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skylee
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平凡的世界  has been mostly smoothe sailing, thus far. I've only been reading 15 or 20 minutes a day, which is like a page or two for me. Hope that's quick enough not to forget characters and plot points faster than new ones come in.

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I am getting to the end of Can Xue's Frontier (边疆), and I'm glad I researched the book a little bit before I started reading it. If I came expecting a coherent story, I would be totally exasperated, asking myself why my comprehension of the book is so bad. Actually, Can Xue is an odd, avant-garde author that makes her stories deliberately disorienting. It's like a crazy dream, where you never know what's going to happen, the dialogue is disjointed, there's no consistent plot line, people and objects appear and disappear at random, etc. I read a few reviews from literary critics who say that, in order to appreciate the book, you need to not view it as a conventional novel with a story line, but, rather, as an "experience." It reminds me of some of Yu Hua's experimental short stories that I read several books ago. However, Yu Hua's stories were only a few pages long. Can Xue's novel is 400+ pages long. I was amused for about the first 100 pages, but after that, it gets to be a bit much.

 

The advantage to this book, however, it that it's relatively friendly to someone who hasn't been reading native-level novels for long. The grammar is simple, and the vocabulary is simple. So if you're looking for something a bit odd and different, and you don't want to have to learn thousands of new words, it might be the book for you.

 

The best I can say so far is that the book is written about a weird city called "Pebble Town" (小石城) and the 12 or so characters who inhabit it. Each of the different chapters tells the story from the perspectives of these different people, who tend to exhibit extremely odd behavior and see really odd things--especially a mysterious tropical garden, which only special people can see. It seems to exist outside time and space, and you can't physically go there. The people move into Pebble Town for different reasons, and are given a bunch of generic jobs to do that don't make a lot of sense. One person got fired from his job at the morgue for having conversations with the dead people. The ruler of the town is called the "院长," an elderly lady who employs people and ensures they're taken care of. Almost like a venerated cult leader. Another central character, Liujin, sells cloth at the market, and her friend, Xiaoshi, likes to take pieces of her cloth and rub them all day. At one point, he comes into her courtyard and dumps a basket of frogs into it, filling the whole space with frogs. Some people remain rather lucid and are scared, creeped out, or intrigued by how weird the city is. Other people don't seem to notice, but they go right along with the weirdness.

I have long since given up on trying to understand it all, and I probably won't remember much about the book in the long term. One of the funny, dream-like aspects of the story is that nobody ever gets any privacy. People constantly appear in each other's houses without knocking on the door first.

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@Woodford I'm glad you got something out of Can Xue, and went on to finish 边疆! She's one of my favourite authors, not just Chinese. I enjoy reading her novels, though I need a break between titles and also need to re-read many passages in her books. I recognize many of my dreams in her writings, I think most people would. You seem to have got her right. I absolutely agree with you about her use of simple, direct language: she can use the simplest of sentences to conjure up extraordinary images and build entire worlds. No fancy phrases or unending sentences, no obscure allusions or pedantry, and rather few 4-character set phrases, a breath of fresh air. 

I'm reading Pebble Town, I think it is one of her gentlest novels. 

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It's definitely a wacky book! I'm in an odd place where the story is easy to read at the sentence level, but I'm otherwise hopelessly lost! I plan to join PerpetualChange and read Lu Yao's "Ordinary World" next. That one should be both easy to read AND easier to understand at the story level. He's much more of a realist in his storytelling.

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On 7/7/2022 at 7:01 PM, Woodford said:

I plan to join PerpetualChange and read Lu Yao's "Ordinary World" next.

I've had that one sitting on my shelf for years now, read a few pages once and it was a good level, but I've always been imtimidated by its size. Three volumes is a lot... But perhaps I should just try one and see how I like it.

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On 7/7/2022 at 12:12 PM, Lu said:

I've had that one sitting on my shelf for years now, read a few pages once and it was a good level, but I've always been imtimidated by its size. Three volumes is a lot... But perhaps I should just try one and see how I like it.

 

I thought about that, too. It's like 1200 pages long! I dedicated the past 12 months to lots and lots of reading, around 14-20 pages a day, and I'm getting to the place where I just can't do that anymore (and, really, I need to read less and talk/listen more, if I want the greatest amount of benefit for my time). I'm going to need to go at a slower pace with this book, and it's going to take me a long, long time to finish. So hopefully it's good! I had the fortunate experience of reading his much shorter book, 《人生》, as my 4th novel. It was one of my favorite ones.

I still have a few books in that "intimidating" category that have sat on the shelf for a while! Jiang Rong's "Wolf Totem" (it's a huge one, it has a high vocabulary count, and some people in the forum reported that it's not that fun to read), Jin Yong's "Legend of the Condor Heroes" (it just looks horribly difficult to understand), and Chen Zhongshi's "White Deer Plain" (upon first glance, it seems to be written in extremely literary language). But maybe they won't be that bad once I try them.
 

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Jin Yong's 天龙八部 is at the top of my list of wuxia novels I want to read, but I think I probably won't be able to read it for several more years at least. I won't be anywhere close to advanced enough to read it unaided by the end of this year, and after that I'm scheduled to set Chinese aside in favor of Dutch...so 天龙八部 will probably have to wait for a good five years.

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I have Jin Yong sitting on my shelf as well. Bought it shortly before I took the Trans-Siberian railway for three weeks and I got about 100 pages in, but once I arrived home it very quickly fell by the wayside again. But that was 14 years and n books ago, it would probably be easier now than it was then.

 

I'm also in the middle of a short story collection by 朱岳 which is crazy good and not difficult, so I'll probably bring that along on holiday (easy to read and easy to dip in and out of), and then once I'm back I'll make a good daily plan again for work, reading and Anki. Of late I've only been doing the work part, while reading (and Anki) is important for long-term stuff.

 

On 7/7/2022 at 8:10 PM, 黄有光 said:

after that I'm scheduled to set Chinese aside in favor of Dutch...

Dutch! Yay! I'm not good at explaining the whys of Dutch but happy to try if you ever need help.

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On 7/7/2022 at 8:58 PM, Lu said:

Dutch! Yay! I'm not good at explaining the whys of Dutch but happy to try if you ever need help.

Yes, Dutch lol. My husband and I are immigrating here and I pretty intensely dislike immigrants who don't make a serious effort to learn the language and integrate into society. I'm aiming to do the same thing with Dutch that I've been doing with Chinese -- 30 words every day (maybe just 10 words at first while I get used to the phonology), and reading basic children's texts first before gradually scaling up to more and more advanced material. I will be aiming for ~8.000 words by the end of my first year.

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I started reading the first book in the 龙族 series by 江南. It's a Western style fantasy series that I believe is aimed at teenagers. The language is pretty simple in it and I would say that the most difficult things are the number of transliterated names, and the fact that the author makes a lot of references to movies and games.

 

I would say that I'm enjoying it so far. I'll let you know how it goes.

 

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just read the Chinese edition of the first Harry Potter and really enjoyed it. Might not be the most enlightened thing to do with your Chinese reading skills but fun relaxing and a very good exercise. 

It'll keep me going while I find something I enjoy reading from a Chinese author...which I usually find challenging...   

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On 7/13/2022 at 9:03 PM, 黄有光 said:

I am actually listening to the first 哈利波特 audiobook now! It is easy to forget how charming these stories are.

 

The Mainland radio versions with quite poor audio quality, or have you found anything better?

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Finding 平凡的世界  kind of difficult. Lots of expressions and maybe colloquialisms that I'm just not prepared for? I feel I am still getting the gist of the plot, though. Still, reading every chapter twice because that seems to help confirm that I've comprehended enough to move on. And of course, reading so slow I keep forgetting who everyone is. 

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