From the National Book Award-winning author of Waiting, a new collection of short fiction that confirms Ha Jin's reputation as a master storyteller.
Each of The Bridegroom's twelve stories–three of which have been selected for inclusion in The Best American Stories–takes us back to Muji City in contemporary China, the setting of Waiting. It is a world both exotic and disarmingly familiar, one in which Chinese men and women meet with small epiphanies and muted triumphs, leavening their lives of quiet desperation through subtle insubordination and sometimes crafty resolve.
In the title story, a seemingly model husband joins a secret men's literary club and finds himself arrested for the "bourgeois crime" of homosexuality. "Alive" centers on an official who loses his memory in an earthquake and lives happily for months as a simple worker; when he suddenly remembers who he is, he finds that his return to his old life proves inconvenient for everyone. In "A Tiger-Fighter Is Hard to Find," a television crew's inept attempt to film a fight scene with a live Siberian tiger lands their lead actor in a mental hospital, convinced that he is the mythical tiger-fighter Wu Song.
Reversals, transformations, and surprises abound in these assured stories, as Ha Jin seizes on the possibility that things might not be as they seem. Parables for our times–with a hint of the reckless and the absurd that we have come to expect from Ha Jin–The Bridgegroom offers tales both mischievous and wise.
About the Author:
Ha Jin left his native China in 1985 to attend Brandeis University. He is the author of two books of poetry; two previous collections of stories, Ocean of Words, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award, and Under the Red Flag, which won the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction; and two other novels, In the Pond and Waiting, which won both the National Book Award and the PEN/Faulkner Award. He lives in Atlanta, where he is Young J. Allen Professor of English and Creative Writing at Emory University.
It's difficult to think of another writer who has captured the conflicting attitudes and desires, and the still-changing conditions of daily life, of post-Cultural Revolution China as well as Ha Jin does in his second collection, which follows his NBA-winning novel, Waiting. These 12 stories attain their significant cumulative effect through spare prose penetrated by wit, insight and a fine sense of irony. One realizes in reading them that while human nature is universal, China's cultural and political repression exacerbates such traits as fear of authority (and the desire to circumvent it), male chauvinism and suspicion of outsiders. In "The Woman from New York," a young wife and mother who goes to the States for four years finds, on her return to Muji City (where most of these tales are set), that her child, her marriage, her job and her honor are forever lost. American business methods clash with Chinese traditions in "After Cowboy Chicken Came to Town," in which Chinese workers' anger about the behavior of their boss, Mr. Shapiro, is redoubled when they discover one of their own countrymen practicing the strange ethics of capitalism. Such varied protagonists as college professors, a factory worker, a horny cadre member, two uneducated peasants and a five-year-old girl illustrate the ways in which hardship, lack of living space, inflexible social rules and government quotas thwart happiness. The title story is perhaps the most telling indication of the clash of humanitarian feeling and bureaucratic intervention. The protagonist, who has been taught to believe that "homosexuality... originated in Western capitalism and bourgeois lifestyle,'' is unable to credit his own sympathy for his son-in-law, who is sent to a mental hospital to cure his "disease." Ha Jin has a rare empathy for people striving to balance the past and the future while caught on the cusp of change. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|