Literary Fiction by People of Color discussion

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Buddy Reads > Buddy Read: The Journey to the West

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message 1: by Beverly (new)

Beverly | 2892 comments Mod
This is the discussion thread for Monkey: The Journey to the West by Wu Cheng'en.

The book discussion will start Wednesday, May 9th.


message 2: by Aubrey (last edited May 09, 2018 04:24PM) (new)

Aubrey (korrick) In regards to your questions about how to structure the reading, Ella, I'll be honest and say I haven't participated in a group read for a very long time. As such, I was just going to start at the beginning of one book and read on to the end of the fourth: introductions, footnotes, endnotes, everything. I don't mind if you dictate pacing, as all I was planning on doing was making sure I post my thoughts after each time I've read through a section. I normally average 50 pages on a day when I choose to tackle the work, but I imagine going slower would be better. I'll know more once I've cracked my edition open, as I actually need to clear out a currently reading work before I start on this.


message 3: by Aubrey (new)

Aubrey (korrick) I won't be cracking this open till Thursday or Friday, but I can still post pictures.












message 4: by Ella (new)

Ella (ellamc) | 219 comments Oh - Yours is beautiful. Mine is pretty, but not so stately looking. There doesn't seem to be a clear place, beyond the books themselves to break off. My biggest worry was getting too far behind b/c of the completely foreign time and place. I worried I'd need to do a bunch of research or something. But I'm not sure why I think that beyond I've never read a book this old except religious texts which I didn't read cover to cover the first time.

We'll be fine. I'm sure, or we'll figure it out once we get going. I looked for information on breaking it down, but I didn't find anything more clear than the chapters in the books.

I can do 50 pages a day - so long as we build a little break in regularly for catch-up or something. Even 250 pages a week would be a fast read of these.

So let's just both start & we can meet back here as we have thoughts. I'm thinking I might just make a post for my progress - that way you can tell me to speed up or slow down, etc.

Oh, and I actually plan on listening to other books while reading these, just because I have book clubs that are reading lighter things I should at least try to keep up with. But I'm all in and excited about this story. It sounds fascinating. I'll check back in a few days. Happy reading!


message 5: by Aubrey (last edited May 09, 2018 03:21PM) (new)

Aubrey (korrick) Yeah, I don't plan on reading 50 pages every day. I'll also have three other books going at the same time, and will be posting my thoughts any time I devote a day to reading. JttW has soaked into the popular culture enough that I'm hoping a first run through with a decent edition will be a sufficient start, as this is one of the works I know I'll be rereading when I have more knowledge under my belt. Happy reading :)


message 6: by Aubrey (new)

Aubrey (korrick) I've finished my first 50 pages, which places me midway through Chapter 3. It's been very interesting reconciling my experiences with media that has been overtly influenced by JttW (Japanese media for the most part) with the background context of Buddhism and Sun Wukong's roles as Wannabe Immortal and Monkey King. The prose reads rather easily in contrast with the poetry, which I will admit to not finding extraordinarily engaging. I'm likely missing puns and references helter skelter, as my edition has no notes, but so far that hasn't noticeably interfered with my comprehension. It's also interesting how my concurrent read of 'The Bhagavad Gita' helped me engage with the scenes involving the pursuit of enlightenment more than I would have otherwise.

On a more disappointing note, my edition is already falling apart. Despite how pretty it is and its relatively young age (pub 1990), it's rather cheaply made. I imagine I'll have to have the tape dispenser handy throughout the read.

Associated images:





As a final note, I liked Sun Wukong at the beginning, but now he's starting to become a bit of a power-drunk brat. That's one of the major driving forces of the plot, though, so I can't say I didn't know what I was getting into.


message 7: by Aubrey (new)

Aubrey (korrick) I've gotten through the next fifty pages, which places me at the beginning of chapter six. This consisted mostly of narrative escalation as the Monkey King alternatively antagonized and went along with the dictates of Heaven. Lots of characters running around, and none of them, save for Sun Wukong, are any of the main characters that will be on the actual journey. I've seen various cinematic representations of some of Sun Wukong's initial interactions (the horses, the peach garden), and I know what's eventually coming (Sun Wukong trapped under the mountain), so I'm patiently wading through the contextual build up and looking forward to when the actual journey to the west will began.

Accompanying pictures:




message 8: by Ella (last edited May 17, 2018 02:28PM) (new)

Ella (ellamc) | 219 comments OK - I'm nearly to where you are! Sorry, I was literally in bed reading all weekend and I forgot to come to GR to tell you that my opening stuff was 300 pages of things that probably won't make much sense to me until after I've read the book, so I'll go back to it then. I read it, but I'm starting to learn that introductions usually work better for me after the book.

I just checked - I should get to where you are within a day. My eyes are acting up, so I'm a little slower than I'd like. I don't have ANY pictures, which makes me very sad.

I read the shorter "Monkey: Journey" book several years ago, which is why I wanted to read this in its entirety, so I too know sort of where we're going.

The poetry isn't as hard for me as I'd expected. Some of it is stunningly beautiful actually. I'm already remembering my love of Buddhism when I was very young. (I announced I was converting to Buddhism, then went out and bought bought bought - clearly I was an excellent Buddhist... ;) These days I live a much simpler life, but I digress.

I'm going to try to power through more this weekend, just because next week is looking very busy, so I'll check back soon.


message 9: by Aubrey (new)

Aubrey (korrick) I fell behind a tad yesterday as I was out of town, so I made up for it today by getting through 100 pages, which places me in Chapter 11. The Monkey Kong has finally been squared away under a mountain, there has been much Buddhist revelry and performance of miracles, and now the story is more and more often in the mortal plane as a bodhisattva seeks out the one chosen to undertake the journey to the west. Some of the chosen one's guardians have shown up: they're all various types of former denizens of heaven who were previously cursed into monstrous forms (pig, ogre, dragon). There's also been some build up with regards to the chosen one themself, a monk, and it seems that there's a broader set of stories that must accompany every step of the plot, from the chosen one's dramatic Moses like origins to the Emperor, whom I presume will be the one to to send the monk on his way, exploring the underworld. All this is a nice break from the neverending escalations of fights and pranks of the previous section, and while it is taking the story rather a long time to get to the point, I'm a fan of digressions, especially when they flesh out the story's world so much. Lots and lots of poetry in Chapter 10, but as it was a conversation between a woodcuttet and a fisher, it didn't get nearly as onerous as endless descriptions of perfect Buddhist heaven can get.

Lots of pictures this time due to the introduction of so many main characters:














message 10: by Aubrey (new)

Aubrey (korrick) Ella wrote: "OK - I'm nearly to where you are! Sorry, I was literally in bed reading all weekend and I forgot to come to GR to tell you that my opening stuff was 300 pages of things that probably won't make muc..."

That's alright, Ella. I feel we are equally envious, as I love supplemental material, but considering how lucky I was to come across a reasonably accessible set as early as I did, I'll save the supplement indugence for a second reading.

Yu may have a better grasp on translating the poetry than Jenner of my edition does. Ah well. Then again, I disliked the endless building up of perfection in 'Paradise Lost's Paradiso, so it may be a translation rather than a taste thing. As I stated in my earlier post, I found the comparably mundane verses of two working class mortals to be much more engaging.


message 11: by Ella (new)

Ella (ellamc) | 219 comments Yay - we're pretty close I think. Sounds like we're reading fairly close to each other. I like it more and more as it moves down the the mortal plane.

Also I'm loving the humor, which also seems to be increasing with the addition of all the characters.

As I said, this week could slow me down, but I'm now done most of my other non-work reading commitments, so I can at least dedicate all the time I have to this one.

I do wish I had a few more notes/supplemental things in the middle of this reading, but my attitude is mostly "just read - don't get sidetracked by trying to learn everything." So I'm trying to force myself to do that and only use the notes provided.

There's a lot of story in this story. Sometimes religious texts can be so esoteric, but this is much more down to earth than I'd expected, and I'm enjoying it. I'll check back in a coupla days.

Have fun reading!


message 12: by Aubrey (last edited May 23, 2018 11:54AM) (new)

Aubrey (korrick) I've gone another 50 pages, and am now halfway through this first book at Chapter 13. After a harrowing account of the punishments of hell and the cycles of rebirth, Sanzang the holy monk has finally taken on his more famous name, and has also finally started the actual journey to the West, replete witb mounds of context regarding Emperors and Bodhisattvas and all that jazz. My favorite part was when a court official brought up the fact that the youth of Buddha didn't coincide at all with contemporaneous Chinese values of filial respect. It was a tad xenophobic, but the commentary on the clash of values was accurate, and the fact that all the other characters smoothed it over and 'solved' it by making speaking ill of the Buddha a crime punishible by physical mutilation didn't make the critiquers concerns any less valid. I have to wonder whether similar concerns crop up during the rest of the narrative, or whether that incident was just a one time provider of context. I'll just have to wait and see.

I've skimmed the synopsis for the rest of the volumes, and while it does seem like it could get a tad repetitive with Sanzang always needing saving, I feel the complexity and holistic quality of the narrative so far means that the future events will be repetitive in a Canterbury Tales sort of way, where each uses a similar structure to develop a different and engaging story. I can't say my mind won't ever drift off at points, but considering how I haven't gotten lost thus far and the references have been manageable, the rest of the three and a half books should go over smoothly so long as I keep it as slow and steady as I have been.

Not many pictures this time, but the fact that it's of the last of the quartet of travelers makes it something special:




message 13: by Aubrey (last edited May 26, 2018 10:14PM) (new)

Aubrey (korrick) Powered through another 100 pages because I could. I checked the next volume and there isn't a collation of pictures at the very beginning, so I'm going to relish this volume's plethora while I can. In any event, the holy monk has met up with the monkey and technically his horse (it's actually a disgraced dragon), and so far has had two adventures involving honorable hunters and murderous monks. I've found the monk's interactions with the monkey to be the most engaging thing thus far, as while Sanzang certainly has the moral high ground, Sun Wukong's not afraid to call out Sanzang's uselessness when he's again fallen off his horse in fear of demons and tigers and whatnot. I'm looking forward to when the two (the dragon doesn't speak up much in horse form) meet up with the others, as there's potential for some great character dynamics if the author remains as evenhanded with them as they have been so far. The story's not LotR, but I see myself getting into the swing of it so long as I'm patient.

This round's pictures:






message 14: by Ella (new)

Ella (ellamc) | 219 comments OK, I've finished book one. I've got book two in regular form, but I'm going to buy another copy on the Kindle because I'm wishing I had an easier way to cross-check and look for names of some of the gods I'm running into. My first volume ended with them getting into all sorts of trouble at the Five Villages Abbey with Idiot. (Chapter 25) So I'll start on book 2, with chapter 26 soon. I may be a little bit ahead, but I'm not sure.

I also have a bunch of book club books heading my way for June that I am going to try to get to once we catch up to each other.

I really like the irreverence I'm finding in this text. It's SO different from every other religious text I've read in that way. It's fun. Some parts get a bit dry, and I'll be honest - I don't really understand how a fair amount of the poetry fits, but beyond that, I'm enjoying this much more than I did, say, Pilgrim's Progress.


message 15: by Aubrey (new)

Aubrey (korrick) I've finished the first volume (review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...) and moved onto the second. One last picture before the move forward:




message 16: by Ella (new)

Ella (ellamc) | 219 comments I'm doing my best to rush through my book club picks - all of which are part of the Great American Read (I think) except Nigerians in Space, which I bought but haven't cracked. I've already read Little Fires Everywhere so for one book, I'm ahead.

I'll probably try to read volume two chapter by chapter rather than by pages. Are your books divided into chapters? They seem to be fairly consistent across all the editions, and it might be easier to keep pace with each other that way? Either way, I'm going to dive into book 2 soon, probably not before Thursday or Friday though.


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Literary Fiction by People of Color

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Monkey: The Journey to the West (other topics)

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Wu Cheng'en (other topics)