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Traveler's Literary Companion

China: A Traveler's Literary Companion

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Whether revealing small-town superstitions or exposing Beijing’s underworld, these works of literary fiction offer insights to modern China and its myriad of social, cultural, and human concerns. An expansive country, China is made up of numerous ethnic groups with a dizzying array of local dialects and subcultures. In addition, China is experiencing staggering change, which is explored in contemporary literature. From the idyllic mountains of West Hunan to the picturesque water town of Zhejiang, from the high plateau of western Sichuan to the harsh landscape of the northeast — this compelling collection of short fiction represents the incredible diversity that is China.

256 pages, Paperback

First published May 28, 2008

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Kirk Denton

4 books9 followers

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Displaying 1 - 5 of 5 reviews
17 reviews
July 21, 2021
DNF. Read 8 of 12 chapters, only enjoyed two.

Hometown by Lu Xun: Educated, well-off man returns to his poor home village and experiences alienation as he sees how poor and tired all the people he once knew are. A political story critical of Confucianism where those who become well off Shi forget their people, not practicing Ren like Confucius would hope. The imagery, pacing, and emotional arc of the story were well done.

The Old Gun by Mo Yan: Story of a kid who takes a cursed gun from his family's mantle he's not allowed to touch. He tries to hunt ducks with it, but should have listened to his elders instead. Stellar imagery and interesting way of telling its story through flashbacks.

The rest were unmemorable or not very good. One was a nativist story about a minority ethnic group in China. It starts out interesting talking about the culture, but soon worsens as the author tries to convince us the main characters represent true and real love not seen today. What is true and real love? Romeo and Juliet style stupidity.

Another one read like a cheesy, edgy romance novel for teens that was probably written to be popular for that demographic of its time. A girl starts hanging out around a bad boy, ends up the worse for it. Very generic.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
1 review
April 28, 2018
While I absolutely did enjoy all the short stories in this collection, I can certainly understand why those who have no connections to the country of China or in the least have no idea what the May Fourth cultural revolutions are, would not enjoy them. This stories, on the surface, are depressing and whiny. There is no satisfaction of a resolution at the end of any of these stories because there has been no resolution for China. To have this be titled "A Traveler's Literary Companion" is completely dumb. In no way will these stories make your trips more enjoyable or provide any context beyond "the countryside is poor." And for that, I could not give it 5 stars. However, if you are a student of Chinese culture, are Chinese, or interested in close/analytic reading, this book is for you!
202 reviews1 follower
August 13, 2020
I was surprised by how much I liked this collection of stories, particularly the later ones that are about cities. I don't know that it really delivers on the idea of "exploring the country through stories" but there's some good stories here.
Profile Image for Rob.
140 reviews
April 3, 2016
A threadbare collection that demonstrates just how meager China's contemporary literary canon is. Mo Yan, and to a far lesser extent, Wang Shuo, both contribute affecting contemporary stories, but the rest doesn't rise above workmanlike folk tales and plotless rumination. Not much here for anyone who isn't personally connected to the country and its writing tradition's slow, grinding, negligent evolution.
Profile Image for Angela.
206 reviews
July 30, 2009
Either I don't like ANY Chinese fiction, or this was a poorly contrived anthology. With the notable exception of one short story, I found all of these stories infinitely depressing and dull. Even though I was traveling through China at the time and really enjoyed the context it provided for everything I was seeing, I'm not sure I would seek out this series again for future trips.
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