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It is 1969 and China is in the throes of the Cultural Revolution. The Tao family is banished to the countryside, forced to leave comfortable lives in Nanjing to be reeducated in the true nature of the revolution by the peasants of Sanyu village. The parents face exile with stoicism and teach their son to embrace reeducation wholeheartedly. Is this simple pragmatism, an attempt to protect the boy and ensure his future? Or do the banished cadres really cling to their belief in their leaders and the ideals of the Revolution? These questions remain tantalizingly unanswered in this prize-winning first novel.
Rhetorics of Citizenship, Contagion, and Resistance
Contemporary Wisconsin Fiction
The Battle-Ground, Ellen Glasgow's fourth novel, was her first bestseller, with more than 21,000 copies sold in just two weeks. The novel committed her to a project almost unparalleled in American literary history: a novelistic meditation on the South from the decade before the Confederacy to the middle of the 20th century. The Battle-Ground speaks of a South before and during the Civil War in its struggles to become part of a nation still in the making. The overthrow of the aristocratic tradition, the transfer of hereditary power to a rural underclass, the continued disenfranchisement of African Americans, and the evolving status of women--these topics, which came to bind the more than a dozen volumes of Glasgow's self-styled "social history," initially coalesced in The Battle-Ground.
The Battle-Ground conspicuously departs from the tradition of Southern romances popularized by Thomas Nelson Page, and contemporary reviewers praised the book for its historical accuracy. Glasgow, an ardent Anglophile, bragged that military officers in Great Britain studied its descriptions of battle. With her, realism had not only crossed the Atlantic, it had "crossed the Potomac."
But Glasgow never sensationalizes the Civil War, whose bloodiest scenes she flanks with domestic officers, the sharing of rations, the warmth of camp, and reminders of home. Her vision of the war centers less on its corruption or barbarity than on its occasions for small decencies and their power of humanization. Glasgow cannot separate the war from its greater social implications--it is a place, as her title suggests, that tests the soul of a nation as well as individual men and women. The importance of The Battle-Ground in Southern literary history cannot be overemphasized, for Glasgow's reimagining of the Civil War had a profound impact on the next generation of Southern writers, including Allen Tate, Stark Young, and Margaret Mitchell.
In her debut collection, Melinda Moustakis brings to life a rough-and-tumble family of Alaskan homesteaders through a series of linked stories. Born in Alaska herself to a family with a homesteading legacy, Moustakis examines the near-mythological accounts of the Alaskan wilderness that are her inheritance and probes the question of what it means to live up to larger-than-life expectations for toughness and survival.
The characters in Bear Down, Bear North are salt-tongued fishermen, fisherwomen, and hunters, scrappy storytellers who put themselves in the path of destruction—sometimes a harsh snowstorm, sometimes each other—and live to tell the tale. While backtrolling for kings on the Kenai River or filleting the catch of the Halibut Hellion with marvelous speed, these characters recount the gamble they took that didn’t pay off, or they expound on how not only does Uncle Too-Soon need a girlfriend, the whole state of Alaska needs a girlfriend. A story like “The Mannequin at Soldotna” takes snapshots: a doctor tends to an injured fisherman, a man covets another man’s green fishing lure, a girl is found in the river with a bullet in her head. Another story offers an easy moment with a difficult mother, when she reaches out to touch a breaching whale.
This is a book about taking a fishhook in the eye, about drinking cranberry lick and Jippers and smoking Big-Z cigars. This is a book about the one good joke, or the one night lit up with stars, that might get you through the winter.
The Heirship Chronicles
Stories and Essays by Sato Haruo
Sato Haruo has been called one of the most representative writers of the Taisho era (1912-1926), a transitional period following Japan's monumental push toward modernization. Although he never identified himself as a modernist, Sato exhibited what some writers have identified as a characteristic of modernism: a complex net of contradictory impulses that embrace both the revolutionary and the conservative, revealing both an optimistic looking to the future and a pessimistic nostalgia for the past. Six stories of amazing diversity and two critical essays revealing the understated Japanese ideals of beauty make up this volume, all translated into English for the first time. Forming a sequel to the three stories published in Sato's The Sick Rose, these stories exhibit an extraordinary variety of themes and styles, ranging from poetic fairy tales to psychological portraits to who-done-it crime stories. The title story is a utopian dream of a better city, populated by ideal people, that vanishes in a mirage. Another tale portrays the loneliness of a man unsuccessful with women. A third embellishes a bare Basho haiku about the man next door. Here too are the dream ballad of a Chinese prince, the imaginary world of a mad Japanese artist in Paris, and the probing search for an opium-drugged murderer. Sato's critical essays that conclude this volume have their themes in an exploration of the sad beauty of impermanence, the nature of enlightenment, the awareness of self, the merging of the instant and the eternal, and the "self-indulgent, unrestrained beauty" of the Japanese language. This collection not only affords insights into the complexity of the work of a gifted writer, but also significantly broadens the perspective of the literary world of the Taisho period.
An Autobiographical Novel
Buoyant and entertaining, this melding of memoir and fiction recounts with humor and candid observation a gay man's romances in his seventies, offering insight into the joys (and a few of the sorrows) of loving, living, and aging with grace, style, and a fearless sense of fun. Bouncing between Montevideo, New York, and Paris, the narrator reveals his adventurous life, his many lovers, his varied careers from dancer to advertising, and the upbeat outlook that sustains him as he pursues the elusive Fenil, a handsome Uruguayan policeman. David Leddick's short sketches, interspersed with memories, attitudes, and opinions drawn from the past, combine in a vivid tale of a life lived with panache at an age when most people think the adventure has already ended.