Today I finished reading the novel 《熊猫》 by 棉棉.
The novel consists mostly of casual nighttime conversations between attractive young people in Shanghai. Sex, love, and infidelity are frequent conversation topics, popping up every few pages. There are occasional monologues on random subjects, like eating pigs and the social harms of television.
The plot and structure of 《熊猫》 are unconventional. There are the trappings of a plot: main characters, recurring settings, interpersonal relationships and conflicts. But not much happens. Characters talk repeatedly about sex—how often they have it, what kind of people they have it with, etc. While some arguments arise from this, the characters themselves do not change. The death of a main character is mentioned several times, but the circumstances surrounding the death go unexplained. Most of the main characters in the novel are shallow, and it is difficult to see what motivates them. The novel is divided sequentially into chapters, but these chapter divisions seem arbitrary, and the story does not progress.
《熊猫》 reminds me of the writing of Bret Easton Ellis. It is a book full of beautiful, rich, young characters having superficial conversations in a consequence-free world. Unfortunately, 《熊猫》 is less stylized, less seductive, and more banal than Ellis’s novels are.
A number of the characters in 《熊猫》 are named after actual people. The Shanghai jazz musicians mentioned in the novel are people I know in real life! 棉棉 also references herself at numerous points in the story.
I decided to read 《熊猫》 after @Lu listed it in the “What are the first 10 books you read” thread. I found the language of the novel easy to understand, especially compared with the last novel I read, 余华’s 《在细雨中呼喊》. Most of 《熊猫》 is dialogue, which keeps the difficulty low.
Link to 《熊猫》:
Characters read this year: 415,518
Characters left to read this year: 584,482
Percent of goal completed: 41.6%
List of things read:
《三八节有感》by 丁玲 (2,370 characters)
《我在霞村的时候》by 丁玲 (10,754 characters)
《在延安文艺座谈会上的讲话》by 毛泽东 (18,276 characters)
《自杀日记》by 丁玲 (4,567 characters)
《我没有自己的名字》by 余华 (8,416 characters)
《手》by 萧红 (7,477 characters)
《牛》by 沈从文 (8,097 characters)
《彭德怀速写》by 丁玲 (693 characters)
《我怎样飞向了自由的天地》by 丁玲 (2,176 characters)
《IBM Cloud文档：Personality Insights》 by IBM (25,098 characters)
《夜》by 丁玲 (4,218 characters)
《虎雏》by 沈从文 (46,945 characters)
《在巴黎大戏院》 by 施蛰存 (6,181 characters)
《分析Sonny Stitt即兴与演奏特点——以专辑《Only the Blues》中曲目 《Blues for Bags》为例》 (5,483 characters)
《一个女剧院的生活》 by 沈从文 (61,154 characters)
《致银河》 by 王小波 (17,715 characters)
《在细雨中呼喊》 by 余华 (132,769 characters)
《熊猫》 by 棉棉 (53,129 characters)