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Notes of a Desolate Man


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Chu T'ien-wen has won five major literary prizes and received the best script award at both the Venice and Tokyo film festivals.

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Translator's Preface Notes of a Deslolate Man Notes on Notes

About the Author

Chu T'ien-Wen has published fifteen books-novels, stories, memoirs, and film scripts-and has won five major literary prizes. She also received the best script award at both the Venice and Tokyo film festivals. Her most highly acclaimed works are Fin de Siecle Splendor and Notes of a Desolate Man, which was published in Taiwan in 1994. Howard Goldblatt is professor of Chinese literature at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and translator of many books, most recently Mo Yan's Red Sorghum and Silver City by Li Rui. He is also the coeditor, with Joseph Lau, of The Columbia Anthology of Modern Chinese Literature. Sylvia Li-chun Lin, who teaches at the University of Colorado, Boulder, writes on modern Chinese literature and culture.


Awarded the China Times Prize in 1994, this postmodern Taiwanese novel is a poetic, philosophical account of a friendship between two gay men, and the painful, bright reminiscences left over for one, Xiao Shao, when the other, Ah Yao, dies of AIDS in a Tokyo hospital. The story invokes meditations on the experience of being gay, loving, promiscuous and loyal within Taiwan's cultural constructs. Xiao's attitude toward life and love is melancholy, respectful and intellectual, in contrast to Ah Yao, who embraced the radical Act-Up political theater while saving his most violent anger for his mother. Xiao at one point contemplates marrying his sister's friend, but realizes his folly. At age 40, he thinks of himself as an old crocodile. Some of the funnier moments in the tale center around the assortment of New Age and traditional remedies he and his friends use to fight baldness, wrinkles and middle-age spread. Xiao, for all his dissatisfied longing, has a lover of seven years, Yongjie, a cinematographer, and Xiao is both detached and worshipful of his partner, knowing "it was invariably during my happiest moments that I felt the inconstancy of life." When Yongjie leaves to work in southwest China, Xiao nearly picks up a young man he dubs Fido, providing more opportunities for his inevitable comparison of beautiful youth with withered 40-year-olds. Xiao would be irritating if he merely repined for his golden years, but, in scholarly fashion, he mixes in apt commentary by such diverse sources as Michael Jackson, Levi-Strauss and Michel Foucault. The book ends on a note of uncertain piety, with Xiao making a pilgrimage to the Ganges. Chu T'ien-wen, acclaimed author of 15 books, skillfully weaves recent Taiwanese history into her narrative, from Chiang Kai-shek's time to the present, inserting a well-balanced note of reality into Xiao's often willful sentimentality. (June) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Superb... A strong and perceptive voice now arises from Taiwan... Notes of a Desolate Man is a novel of questions and imponderables, not so much a cry of pain as the lively, sharp-witted record of it. -- Peter Kurth New York Times Book Review The novel in poetic translation is in itself a joy to read, writing that inspires awe for its intellectual scope and its sensitive portrayal of gay men and their lives-and deaths. -- Charles-Gene McDaniel Libido A fascinating glimpse into one man's experience of Taiwanese gay life. -- Susan Vreeland San Francisco Chronicle A stylish meditation on marginalization, radicalization and decay. -- Susan Salter Reynolds Los Angeles Times Ambitious, intelligent, and intense. Booklist A poetic, philosophical account of a friendship between two gay men. Publishers Weekly

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