Book Review

Love In The New Millennium by Can Xue

not for me

so maybe the way for me to restore my flailing commitment to triumph of the now is to switch it fully into a stream of consciousness mess like the last post was though then again tbh I’m not certain I want to commit to a written aesthetic plan because that defeats the purpose of this blog which is essentially to function as something approaching an idea of “home” for me.

Yes, that’s right.

This “website” is the place I can be freest.

For a while it was my refuge from a horrendous offline life, but now my offline life is like kinda fine and though i dont have a social life and dont have the time to start one atm, this blog is I suppose the replacement for that, the place where i can monologue at myself as if i were monologuing at peers without having to get peers or accept peers i find uninteresting but theyre the best peers i can get because im all sad and messy lololol

Here, I can write.

Here, I can be, whatever that means and however that manifests.

///

Why do I read so much experimental writing when I often don’t enjoy it and regularly finish this kinda book with a sense of having been hoodwinked like that naked emperor famed for wearing imaginary new clothes???

///

this blog is for me not for you

sometimes it is for the people whose books i’m writing about, but today it isnt

i thought love in the new millennium by Can Xue was deeply mediocre. As it experimental fiction, it is formless and plotless in its entirety and it is concerned with the evocative suggestion of a place/reality rather than with the evocative exploration of character. In my opinion.

Most of the characters are very similar, in terms of world view and life experience, and though some have different jobs which can be used as character identifiers, others merely have different lovers and relationships with other people to distinguish them. There is no one whose responses and reactions to any of the external stimuli Can Xue writes them experiencing seem unique or personal.

There is an alternate world hidden underground; people enter it, people leave it; sometimes its entrances are solely in the countryside, sometimes they are in the city; always they are hidden, but always there are those who know their truth and locations, and also people who suspect their truth and locations, but don’t actually properly like know know. There are people who it is implied are natives of this secret land and in fact it is kinda implied that everyone in the novel has come from this underground world at some point in their lives, and maybe what has actually happened is that they’ve been moved from the underground world to the current world and-

it’s confusing

In the forward, by Eileen Myles, she acknowledges that the book is “boring”, though does speak about its strengths in contrast to this: its imaginative power, etc, its descriptive passages, etc etc

For a novel like this, a lauded novel in translation from Chinese that doesn’t feel particularly special, it would be commonplace to question if it’s the fault of the translator, but i really don’t think that is the case here. I’m sure you – like me – have read “novels in translation” that have a real fucking flatness to them, a real absence of the unnameable thing that makes true, flawless, literature sing, but that isn’t the case with Annelise Finegan Wasmoen’s work here. Individual passages are engaging and beautiful, as too are a couple of entire chapters; but it’s hard to hold in ones head any image at all due to the oscillating and often contradictory truths that exist within this narrative mode. It’s a “trippy” book, I suppose: people and places switch without explanation, or with vague explanation. The unexpected and the unexplained and the unexpectable and the inexplicable occur constantly. There is nothing to hold onto, for a reader, here.

All of this is intentional. And I don’t like it.

///

A postscript: Something I did like.

I went to the cinema yesterday and saw Portrait of a Lady on Fire and though I know Triumph of the Now is meant to be a weird combination of literary blog and mental health diary, I feel that I have to mention this film in “writing”, as it is the most tender, beautiful, achingly sad, achingly gorgeous, romantic film I’ve seen in a long time. I wept and I wept and I wept and afterwards I felt like I’d been beaten up. Floored by a flawless film.

Watch that film.

No more today.


Download my weird live album via Bandcamp.

Order my raucous poetry collection via Open Pen.

Order my sad prose chapbook via Selcouth Station Press.


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1 comment on “Love In The New Millennium by Can Xue

  1. Pingback: Colorless [sic] Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami – Triumph Of The Now

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