WWW Wednesdays: February 5, 2014

It’s been over a month since I last did this meme, so why not! (Hosted by Should Be Reading.)

To play along, just answer the following three (3) questions…

• What are you currently reading?
• What did you recently finish reading?
• What do you think you’ll read next?

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I am currently reading Republic of Wine by Mo Yan. I just started it last night so I can’t say much about it yet, but I’m excited! In December I thought I was going to marathon all of my Mo Yan novels, but I got distracted by new books as usual.

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Last night I also finished reading Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood. I had an unfortunate introduction to Atwood in the form of The Handmaid’s Tale in my tenth grade English class, but after hearing so many readers praise her since I’ve decided to give her a second chance. Surprise, surprise, I really liked this novel! I plan to read the rest of the trilogy as well.

As for what I’ll read next, I have no idea. I have a big stack of TBR books and they all look good. I’m leaning towards one of my newly purchased books but we’ll see if I feel like continuing on with Mo Yan after Republic of Wine.

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Shifu, You’ll Do Anything For A Laugh by Mo Yan

207559Title: Shifu, You’ll Do Anything For A Laugh
Author: Mo Yan
Genre: short stories
Rating: 4.5/5

Shortly after introducing Shifu, You’ll Do Anything For A Laugh in my Monday memes, I finished the last story in the collection. This collection of short stories by Mo Yan contains a wide variety of of themes and serves as a great introduction to Mo Yan for those not already familiar with him. There are eight stories total but in this review I’ll focus on my favorite three: “Shifu, You’ll Do Anything For a Laugh,” “Soaring,” and “Abandoned Child.”

“Shifu, You’ll Do Anything For a Laugh” is about Ding shifu, who’s been working for the same factory for years and is mere days away from his retirement when the company decides to let go of most of their workers. The title “shifu,” is given to people who are a master of their trade, or just as a way to show respect to someone who has been working for a long time. With no hope of getting his due pension, Ding shifu has to find a new way to support his family and falls into despair. He gets a business idea when he spends an afternoon watching young couples in the park sneak off into the woods to get close. He builds a shack which he charges these young couples to use and makes a killing at it, at least until a couple comes along months later who enter the shack and then become deathly quiet. Convinced the couple has committed double suicide, Ding shifu runs around town trying to figure out what he should do. When he finally brings a police officer to the scene, they find no one in the shack. In this realistically bleak and yet humorous story the reader is left wondering what forces of nature had stepped in and brought an end to Ding shifu’s less than honorable business. Were they ghosts? Did the couple play a joke on Ding shifu for making money off of young love?

In “Soaring,” a newly wedded bride gets a look at her new groom and takes off flying– literally. The entire town gives chase, trying to coax her down as she gets further and further away from her new home. Even her own family gets involved and begs her to accept her marriage or she’ll ruin the marriage for her mute brother which was so hard to set up and is contingent upon the poor girl’s marriage. Nothing affects the flying bridge, who eventually ends up sitting in a tree with the entire crowd watching her. Finally she is shot down and killed with a bow and arrow, and the groom laments the loss of his beautiful bride. Again humor mixes with a stark portrayal of truth about how powerless bridges are in their arranged marriages.

The last story of the collection is “Abandoned Child,” which describes the terrible effects the one child policy has specifically on those who live in the rural parts of China who still cling to the belief that male children are more valuable than female. The main character finds a baby girl abandoned in a sunflower field and brings her home. His family is devastated and angry because he already has one child, a girl, and all of their hopes were for him to produce a second, male, child. He goes to the local government which suggests he go around and ask widows/widowers if they would take in the child, but he finds that these families also only want boys. Meanwhile the government official mentions that if the rescuer keeps the child, he’ll have to pay the fine for having more than one child. The story ends with the fate of the little girl unclear and the main character disgusted by the people of his hometown. This story is devoid of the humor of the previous two but the narrator of the story has a disillusioned, desperate tone that will stay with you long after you finish reading.

As I mentioned, there are five other stories in the collection which are also very worth reading. I hope that readers out there will give this collection, and Mo Yan himself, a chance. I have three of his novels sitting on my TBR pile and they’ve just been given higher priority, so look forward to more reviews of Mo Yan’s work.

WWW Wednesdays: December 11, 2013

www_wednesdays4WWW Wednesdays is another weekly meme brought to you by MizB of Should Be Reading. To join, answer three questions:

• What are you currently reading?

If on a winter’s night a traveler… by Italo Calvino. Calvino’s work is postmodern and therefore mind-bending at times, but I love the flow of his language, especially in this novel. I highly recommend this novel to people who love reading and love thinking about reading because the story explores the art of story-making and storytelling while also (kind of) producing an interesting plot. In this book it’s not about the ending; it’s about the journey. Of course I can’t really say that for sure until I reach the end!

• What did you recently finish reading?

A few hours after posting my Monday memes I finished Mo Yan’s Shifu, You’ll Do Anything For A Laugh. I thoroughly enjoyed all of the stories in this short collection and will be posting a review (my first for this blog!) once I have time (meaning once my Fall semester courses are finally over).

• What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m torn between going on a Mo Yan binge, seeing as I have three of his novels sitting on my shelf, and hopping to another author to change things up.

Do you enjoy reading a lot of one author at once or do you prefer changing authors with every book? Is there one particular author you could read for months and feel perfectly satisfied?

It’s Monday! What are you reading?: December 9, 2013

The best way to get into the habit of writing about my reading is to write as much as I can, so I’m going to try and take part in weekly memes to get the ideas flowing. Luckily for me there are a wide variety of memes out there to use thanks to the creativity of my fellow readers. If you know of a good reading meme, please link it in the comments and I’ll give it a try! First off we have It’s Monday! What are you reading?, a weekly book meme run by Book Journey. Every Monday I will try to post about what I’m currently reading.

 

This week I am working on and will likely finish Shifu, You’ll Do Anything For A Laugh by Mo Yan. Mo Yan won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 2012 and is known for his brutally honest depictions of poverty in China before and after the Cultural Revolution. Shifu, You’ll Do Anything For A Laugh is a collection of short stories that continue his themes of poverty and life in rural China. The story from which the collection takes its title is so far my favorite in the collection. A factory worker is laid off two days before he is scheduled to retire and falls into despair trying to figure out how he’ll support himself. He comes up with a rather unorthodox new business which leads to hilarity and, of course, trouble. I have a whole stack of Mo Yan’s novels which I plan to dig into either this month or at the beginning of 2014!