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Sunday
Jul222007

Shanghai Baby Redux

I don't get many comments on my blog, but once in a while somebody posts one that deserves extra attention.  This is one such case.  Thanks, Mikkitaro, for sharing your thoughts : )  I'm giving it special prominence by making it a blog entry.  Mikkitaro's comment follows here:

My reaction to Shanghai Baby is ambivalent because I cannot claim to understand all the societal pressures the Chinese people live with on a daily basis, but my initial response was unequivocally "What a SLUT!" I am surprised that you thought the sex scenes in Shanghai Baby were over the top because most of the scenes, if I remember correctly, were rather succinct and trite. They seem very contrived and self-serving. Given the virility of the highly stereotyped character Mark, I find it incredulous that Mark never demanded fellatio from Coco. Come on! A virgin could have had more imagination with those scenes. Coco's self-pity alone is a huge turn-off. Ugh! Don't get me started on all the other things that irked me about this book. But I have to give Wei Hui credit for being open about human sexuality. She wasn't the first woman who did it, but she did it nonetheless. If anything, it proves that women can be just as physical and sexual as men. So much for decorum and Jane Austen's sense and sensibility!

[SJ:  I agree that her sex scenes weren't the most original.  By over the top I meant that they lacked, for want of a better word, subtlety.  Then again, in the age of Net porn and South Park, anything goes.]

About the juxtaposition you mentioned, I wonder how Chinese male readers/critics responded to the portrayal of an impotent Chinese man in the book. Such depiction seems to be a jab in the balls for Chinese manhood. I'm surprised Viagra wasn't mentioned in the book. Guess that would just make life too easy. Okay, I guess Viagra hasn't been tested in the case of Oedipus complex, especially those cases where the mother and son are linked by the purse string, but there's no harm in trying, right?

[SJ:  yes, totally agree here, but then again Chinese male impotence is a well-trodden theme in modern Chinese literature, as my colleagues could substantiate.  It has to do with China's emasculation in modern world history, beginning I suppose with the Opium Wars and culminating with the Japanese invasion of the 1930s...]

In the end, I don't think women from Shanghai are all that different from women elsewhere in the world, and the same goes for all the men. Sex that fails to caress the cerebrum doesn't last very long, and we all know how short orgasms can be. If Coco was on the quest of self-discovery, she will never find it through sex alone. Several book reviews I read depict Coco as a liberated woman, but I see quite the opposite. The man who stood in front of the military tanks during the Tianmen protest had more freedom in his pinky than Coco could ever understand. No amount of fornication or money can buy real freedom.

[SJ:  tankdude was one badass mofo]

Interesting quote by Lem. But everyone is equally endowed with either (or both for some) a phallus or pudendum, so it's hardly a selling point. Whatever happened to originality and creativity in the arts?

[SJ:  Lem was being sardonic, as usual--I think what he meant was that sex is a cheap way to sell literature and arts]

Thanks for instigating the discussion. Cool website.

[SJ:  you're welcome, and thanks for being such a great reader : ) ]

Reader Comments (1)

My reaction was that the book was an attempt by the author to be "cool." All she really did was copy Western novel styles. I found the book tedious, but did read to the end before putting it in goodwill. I would rather read “Harry Potter and the Showdown,” by Li Jingsheng. (Anyone know the web address?)

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