Books Lunch Date: Serve The People!
posted by May 23 at 13:00 PMon
(A few times a week, I take a new book with me to lunch and give it a half an hour or so to grab my attention. Lunch Date is my judgment on that speed-dating experience.)
Who’s your date today? Serve The People! by Yan Lianke.
Where’d you go? My birthday is on Saturday and my license is about to expire, so for lunch I went to the downtown office of the Washington State Department of Licensing, on Spring between 2nd and 3rd.
What’d you eat? Nothing.
How was the food? Actually, with the prevalent ass smell of the DOL, I kind of lost my appetite, anyway.
What does your date say about itself? The dust jacket says that this is a Chinese novel that has been banned in China. It found popularity on the internet and is now being published by the lovely paperback original Black Cat imprint. It’s about a love afffair in 1967 Mao Zedong’s Communist China. A blurb on the dust jacket reads:
“This novel slanders Mao Zedong, the army, and is overflowing with sex…do not distribute, pass around, comment on, excerpt from it, or report on it.” —Chinese Central Propaganda Bureau
Is there a representative quote? “This, plainly, was the Division Commander’s workroom—like a novelist’s study, but a hundred thousand times more important. Wu Dawang blinked at the frenzies of blood-red arrows and multicolored lines swarming over maps punctuated by brightly scrawled circles, triangles and squares—as if an entire garden had burst into glorious bloom inside the house. He instinctively averted his gaze.”
Will you two end up in bed together? Yes. I only got about twelve pages in—more on this in a minute—but even though it’s based in 1960s China, it reads almost like dystopic science fiction. The dry, wry sense of humor is especially appreciated. It’s pretty rare that someone gets a chance to read a novel that is actually subversive. And as for the DOL: I actually got in and out in about fifteen minutes, which was pretty impressive, although I am now the owner of the Worst Driver’s License Picture In The World. Also, I left with absolutely no appetite because the stench was worse than riding the bus. But the experience was nowhere near as bad as it could’ve been.