06 May 2013

Pow! by Mo Yan

I have been neglecting this blog so hard. I'm sorry blog. Neglect has a way of being cumulative, where you get this unfortunate inertia built up, so I'm going to try and make some baby steps into posting more regularly again. Part of this involves deciding that a short crappy post is better than no post at all. But apologies in advance if these are short and crappy.

I picked up Pow! while in the States because my mom was interested in reading it. She and I generally get around to reading the Nobel Prize winners (you know, you kinda gotta), but this one was a little intimidating, on account of being so long. Once I started reading though, I was hooked. It's a totally bizarre book, and definitely not for everyone, but I found it totally engrossing. For all its weirdness, there's also something profoundly familiar about the emotions being depicted, making the book incredibly moving, even though the plot is totally out there. While I thought the comparison to Gombrowicz (made on the dust jacket) was apt, this book packed much more of a punch emotionally, perhaps because it eschewed narcissistic forrays into meta-fiction.

The novel follows a scene of storytelling - a guy telling a monk about his life. Interspersed with the narration are these weird, dream-like sequences where totally random things happen. The guy's story is itself pretty strange; when he is a young boy, his parents split up (his father runs away with another woman), and his mother is strict and miserly. Our hero's biggest gripe is that he doesn't get to eat meat - he loves meat. As the novel progresses, he comes to see himself as a kind of meat-whisperer - he has a special relationship with it, understands it in ways others can't, etc. His love for it occasionally leads the book into the grotesque - parts of the story are definitely not for the squeamish - but there's also something kind of cute about it.

Overall, it's definitely a book you need to be in the right mood for, but if you are, it's really something.

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