Saturday, October 24, 2009

Revenge of the Mooncake Vixen by Marilyn Chin

I was really excited to discover this story collection which a colleague recommended. I confess lately fiction about children of immigrants has started to blend for me into one big story of one big generation gap. But these stories are a new take, both fresh content and a fresh style, and--added bonus--they are really funny. The collection, largely centered on twin Chinese sisters, Moonie and Mei Ling, and their feisty ninja grandmother, uses folk tales, fables, manja, Buddhist parables and all kinds of other forms as its stylistic base, but what makes it feel so fresh to me is the way both the older generation and the younger generation have become this mix of old and new ways.

Another fresh aspect: Chin doesn't ignore the bawdiness of folk tales the way most contemporary re-writers of the form do--she really embraces it (Let's just say Hello Kitty has some new connotations) and lets the twins, or at least one of them, be odd sexual adventurers, ultimately creating female characters who are unabashedly strange and audacious not just in their sexual behavior but all around.

I'm not really conveying the spirit of the collection which moves quickly from episode to episode and style to style...but it's funny and fun while being political and sophisticated. The tone is antic but there's a lot under the surface. Probably the most original story collection I've read since George Saunders came on the scene. (though admittedly I haven't been reading that many story collections in the past few years)(I'm happy to hear any recommendations).

No comments: