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On 10/1/2021 at 5:09 PM, pinion said:

(I occasionally feel obligated in offline life to pretend that I like Good Literature, but the truth is that I got into Chinese to read pulpy webnovels, so...here we are 😇)

Hahaha, 同道啊!  I periodically binge read pulpy webnovels too.  Last batch includes 史上第一混乱、大王饶命、异常生物见闻录、黎明之剑、我家徒弟又挂了、从前有座灵剑山、铁掌无敌王小军、左道倾天、宇宙的边缘世界、我修的可能是假仙、万古最强宗、惊悚乐园、我的徒弟都是大反派、万界圆梦师… so mostly 搞笑/仙侠/科幻.  What type do you like? 😁

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I finished 麦家's 人生海海 last week. @Woodford how are you doing? Hope you're not struggling in the sea of cultural revolution phraseology. I think the book is fine. Good literature. The author managed to build a bunch of bizarre anecdotes into something profound. And it's gripping, keeps you wanting to know what's next. What I don't like is the use of regionalism. Even the book title is a Hokkien 闽南话 expression. It kind of creates distance between the reader and the characters. For example, the word 安耽 appears repeatedly. I know both characters, but have never seen or heard the combination before in my life. Even though I can understand it perfectly from context (btw, that's why in my assessment of a book's difficulty using imron's CTA, I give more weight to number of unique characters than number of unique words), it makes it harder for me to identify with these strangely speaking strangers.

 

I've also finished 余华's 活着 and 许三观卖血记. From now on, if anyone needs recommendation for their first Chinese novel, 许三观卖血记 will be my answer. Its humor makes it less of a tear jerker. And there's lots of repetition, both in sentence structure and vocabulary - a technique commonly found in fables. I think it's good for beginning readers.

 

I'm now reading 古文观止 (中华书局 edition) to brush up my 文言文. Very nice vertical typesetting. Already feel sager just by looking at it. Here's a picture:gwgz.thumb.jpg.fa456ef5f712dd9a996e24070dbc3b92.jpg

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On 11/22/2021 at 7:31 AM, Publius said:

I finished 麦家's 人生海海 last week. @Woodford how are you doing? Hope you're not struggling in the sea of cultural revolution phraseology. I think the book is fine. Good literature. The author managed to build a bunch of bizarre anecdotes into something profound. And it's gripping, keeps you wanting to know what's next.

 

I'm actually enjoying it a lot! The first 50-60 pages were filled with words I needed to find in a dictionary, but now I'm 120 pages in, and the difficulty level has dropped to almost zero. It's a really smooth and easy read. The characters are interesting, and it has an engaging story line. Some of the dialogue is absolutely ridiculous, especially when people are spreading rumors about 上校 and his...male organ. It seems that Mai Jia intentionally included some dark humor into his book. As if he wants the reader to see how silly some of the villagers are.

 

This is actually the fifth book I've read about the history of the Cultural Revolution, the Red Guards, the struggle sessions, etc. It wasn't intentional--it just happens, coincidentally, that many of the books I've read have mentioned it. So fortunately, I've been able to understand that part of the book pretty well!

 

What really surprises me is when I encounter vocabulary that seems really rare and obscure, and I think, "If it's taken me this long to see this particular word for the first time ever, then how important can it be? It probably isn't even worth memorizing." Then I see it again in the very next book I read, or even the very same day in a completely unrelated Chinese YouTube video! It's satisfying to read Mai Jia's book and recognize a lot of words that would have given me trouble just a few months ago, or to encounter cultural references or idioms that I now understand, because I learned them along the way. I feel like I've made real progress.

 

Ultimately, I can't really recommend Mai Jia's books for those who are just starting to read their first few books. He's not the most difficult author, but he's harder than many. When I read "Decoded" as my 5th book, it was really miserable. It makes me wonder--if the roles were reversed, and "Decoded" was my 17th book and "A Wavy Life" was my 5th, I wonder if I'd dislike "A Wavy Life" and like "Decoded." I may never know!

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On 11/22/2021 at 1:31 PM, Publius said:

Already feel sager just by looking at it

 

Haha I have this on my bookshelf, exactly the same! Although I only made it halfway through the 上 volume before the feeling wore off and I quietly 'rolled' back to my modern literature safe space.

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I just finished 异兽志.  It's a fun book, although it's harder than it first seems.  On the plus side, it has more twists per page than any other book I've read.  The twists keep you persevering through, and forum thread is really helpful.

 

I was thinking of how to characterize the novel's style, and I would say it's a combo of a:

 

1. Noir Detective Novel (hard drinking/chain smoking, cynical corrupt world), but swap the detective for an author,

2. Phillip Dick sci-fi story (identity confusion, world not what it seems),

3. Magic from the Witcher series (ironic curses / beasts that ruin families' lives -- particularly the Witcher books start with a bunch of macabre Fairy Tales),

 

set in a modernish setting,  with Chinese characteristics.  Since I like Phillip Dick, noir detective settings and the Witcher series, it was right up my alley.

 

Hopefully it improved my Chinese abilities too.  I'm going to see if it did, by moving on to reading  雪山飞狐 by 金庸 next.

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On 11/28/2021 at 11:10 PM, Publius said:

I have to admit I don't quite get the noir concept. Blade Runner is described as "future noir" and Veronica Mars "teen noir". So what exactly is "noir"?

 

Blade Runner is a Phillip Dick story, and his stories have a very Noirish feel.  But to me the most proto-typical Noir Detective is Sam Spade, detective in the Maltese Falcon by Daniel Hammett.  Those types of stories were popular in the US in the first half of the 20th century.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sam_Spade

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noir_fiction

 

Wikipedia says: "In this subgenre, right and wrong are not clearly defined, while the protagonists are seriously and often tragically flawed."  Also, "generally featuring a disturbing mixture of sex and violence," and "a typical protagonist of noir fiction is forced to deal with a corrupt legal, political or other system, through which the protagonist is either victimized and/or has to victimize others, leading to a lose-lose situation."

 

But I think of it as the noir detective smokes a lot, is cynical about the corrupt world, has money troubles, finds it hard to disentangle the victim and the victimizer in his cases, and gets in trouble because of his soft spot for dangerous dames; often is played by Humphrey Bogart. 

 

The 海豚酒吧 with the taciturn bartender, the constant smoking & drinking, the old newspaper clippings, the author trying to go her own way but also running away from her emotions, the money troubles, the corrupt society with the rich & famous victimizing others, the casual murders, and dangerous liaisons with the 兽 (where it's often unclear who's the abuser and who's being abused) are all very Noir-ish elements.

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On 11/28/2021 at 12:00 PM, phills said:

I just finished 异兽志.  It's a fun book, although it's harder than it first seems.  On the plus side, it has more twists per page than any other book I've read.  The twists keep you persevering through, and forum thread is really helpful.

OMG! This is on my reading list!!! I probably get around to it this upcoming year, but definitely 2023. I can't wait.

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