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Apologies Forthcoming Paperback – May 1, 2008
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From the Publisher
A totally illuminating collection of stories centered around China's Cultural Revolution and its aftermath, which, as we learn, continues even today. Xujun Eberlein lived in China during that turmoil and now makes her home in America. This, her first story collection, is both disturbing and enthralling.
About the Author
Xujun Eberlein grew up in Chongqing, China, and moved to the United States in the summer of 1988. After receiving a Ph.D. from MIT in the spring of 1995, and winning an award for her dissertation, she joined a small but ambitious high tech company. On Thanksgiving 2003, she gave up algorithms for writing. She has since won a bunch of literary awards. Her debut story collection Apologies Forthcoming won the 2007 Tartt Fiction Award and was published in June 2008. She is the recipient of a 2008 artist fellowship in fiction/creative nonfiction from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
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Top Customer Reviews
The stories in the book (my favorite is "Disciple of the Masses") reveal important features of life in China during a time of great upheaval that shattered many families. But even in turbulence, young people came of age, developed attachments, and learned that what they were taught was not always right. For the reader unfamiliar with China, these tales will still resonate because the narratives ring true.
While the setting and details are credible and precise, the language of the stories is occasionally, to my ear, somewhat awkward. Paradoxically, however, this awkwardness only adds to the writer's authority, because the rhythm and vocabulary serve to underscore the collection's Chineseness. And it is that Chineseness--the transport to a time and place that is so unfamiliar to most readers--that makes Apologies Forthcoming a special book.
The tones of the stories range from intense passion to distant indifference. This disparity seems to work well with the characters as it clearly shows the impact of the atrocities that occurred during the revolution. The passion is evident in Shanzi, a young city insert sent into the country, in "Disciple of the Masses." Cloaked in the naive passion of the cause, she seems often unaware of the direness of her situation.
Indifference proves shocking in "Watch the Thrill," as Eberlein tells the story of two young boys in the midst of national turmoil. Within the limitations of the Cultural Revolution, the boys find themselves bored and looking for excitement. A horrific event occurs before their eyes. What is shocking is not so much the event itself (as it appears to be a common occurrence during the revolution), but the shear indifference of one of the boys to the pain of a young man from their neighborhood who is headed for his death.
Eberlein reveals the challenges of relationships during era of the Cultural Revolution in the connecting tales, "Pivot Point" and "The Randomness of Love." By tracing the evolving relationship of a young educated woman and her married lover, Eberlein reveals the difficulty of making connections and maintaining them. Although this situation is common, what is riveting is the the path that Eberlein takes the young woman on; a path that will ultimately lead to either hope or utter despair.
The remaining tales feature young people figuring out who they are, families torn apart, friendships tested, and loyalties betrayed all occurring within the constraints of a pivotal time in China's history. With each story, Eberlein pulls in the reader with her honest narratives, strong characterizations, and simple and casual language.
As a regular reader of world and multicultural literature, I felt that Eberlein's writing style was rather unique in that she was able to capture the indifference and the passion weaved within her stories with a rather simple and honest style. Often it is easy to get caught up in the language and neglect the authenticity of the story. Clearly, no apologies are needed as Eberlein delivers an influential and unforgettable collection of tales.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
When dealing with people "proceed gingerly and think three times before speaking"
This is a quick review; it has been over two...Read more
Each story in Xujun Eberlein's Apologies Forthcoming is set within or haunted by the Chinese Cultural revolution, invoking the specters of...Read more