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Fiction

Lovers in the age of indifference

Lovers in the Age of Indifference is a collection of Short stories and random thoughts from Guo’s journey around the globe. It is supposed to talk about, as the title suggested, the irony and the indifference of contemporary view about love and romance, but really it’s just snippets and satire of every-day people experiencing the void and emptiness in their lives.

There is this mountain keeper, apathy and indifference, who hear about the lure of the city and contemplating leaving his Mountain. Similar theme emanates from Winter Worm Summer Weed, a herbs which is valued for medicinal purpose is renowned to harvest from the Maduo County in Qing Hai Province, China. 

Cities, girls, what does it matter? He mutters to himself and turns back to the mountain.

The Winter Worm Summer Weed lives on these mountains. Winter Worm Summer Weed feeds the mountain side, and the mountain feeds us. We live from the mountain, live from the Winter Worm Summer Weed. We are Winter Worm Summer Weed people, that is all.

Winter Worms Summer Weed - Medicinal herbs

Guo also narrates daily anecdotes of a prostitute in Beijing in Beijing’s Slowest Elevator and a possible love affair between a prostitute and her customer in “Lovers in the age of Indifference”. Infidelity in “Then the Game begins” and “Anywhere I lay my head “, a stateless man stranded in a airport, what people are willing to do for money in An Internet Baby, what Yujun a servant would do for a script writer Ning, to help get his money back from the producer in Into the World; Zhang Yi contemplating suicide in Today I decide to die.

Perhaps the most interesting format that show case Xiaolu Guo’s ingenuity is to have chapters consisting of Junk mails, with plea of help to reader of the email to supply bank account details to help a poor widow / war refugee / political exile transfer their money out from their countries (sounds familiar?) or telephone text messages between two lovers in The Third Tree, one of whom is in a relationship; or letters to a lover who wouldn’t reply in Address Unknown, and my favourite chapter on every day censure of Chinese newspaper for political correctness on news draft by the Beijing Morning Star journalists; and the book ended with the Chinese Folklore of the love story between Chang Er and Hou Yi.

Rating: 3.5/5

I actually like Xiaolu Guo’s other books better, UFO in Her Eyes and 20 fragments of Ravenous Youth and my favourite being The Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers. This latest book reflects a certain despondent and jaded view about life. A frequent mention of an English man (who does gardening and lives in Hackney, London) did not reciprocate the main female character’s love is brought up in several of her books, and I wonder if it mirrors Xiaolu Guo’s personal sentiment of being afflicted with the pain of a failing love?

Xiaolu Guo is a talented young lady, her recent credit is a film feature, She, A Chinese realeased in 2009 and new documentary Once Upon a Time Proletarian is currently screening at international film festivals. Her work is always worth the read.

I am reading this for: China Challenge.

Paperback. Publisher: Chatto & Windus, Random Books 2010; Length: 214 pages; Setting: Contemporary China and Europe. Source: Library Loot. Finished reading at: 28 Feb 2010

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About JoV

A bookaholic that went out of control.... I eat, sleep and breathe books. Well, lately I do other stuff.

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Ratings Defined

0 = Abandon the book after first chapter

1 = Waste of paper, we will see what the environmentalist say about this!

2 = Skip it, read the book if you have got nothing better to do

2.5 = An average book, easily forgettable.

3 = A good read.

3.5 = A good entertaining read, a page-turner

4 = So glad that I read the book, a book with substance and invaluable for future reference

4.5 = So glad that I read the book, would pester everyone to read it, invaluable, I would want to own it and wouldn't mind a second read (something that I seldom do)

5 = The book is so good that I feel like I am on scale 4 and 4.5, and more, it blew me away and lingers on my head for weeks!

Books Read

JoV's bookshelf: read
Hold Tight
The Fault in Our Stars
The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon
The Thief
Mockingjay
Catching Fire
A Tale for the Time Being
Into the Darkest Corner
The Liars' Gospel
Goat Mountain
Strange Weather In Tokyo
Strange Shores
And the Mountains Echoed
Ten White Geese
One Step Too Far
The Innocents
The General: The ordinary man who became one of the bravest prisoners in Guantanamo
White Dog Fell from the Sky
A Virtual Love
The Fall of the Stone City


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Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking. - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)

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