Monday, October 03, 2005

Marrying Buddha

A while ago I read Wei Hui (of Shanghai Baby or 上海寶貝 fame)'s book recently translated into English, Marrying Buddha. For whose of you who knew me at the time, you may remember that I didn't much like Shanghai Baby when I read it and that I complained about it constantly while I was reading it and also when I was analyzing it for my junior qualifying examination. (What a dumb idea that was).

Anyway, while Marrying Buddha is a bit better than Shanghai Baby, mostly because many of the embarrassing, and explicit-to-the-point-of-ruining-any-intended-erotic-effect sex scenes have been toned down. Possibly because the translation is better. However, since I know the translator, I may be a bit biased. Similar to the career of another "Chinese woman writer" sensation, Amy Tan, Marrying Buddha tells almost the exact same story as Shanghai Baby. Where the same protagonist is caught between two men, one more "Oriental" and spiritual, and also somewhat impotent. And the ruthless, carnal "Western" guy with whom she just has a lot of sex.

Of course, because Wei Hui constantly describes herself as incredibly beautiful and talented as well as being very successful, this all seems perfectly natural. She also employs similar devices as before. She describes a "modern Chinese lifestyle" while also throwing in some Orientalist bones. Spirituality, complete with mystical islands (and monks!), as well as some fashionable bisexuality and a transgendered "best friend."

Marrying Buddha follows the plot of Shanghai Baby almost exactly. Ending once again with the "heroine" losing both men and ending more or less inconclusively, and anticlimatically. As you have no doubt concluded if you are still reading, I did not really like Marrying Buddha. In order to like this book, you'd probably have to like Wei Hui simply for the fact that she spends so much frickin' time talking about herself. She's still not a very good writer, I don't really dig the Eastern impotent man, Western hypersexual man thing. This is made slightly more bearable than Shanghai Baby simply because the super offensive Nazi analogies have been cut out. However, slightly less bad still doesn't make something good. Wei Hui didn't have much to say in the first place, and she's ultimately just repeating herself here. I'm predicting that this book will be less successful than Shanghai Baby. If only because "Asian female writers" are almost always one hit wonders. If there is a third book, which hopefully there's not. Hopefully she'll have figured out something else to write about.


nien said...

has "marrying buddha" been banned in china yet?

lovelesscynic said...

I think Wei Hui is just banned in general.

Anonymous said...