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skylee
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I can't speak for all genres and sub-groups but despite all the censorship and negativity, I'm still having an amazing time reading some wonderful work, both new and old. Maybe the stuff I'm into generally don't contain much controversial context so it usually isn't a problem? 
 

Webnovel are a different form of entertainment and medium. Don't see it as a replacement of traditional published books, it's like comparing self-published Youtube videos to movies. They're both visual entertainment but entirely different. (To be honest, look at Youtube, those that able to produce (sometimes the same-ish stuff) a new video once or twice a week sees success - have you seen the channels of people opening pokemon card packs? apparently, people love the same stuff over and over again...endlessly).

 

Often good webnovels will get published, so it's not all endless trash. In a way, you can see it as a way for an author to get their work in front of readers, without the barrier of a publisher that supposedly understands what readers want. There's no publisher or editor telling the author what to write and how to write or telling them that "this plot isn't going to work". There's a negative and positive side to everything.

 

Like I already said, not all webnovels are endless plots and the same stuff over and over again, at least not the ones I see on 晋江文学城, most are under 1million characters, nothing compared to the 8-10million character length webnovels you find on some other platforms. 晋江文学城 also do their own publishing, but I don't know how it all works behind the scene. I just see they have a section advertising all their published novels.

 

Not trying to say Megan Walsh is wrong, I thought I'll just share some positivity around webnovels, as it isn't always negative :)

I have no idea if you'll find what you're looking in both the published and webnovel world as I have a very different taste from those here it seems, so I can only speak from my little bubble/world. But I do hope you'll find what you're looking for and it isn't all gloomy and dark.

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I just had a quick check on 晋江文学城 at the suspense/mystery (悬疑) section: http://www.jjwxc.net/bookbase.php?fw0=0&fbsj0=0&ycx1=1&xx0=0&mainview0=0&sd0=0&lx10=10&fg0=0&collectiontypes=ors&notlikecollectiontypes=ors&bq=-1&removebq=&searchkeywords=

There seems to be a decent list of webnovels in that genre. The top 4 completed ones (破云, 犯罪心理, 开端, 我亲爱的法医小姐) on the list have all been published and been adapted to various other medium. 开端 is on my to-read list, so when I get round to it I'll let you know how it is...I really enjoyed the TV adapation so have high hopes for the novel.

Not sure if these are the type of crime novels you speak of @Moshen but I hope it's close :) There seems to be a good list of 悬疑推理 in the published book section on 微信读书 and 豆瓣阅读 so hopefully there'll something out there that's what you're looking for.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just finished 《上帝掷骰子吗?》。 It was a rather heavy non-fiction history book, 471 pages. Purely judging from the vocabulary, grammar, etc., the book was easy to read (I had to learn about 200 new words). However, I'm reminded that no matter the language, quantum physics is a really difficult topic to understand. Many of the chapters in the book went a bit over my head. At certain times, the author says, "Are you struggling to understand? That's okay. Nobody really understands it." Along the way, I understood it just enough to follow along and enjoy it, but toward the end, I was just getting fatigued and was ready to put the book down. The book basically begins with Isaac Newton and the debate about whether light is a wave or a particle. Then it continues through the modern day, with such scientists as Einstein, Schrodinger, Heisenberg, Bohr, etc. The central question indeed becomes, "Does God throw dice?" I.e., is the world ultimately deterministic and governed by predictable laws, or does it consist of sheer randomness (at the atomic level, at least) that only becomes "statistically" predictable when considered on a large scale?  It's presented in a deliberately entertaining way, exploring topics like "multiple universes" and other really odd metaphysical stuff. I don't really know what I've taken away from the book, because I know there's a lot of false hype around quantum physics, and it's easy to misunderstand. At one point, the book mentions Liu Cixin's "Three Body Problem" and says, "Yeah, the stuff that happens in the book is impossible in real life--that's not how it works!" 

 

My next book will be one that I've been avoiding for a long, long time, and that's 《围城》。 I don't think it will be the easiest book I've read, to say the least, but as my 24th book, it should be easier than if it were my 3rd book. I have an English translation on hand if I get stuck. 

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On 5/16/2022 at 10:38 AM, Woodford said:

Just finished 《上帝掷骰子吗?》

Kudos to you!

That book originated from a very long web post I believe. I first read it on Tianya BBS and was so fascinated I felt physically heady. I'm a sucker for pop history things. Another favorite from that era is 新布局史话 - if you're interested in the ancient board game of Go (围棋).

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On 5/16/2022 at 2:38 AM, Woodford said:

My next book will be one that I've been avoiding for a long, long time, and that's 《围城》。

I didn't like this novel, but it has one of my favourite descriptions of bus driver swearing:

 

Quote

汽车夫就破口臭骂,此刻骂得更利害了。骂来骂去,只有一个意思:汽车夫愿意跟汽车的母亲和祖母发生肉体恋爱

 

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  • 3 weeks later...

I started reading 張愛玲 《半生緣》it’s been a slog. I think it’s a bit too hard for me but I will persist. So far I like it even though only 3 chapters in. This is probably one of those books I would like to revisit when my Chinese level is better. 

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  • 3 weeks later...

Just finished 围城, and it sure was a different kind of experience! I'm still processing it, and it's difficult to exactly outline my feelings about it. Over the course of 350 pages, I had to expand my vocabulary SRS flashcard deck by 472 (which, nowadays, is a lot). The author likes to quote ancient poetry, make obscure historical and cultural allusions, and use a lot of dated phrases (perhaps partly due to the fact that the book was published in 1947). The great majority of those unknown vocabulary words were labeled in Pleco as "literary," "literary," "dated," "dated," "dated," "literary," "dated," etc.....I thought about whether it was worth it to memorize those words. I suppose if I ever want to reach back further to authors like Lu Xun, Shen Congwen, or even the Four Great Classics, then perhaps they'll prove to be useful. And some of these words and expressions have filtered their way down to modern speech. Overall, I managed fairly well, but this book was just plain difficult in certain parts, and sometimes it went over my head. I'm sure a lot of subtleties, puns, and cultural references were totally lost on me. I was reading along with an English translation for a while, but I found that it was too time-consuming, and that my understanding of the difficult Chinese phrases was often (not always) correct.

 

The genre of the book seems to be constantly changing. The first half of the book feels like an episode of the American Sitcom "Seinfeld," with a lot of witty banter, intentionally unlikeable characters, a meaningless plot, and lots of silly misfortunes happening to people. But the latter part of the book takes a rather dark and depressing turn. I think the latter part is the one that leaves the biggest impression on me--it was also much easier to read. Maybe because (I'm hoping) I was getting used to the author's style. He gives a pretty convincing depiction of a miserable marriage, and if I weren't already married myself, this book would have discouraged me from doing so! :) 

 

As some have mentioned beforehand on this thread, there are a few very funny moments. Qian is really colorful in his descriptions and analogies, which can sometimes be rather brutal, direct, and politically incorrect. One notable quip is: 鸿渐研究出西洋人丑得跟中国人不同:中国人丑得像造物者偷工减料的结果,潦草塞责的丑;西洋人丑像造物者恶意的表现,存心跟脸上五官开玩笑,所以丑的有计划,有作用。Even as a 西洋人 myself, I think I laughed out loud at the sheer audacity of it. I usually don't laugh at books, but I laughed a few times at this one.

 

I'm now proceeding to Book #25 overall, written by 残雪,called 边疆。 She is considered to be a highly experimental, Kafka-esque author, and some reviewers have branded her as "certifiably insane." Other reviewers have noted that this book is completely illogical, but skillfully wrought "at the sentence level." So....I guess it will be an interesting experience! 

 

 

 

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I finished 猫城记。My friend wants to read a book with me so we will probably read 天外病菌 (she'll be reading the English version).

 

After that, I've found what seems to be a pretty good BDSM smut novel, 足下的恋人, and I'm looking forward to reading that. It'll certainly be very helpful for learning how Chinese people talk about sex!

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Started Red Sorghum by Mo Yan but it's pretty damn hard. Maybe have to put it down but it's been tough as I've had almost no motivation to read Chinese novels lately, something that does not improve the more stuff I have to shelve early. 

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一队队暗红色的人在高粱棵子里穿梭拉网,几十年如一日。他们杀人越货,精忠报国,他们演出过一幕幕英勇悲壮的舞剧,使我们这些活着的不肖子孙相形见绌,在进步的同时,我真切感到种的退化。

 

Here's an example of a sentence I'm just finding impossible to parse. 3 paragraphs into the novel, which is telling.... 

I'd (roughly and quickly) translate it it like ...

 

"A squadron (no idea what 一队队 means but assume this is it) of dark red people went through the Sorgum stalks with a net, 90s years like one day(???). The more men they killed the more they profited, dedicated themselves to their country, acting out a heroic and solemn drama, making this generation pale in comparison and yet, at this same time this progress was happening, I felt it was a decline."

 

Obviously, I am missing a lot, because that really makes no sense. Maybe I like the vocab, maybe I lack the context, maybe Mo Yan's just too poetic for me... lol.  Maybe it's just cryptic? I've really struggled with stuff like that in the past, where the writing is just open-ended enough to leave you guessing or inferring... not the best when it's in a language I'm not 100% comfortable with.

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On 6/20/2022 at 5:31 PM, PerpetualChange said:

Here's an example of a sentence I'm just finding impossible to parse.

 

The English translation of the book has an interesting rendering, though it takes some poetic license:

"Over decades that seem but a moment in time, lines of scarlet figures shuttled among the sorghum stalks to weave a vast human tapestry. They killed, they looted, and they defended their country in a valiant, stirring ballet that makes us unfilial descendants who now occupy the land pale by comparison. Surrounded by progress, I feel a nagging sense of our species' regression."

What on earth...I think the author is somehow reflecting upon the prior generations who used to walk around in the field, and thinking about how they were greater than the current generation. If I were reading the Chinese version, I would be tempted to think that the author literally saw people drawing a net over a field and killing/plundering people. That's often where I encounter trouble--trying to tell the difference between something an author is visualizing, dreaming, or imagining, versus something that's actually happening.
 

It seems that the difficulty of novels has a lower limit, but not much of an upper limit. In other words, even as my own reading matures, I can find more and more books that are easy, but there's still a class of books that are always going to be hard.

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The English translation is quite accurate. It's a summary of what the story is going to be about - a group of peasant turned bandit turned fighters led by the narrator's grandparents. The shuttle and net is metaphor. The killing and looting is real. I would hesitate to translate 不肖 as unfilial though (yup, Pleco has a better word for it, 'unworthy').

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I think the hardest part for me was the "vast human tapestry" part. I never would have guessed that. When I read 在高粱棵子里穿梭拉网, I can't help to think about people going back and forth in a field while drawing a literal net. :)
 

Then the phrase 几十年如一日, while quite simple, was a bit mystifying. "Decades like one day." My brain is trained to expect the opposite. A lot of novels use phrases like, "That day felt like decades" (i.e., it was so terrible that it felt like forever). 

 

@PerpetualChange mentioned the fact that it was only three paragraphs into the novel. Actually, I think the opening paragraphs of most novels are, by far, the worst. Most authors seem to use the most flowery language to open the book, and then it gets easier as the story gets going.

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On 6/20/2022 at 11:31 PM, PerpetualChange said:

that really makes no sense. Maybe I like the vocab, maybe I lack the context, maybe Mo Yan's just too poetic for me... lol.

 

I wonder if it'd help if you watched the film before reading the novel? At least it'd give you the background information - and it's one of Zhang Yimou best films:

Hong Gaoliang-Red Sorghum-Sorgo Rosso (Z.Yimou-1987) - YouTube

 

 

 

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On 6/20/2022 at 9:25 PM, Woodford said:

If I were reading the Chinese version, I would be tempted to think that the author literally saw people drawing a net over a field and killing/plundering people.

 

This is definitely where I was hung up as well. That IS what it means, but I lacked confidence in my comprehension. I also failed to grasp the business with the 拉网. I was thinking of figures literally harvesting Sorghum with a net and then we went into killing for country. 

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I've been reading a history book on Taiwan: 簡明台灣人四百年史.

Many new words for me and I suspect quite a few of them pretty dated (I believe most of this book was written in the 70s or 80s).

It's written from the colonized Taiwanese perspective and focuses on how the lower classes were exploited.

I'm now at the chapter of Japanese occupation and I feel like there is just not enough real content of historical events.

A lot of description is given to titles and relationships of occupier and occupant at a superficial level, repeating the word "exploited" without details or some example stories of actual people.

There are quite some nice illustrations (mostly maps), but I'm not sure if I'll continue past this chapter, I'd rather find some other more engaging read.

 

Can anyone recommend some good history book for Taiwan (by a Taiwanese author)?

I'm most interested in more recent history, especially post-Japanese, but if it includes the Japanese occupation that's fine too.

 

Anything in similar style and only half as good as The Search For Modern China would be great.

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On 6/25/2022 at 8:00 AM, PerpetualChange said:

Dropping 莫言《紅高粱家族》and picking up the hopefully easier 《平凡的世界》.


平凡的世界 is going to be my next book, in a couple weeks or so! I, too, am hoping it will be an easy read. I’ve read too many books that have been rather laborious lately. Mo Yan was tough, Huo Da was tough, and Qian Zhongshu was tough. I just want to enjoy smooth and casual reading.

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