Monday, March 07, 2016

Of Everyone's Lives

Short stories are so easy to digest. Many can be crap. Luckily this compilation is good- David Gordon's first collection of 13 offbeat short stories titled 'White Tiger on Snow Mountain'. Downloaded it because I remembered the rambling first story 'Man-Boob Summer' that was published earlier somewhere. (Reviews herehere and here.)

What a hoot. Love the humor and sardonic wit in all 13 stories. They all have abrupt endings in the best scenarios, going seemingly nowhere. I haven't read the author's previous two novels- 'The Serialist' and 'Mystery Girl'. I understand 'The Serialist' is David Gordon's debut novel, and has been translated into Japanese and turned into a Japanese film. Heh. Will check this out. Not so keen on 'Mystery Girl'. The last story in the book 'The Amateur', was earlier released as a Kindle single.

'Su Li-Zhen' threw me into peals of laughter. It's so lame! What an unexpected story. It even mentioned Hong Kong film 'In The Mood for Love', and more or less ran with that storyline set in New York City with  a bohemian actress and a writer who used to be a couple. There was a link to Taipei when they both enjoyed a holiday there, then broke up. They met again when Nina needed help with looking for a reincarnate of sorts, in New York. Duh. Ha. It also mentioned 'Rouge' which starred Anita Mui and Leslie Cheung. Made me wonder how much of a fan of Canto-films David Gordon is, and if he enjoyed Wong Kar-wai's films. :P

And the eponymous story 'White Tiger on Snow Mountain' of course had nothing to do with either. It simply refers to a 3D image on a page of the calendar that was captioned as such. "Last fall I became impotent. Well, not literally. For one thing I wasn't having sex with anyone and so couldn't verify any specific incidents of impotence. But I began to suspect that if I did, I would. More precisely, I became afflicted with the fear of impending impotence." The story is all about the protagonist's perceived impotence, his sudden decision to quit smoking and his visits to Dr Chang's office to help him do so with acupuncture and Asian herbs, aaannd internet porn. In a digital book, those fonts in certain passages change, helpfully reflecting and even illustrating different tones, moods and voices.

The weather got warmer, I went out more, and after a while I began talking to real-time, off-line girls again, in shops, in elevators, on the street. They gave me the brush-off, of course, but some did it nicely, with a smile or a bit of banter, and I realized they acknowledged me as human, and not some basement-dwelling monster. Then one girl didn't dismiss me, she sat on the stoop and talked and gave me her number, and soon we were spending our nights together and planning a trip for summer. 
The bad news was I lost my insurance and couldn't keep seeing Dr. Chang. But she said it was OK, checking my pulses and peering my tongue one last time. I was better, she said. I was free to go. She shook my hand, and Amy waved from where she stood, sleeves rolled as at a work-bench, applying suction cups to an old lady's back. The calendar showed a hillside covered in cherry blossoms. It was May.

'Vampires of Queens' has such a misleading title. Grrrr. There wasn't anything supernatural, except for a boy's suggestion that a vampire lives upstairs in the form of an old blind man. Elliot is ill. He seems to have caught a bronchial bug of sorts. His skin broke out in hives, swelled up and eyes were inflamed. He even climbed out of the window and up the fire escape to visit the old man who fed him tales of vampires and at the last count, how five vampire hunters tried to kill him. Laughed really loud when the old man showed him a thick lumpy scar across his chest, which he said he paid a doctor to remove a tumor within that held hair and teeth.

My mother and I watch the arrow above the elevator move from number to number. 
We've been shopping, and she holds a bag of groceries in each arm. The elevator door slides back. 
"Step aside please," a large man in coveralls says, backing out. He's holding one end of a gurney. A black cloth covers the shape of a body. 
"Oh that poor old blind man from 6C," my mother says as the wheels squeak by. "He's finally passed on." 
"Maybe he's just sleeping," I say. The sun isn't down yet. 
"Yes, dear, it's like he's sleeping. Only he won't wake up anymore." 
I think about the time I woke up and found a long blond hair that wasn't mine in my mouth and about the soreness in my chest sometimes that burns like a tooth when I breathe. I say the word to myself: "Tumor."

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