Reading this was a good exercise in expanding my personal, hopefully not too xenophobic, horizons. This collection of short stories had an interesting preface by the author, a mini autobiography describing his passion and inspiration for writing. He describes his early childhood during the cultural revolution and how he developed a resilience to adversity. He also describes the fact that he has no formal training, let alone Western influences on his writing. This is important, because you really must do a mental reset in order to appreciate and hopefully enjoy the stories.
All the stories I appreciated. Only a couple of them did I actually enjoy. In several cases, I didn't get the meaning or symbolism. I'm not a short story person. Add to that the fact that several had a magical realism flavor, and my enjoyment was destined to be an uphill battle. All the stories seemed to end abruptly. Needless to say, this was not my reading happy place.
Thoughts on the individual stories...
Shifu, You'll Do Anything for a Laugh. A laid off worker gets creative in funding his retirement. This was mostly light hearted, but did have a few dark moments.
Man and Beast - I'll be honest, I didn't get this one. A cave, a fox, Japanese, rape.
Soaring - a wife bird gets shot with an arrow and killed. I am sure there is meaning in the perils of freedom.
Iron Child - Kids eat iron and turn into iron... iron zombies? This story might be making some sort of statement about state run industry, poverty and neglect. Or it might just be a fanciful play on a childhood memory of feasting on coal.
The Cure. This story was creepy and disturbing. It featured public execution and organ harvesting. Corruption too, with a father offering the services of his 18 year old daughter to a public official, o_O. IDGI
Love Story - This one had the best line in the entire book... Tall girl, short boy — tits in the face, what a joy. What I want to know is, did this rhyme in Mandarin?
Shen Garden - journey to a mysterious garden, meaning lost on me.
Abandoned Child. Well that was depressing. This story tackles ham fisted one-child policy as well as the deeply ingrained misogyny of Chinese culture.