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272 China Review International: Vol. 2, No. 1, Spring 1995 for realism, parody die literary tradition ofhomecoming within which Shen Congwen is writing (p. 254). For though he recognizes the disappearance (or nonexistence) of the Utopian vision associated with his homeland, he "endeavors to discover a new entry into it" (p. 255). In his Conclusion, Wang briefly sketches out the way in which the historical/ political, melodramatic/farcical, and lyrical/nativist modes have been carried on by the current generation ofwriters. Dai Houying, Feng Jicai, A Cheng, Han Shaogong, and Yu Hua write (or rewrite) recent PRC history; across the straits in Taiwan, Wang Wenxing, Wang Zhenhe, Huang Fan, Lin Shuangbu, and Li Qiao write farce; and Huang Chunming, Song Zelai, Mo Yan, Li Yongping, and many others from both the PRC and Taiwan write native soil literature. A summary of the main themes of this book can only begin to suggest the wealth of content in its pages. Every chapter contains intriguing inquiries into interesting related subjects: for example, the question ofwhy Mao Dun was dismissed from the CCP, and how diat may have affected his writing; or the complicated issue ofLao She's views on patriotism; or how Shen Congwen's and Lu Xun's treatments of the theme of decapitation differ. Students of modern Chinese literature can learn a lot from this book, not only for the answers it gives, but for the bold way in which it asks questions. Jeannette L. Faurot University ofTexas at Austin Wang Wen-hsing, Backed Against the Sea. Translated by Edward Gunn. Cornell East Asia Series, no. 67. Ithaca: Cornell University East Asia Program , 1993. 131 pp. Hardcover $18.00. Paperback $11.00. After slogging through one hundred and thirty pages ofwhat appears to be unrelieved drivel, some readers of Backed Against the Sea must wonder whether, in choosing to read this rather than another book, they have not committed a serious blunder. Let me briefly explain what I believe redeems Wang Wenxing's second novel, and warrants its translation into English by Edward Gunn. ^ ,„„,_ , TT . Under its disagreeable veneer, Backed Against the Sea swarms with fictive rid-© 1995 by Universityb * ofHawai'i Press^es' Here is the typeset testament ofa man, known to us as "Lone Star," who denounces writing in general and die literary memoir in particular (pp. 2 and 66-70). So what is die book we hold in our hands? Apparendy a transcription ofLone Star's Reviews 273 words as diey might have been overheard on the night and earlymorning ofJanuary 12-13, 1962. Lone Star, living exiled from Taipei in a squalid coastal town called Deep Pit Harbor, swears that he has no intention ofcreating literature. All that this dog ofan intellectual yearns to do, he claims, is "bark" (p. 2)—and yet, by some accident , Lone Star's barking transforms itselfinto a literary document. Perhaps Lone Star senses that this might happen when, early on in his narrative, he warns anyone within earshot against searching for a moral in his story: "What I've got to say now I'm saying purely forjust myselfto listen to only" (p. 2). Whatever we readers glean from Backed Against the Sea is repudiated in advance by its prime mover. In fact, the main character ofBacked Against the See remains enigmatic to the end. Over the course of Lone Star's lecture, we learn remarkably little about his background. True, here and there Lone Star does drop a clue as to his identity— telling us that he has served in the army, that he once was a poet, that he fled Taipei because of debts owed to underworld creditors, diat his uncle has disowned him, and that he has but one eye (dius his designation "Lone Star," evolved from the nom de plume "One-eyed Recluse")—but mostly we come to know him through his drunken pronouncements on such topics as civil rights, Islam, women, Ma Zu temples, modern Chinese literature, fortune-telling (his livelihood in Deep Pit Harbor), and die tendency ofTaiwanese restaurants to hide dieir expensive entrées behind die words "current price." Throughout Backed Against the Sea, the reader chafes to know what Lone Star...


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