A long, and long overdue, update.
Jesus, has it been 2 months since I last updated this? Apparently so. Hello new-job inundation!
1. We've published Xu Xi's new short story collection Access: Thirteen Tales. The paperback is available via Amazon, B&N, and pretty much everybody else. The e-book is available via the Kindle and Nook stores, and I'll be sending it to Omnilit soon. Given the persistence of the backlog, the backlogged e-retailers' lack of market share, and my own lack of time, I will not be sending it elsewhere. (Well, other than BookCyclone, of course.) If you've looked at the Amazon page, you may have noticed the lack of a cover image. That's always the last thing to appear on Amazon, for reasons I cannot fathom. It took a couple of weeks with Dispatches from the Peninsula as well. In any event, the book is out and selling and you should buy it if you haven't already.
2. The first reviews for Access are out, as well. Bloggers have gotten there first:
Access: Thirteen Tales is an amazing collection of short stories by Xu Xi. Set in Hong Kong and among those in the vast Chinese diaspora, the stories are mostly about women, the ties of family, the inescapable consequences of deep enculturation, the pervasive power of money, sex and loneliness. Some of the women are highly educated and successful and some barely eke out a living.
The collection is also very much about what it means to be a Hong Kong Chinese in the opening decades of the 21th century. The people in the stories are very real. Xu Xi makes them come alive for us in just a few pages. We understand the people in these stories and how they got to where they are in their lives. Xu Xi's stories show literature can also help us understand how we got to where we are in our own lives. Xu Xi helps us see the universal in the very particularized people in her stories.
I will spotlight two of the thirteen short stories in the collection so readers can get a feel for her work. Most of the stories are between ten and twenty pages long.
"Space" is a brilliant short story about a never married sixty seven year old woman with no children living by herself in Hong Kong. Her brother has recently died and her nephew and his wife want her to move to America to live with them. As the story opens, it was exciting and very interesting to learn the aunt has a close near intimate Internet relationship with a seventy year old American living in New York City who is a self taught Sinologist. Her nephew Francis and his wife are in Hong Kong for a visit. They are doing all they can to persuade Aunt Kar-Li to move to America. They tell her they have a big room for her and also mention a retirement community. Kar-Li suspects their motives may be impure as she thinks they want her to sell her apartment in Hong Kong to invest in the three restaurants they own. There is a great deal in this story. It deals in a very subtle fashion with the conflicts between older Chinese and their younger relatives in terms of adherence to Confucian values. The aunt knows that she is in part going to be used by her nephew and his wife once she moves but the family ties are just too powerful for anyone to really try to throw away.
"Lady Day" is a really amazing story about a post operative transsexual prostitute. The story line is very interesting and kept my attention level very high. This is a story about deception of the self and the other. About the power of sex to dominate and the reverse side of this when a person transforms into a commodity. All swords seem to be two sided in the world of Xi Xu. "Lady Day" is fairly explicit in its descriptions of what the clients want her to do. It is in a way a woman's fantasy story about how the life of prostitute works out when things goes very well. Of course the story ends before Lady Day's looks begin to fade and we know the dark side of this fantasy world will take over soon.
The people in these stores are often defined by their jobs. Almost everyone works hard and is very money driven. I was glad to see that many of the women in the stories are very high achievers both in commerce and education.
Xu Xi is from Hong Kong. She has published nine books. She won an O Henry prize for best short story. (It is included in the collection.) She has been a distinguished visiting writer at the University of Iowa. She teaches at the City University of Hong Kong as well as the Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Access Thirteen Tales will be published on November 25, 2011. There will be a book launch party November 25 at 630PM at the City University of Hong Kong to which all readers are invited.
(There are additional details about the launch event and about the very interesting and highly impressive career of Xi Xu on her web site.)
I was provided a complementary e-book of this work.
Readers of the stories of Jhuma Lahiri will relate very well to these stories. I am very glad I had the opportunity to read the work of Xi Xu and endorse her work without reservation.
Here is a link to the publisher's web page.
And Susan B. Kason
November 15th marks the print release of Access (Signal 8 Press, 2011), Xu Xi’s new collection of thirteen stories. It came out as an e-book on November 1, so that’s what I read last week.
Each story is unique, but they all have one common theme–desire. Most feature a strong female protagonist, although two of my favorites center around men. The stories take place all over the world, from New Zealand to Hong Kong to Sweden to New York, with characters from an even wider mix of backgrounds.
It’s difficult to choose a few of the stories to summarize here because they are all so engaging and memorable. The following three stand out the most to me.
Servitude is one of my favorites. It’s an endearing story of a devoted Hong Kong office worker and his aging boss. At first glance, their relationship appears to be a standard employee-employer one. But as the story progresses, we learn there’s more at stake–for both the employee Chung and the boss Mr. Suen. I really like how Xu Xi is not afraid to end on a sad note.
And then there’s Access, the charming tale of a woman named Elna who deposits $1500 into a new account while worrying about her aging mother. Part Portuguese, part Lebanese, and part Chinese, Elna notices that her balance grows exponentially each time she checks the account. After many days, when she tries to withdraw her money, she learns the meaning of want and appreciates what she already has.
The last piece in the collection is so haunting that I couldn’t end my review without mentioning it. Lady Day is the story of a boy who is bullied in boarding school. Years later he plans the ultimate revenge on his unsuspecting tormenters.
The thirteen stories are organized into five sections: tall tales, circular tales, fairy tales, old wives’ tales, and beastly tales. Servitude is a circular tale, Access a fairy tale, and Lady Day a beastly tale. I highly recommend the entire collection and all of its tales.
Also look for reviews in the South China Morning Post (this coming Sunday, Nov. 20) and Time Out HK (I assume it'll be in the next issue). Reviews are forthcoming in quite a few other places as well. I probably won't reprint them all here but will at least provide links when they are available.
3. The Access book launch is being held at CityU on Friday, Nov. 25:
If you'd like to attend (and you should), please go to this site and register online. Although you won't be turned away at the door, of course, registration will help the organizers prepare adequate seating, refreshments, and so on.
Yours truly will hold an interview/Q&A kind of thing, and I promise I will do my best not to sound like a dork.
4. Xu Xi will also be appearing at quite a few conferences and literary festivals. Visit this link for the full itinerary:
I'm hoping to make it to a couple of these things, myself, including Shanghai and Makassar. We'll see.
5. We have also reprinted seven of Australian author Brian Castro's books via BookCyclone. They're currently available via Amazon and B&N, and we'll have them on BC soon. Here's the list of the books you can now buy as e-books:
The Garden Book
Looking for Estrellita
The Bath Fugues