in puritan 1980's Taiwan.

Book Review: Notes of a Crocodile is one of a kind, sui generis, and isn't easily described. Our protagonist says it's about "getting a diploma and writing." No, it's not. This posthumous novel covers friendship, university life, emotions, relationships, misfits, literature, homosexuality, emotions, and crocodiles, all occurring in a small, almost claustrophobic orbit. I can't remember the last book that drew me in so completely; every time I
...more
A
Jun 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the most realistic book I’ve ever read. Not because of the things the characters do, though those were also believable, but because the main character’s thought process almost exactly maps a real person’s train of thought. People don’t think in one direction — they loop back on themselves, dwell on things that are objectively meaningless, change their minds constantly, and layer their perceptions with memories of things they’ve done, seen, heard, and read. Lazi thought this way; she ...more
rosamund
Jul 31, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: lgbt
The narrative style of this book is very modern: it is self-referential, satirical and elliptical; but its approach to lesbianism is not. Lazi, the main character, has always known she is a lesbian, but in the repressive world of late 1980s Taiwan, she hates herself and is drawn into depression and despair. I applaud the book for its honest account of these feelings, but it's hard to tell whether the narrative condemns society, for making Lazi feel this way, or condemns Lazi, for being gay. ...more
Kevin Adams
May 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As you may have seen from my Goodreads list, I am drawn to the releases by the New York Review Books. What I'm drawn to is the history and unique stories they tell. Some from years ago some from decades ago. Each of the books is unique in its own way and I've never read anything like Notes Of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin. Written in the early 1990's and taking place in in Taipei in the mid to late 1980's, it's the most timely and timeless piece of writing I've ever read. From its devastating ...more
tatterpunk
I didn't accept myself. There was no curing the me that had come forth. I'd ingested the poison long ago, and its origins were in the whole of humanity, who'd infected me with their collective chorus. Before I could ever reveal the real me, first I had to remove the label on me that read NEGATED, and tear it up.

FOUR STARS, aka, "will definitely read again."

This book made me feel a lot of things. Not all of them good things.

... I'll be honest, most of them not-good things: frustration, anger,
...more
Marie
Jul 22, 2018 added it
Shelves: around-the-world
I don’t know how I could rate this. The narrative voice feels very fresh, & there are some wonderful passages and observations about life. But overwhelmingly it’s an account of what it is to be deeply depressed. Unrelenting, uncompromising, painfully intimate. Knowing the author’s own story, I can’t help but feel this book is semi-autobiographical, and knowing it was published posthumously, I can’t help but wonder about the circumstances of its publication & how Miaojin would feel about ...more
Anna Marie
Sep 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
tormented queers everywhere ya look
Stacey (bookishpursuit)
Tough one to rate as it's not a pleasure read.

This book takes fortitude. It is humanly dark and sad. It covers a continuing important topic, "coming out". The protagonist is one of the most tortured people I've experienced in a book. The first 1/3 of the book is really about figuring out what the protagonist, Lazi, is talking about. And, what is the angle of the Crocodile ?

The middle is what I found the most poignant and important. Here she maps out her struggle, and shares her first
...more
Laura
Notes of a Crocodile is a coming-of-age novel about a young Taiwanese woman, Lazi. It takes place over the course of her four college years, and primarily concerns her two love affairs with two different women, neither of them healthy or especially happy. Lazi’s sexuality is a source of endless pain for her; she struggles against her desire for women, and is often consumed with self-loathing. It’s a dark read.

Much of the book was told through conversations between Lazi and the women she dates,
...more
M- S__
May 09, 2017 rated it liked it
This book occupies a unique space in pop cultural history, taking place in that weird transition from Cold War to Dot Com. It's epistolary in a way that interactions really can't be anymore, but it also has this very contemporary emotional sensibility. Or maybe not even contemporary anymore. But definitely 21st century.

This is a lesbian book written in the first gasp for air after a generation of pretty claustrophobic Taiwanese culture. A lot of pop culture follows the lead of culture at the
...more
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NYRB Classics: Notes of a Crocodile, by Qiu Miaojin 1 19 Jan 30, 2017 12:51PM  

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Qiu Miaojin (1969–1995) was one of Taiwan’s most innovative literary modernists, and the country’s most renowned lesbian writer. Her first published story, “Prisoner,” received the Central Daily News Short Story Prize, and her novella Lonely Crowds won the United Literature Association Award. While attending graduate school in Paris, she directed a thirty-minute film called Ghost Carnival, and not ...more