Saturday, June 30, 2007

Annie Wang, Wei Hui: My Bad

I've sacrificed a handful of hours of my life to you two. And for what in exchange? Annoyance, trite amusement, and plenty to bitch about.

To put it pointedly: These books are dumb.

Annie Wang writes as if she thinks she's being subversive, clever, ironic, but the only irony is that she's clearly buying into the bullshit she claims to be poking fun at. Wei Hui is supposed to be edgy, scandalous, outrageous, but just because every other chapter of her second novel (I fortunately haven't read the first) includes the word "sex" doesn't mean it's progressive.

Not only are both books indicative of the west's hunger for contemporary Chinese literature presented in a way that conforms to their limited perceptions of what China was and is, but these two ladies serve it to them, and in so doing, fulfill the one claim attributed to the Chinese government that is boasted on the back cover of "Marrying Buddha": Wei Hui is a slave to foreign culture. How can sex be so taboo in a country that has sex-toy/porn shops on every street corner? Guess what: It's not, and this isn't a country of prudes and Puritans any more so than the States is.

It's writing that's so self-consciously trying to be something, trying to please, trying to shock and titillate that it simply falls flat on its face. Wish I hadn't too been trying to be a Chinese-lit gobbler-upper and opted for that book by a contemporary U.S. author I'd been eyeing in Bangkok. .... My bad.

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