Monday, November 19, 2007

SHORT STORY MONDAY: Buying a Fishing Rod for My Grandfather by Gao Xingjian

Buying a Fishing Rod for My Grandfather by Gao Xingjian
collection of short stories
This is a slim collection from the Nobel Prize Winning author Gao Xingjian. I'm pretty sure I'm doing his name wrong, but 3M is counting this for an X author, so that's good enough for me!
I confess that Nobel Prize winning author brings me connotations of 'boring' and 'too deep' for me to get, and unfortunately, this book lived up to my expectations. I think these are the kind of stories people talk about when they say short stories leave them missing something. These stories have an added distance in that very few characters are ever named. There is a distance from each story that doesn't allow you to get involved.
"The Accident" describes a bicycle-bus accident on a busy city street. It was accurate in describing the scene, and describing how the witnesses all react, each reading their own life into what they observe. But not much actually happens, and we don't find out anything that happens to the victims. I think it is supposed to represent the impersonal aspect of living in large cities, and how we witness events and never find out what happens after it's over. Then the narrative suddenly switches to a philosophical analysis, and tries to explain how it might not have happened and accidents aren't statistics and it ended so weirdly.
But not as weird as the title story. I don't even know what that one was about. A man is reflecting on his childhood and grandfather, but then the narrative becomes jumbled and there are references to not finding his home, and deserts and lakes and sand, and then he is describing a soccer game in the middle of a two page paragraph. I guess he is watching TV and dreaming about his childhood. That might actually explain it, but doesn't help me because I don't like reading about dreams in stories; they are weird enough when they are my own, and then to try and interpret someone else's dream. Blah.
Summary: I think this book is deep, and probably good for big thinkers, but I don't want to have to work that hard on my reading. The stories I read can have layers, but the top layer has to make sense, or I won't bother looking below the surface.


  1. Seems to me, the problem with many modern short stories is that they don't really have a solid ending. They end up being 'character studies' more than stories, and I don't like that. They would do well to model their stories after Stephen King's. He knows how to end a story.

  2. Exactly! Stephen King can really write short stories. Maybe even better than his novels? The novels go on for so long, but his SS are so great.

  3. I haven't read him before, but it's the 2nd review I've read in a short while. I agree btw, that Stephen King's short stories are perhaps even superior to his novels.

  4. It's the 2nd review because I follow 3m, and read whatever she reads. Plus tryin got do that A to Z author challenge, and there aren't many x's.
    I almost put that same thing, King's SS are better than his novels, but then I remembered The Stand, and couldn't quite write it down.


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