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Playing for Thrills Paperback – April 1, 1998
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Here's a book that succeeds on several different levels: as a gripping (if slightly eccentric) thriller, as a political statement, and as a social document about the way people can lead colorful and dangerously exciting underground lives even in a repressive country. Wang Shuo is a pioneer in what China has labeled "hooligan literature," writing novels, movie scripts, television series, and songs about people and subjects deemed so unfit for public consumption that his work is officially banned (although widely popular). Playing for Thrills, the first of his books to appear in English, is narrated by a former soldier and current wise guy named Fang Yan, who spends his time gambling, eating, drinking, trying to have sex, and wondering if he was indeed involved in the murder of a former army buddy 10 years ago, as the police seem to think. In Howard Goldblatt's lively translation, the author's dialogue has the snap of enhanced reality: "Not so fast," says a character called Fat Man Wu as he describes the small, exclusive "party" that he and Fang Yan belong to. "With us it's instinct. Sooner or later every member of our party cools his heels in jail--that's how we keep things jumping politically." --Dick Adler
From Publishers Weekly
Reading this Chinese mystery is not unlike running with one foot glued to the ground. Perhaps it's the translation, but more likely it's the subversive quirkiness of the author, a popular Chinese novelist who has clearly devoured his hardboiled American crime novels and seen more than a few European films loaded with angst and noirisms. Maybe there was a murder 10 years ago. Dissolute narrator Fang Yan, a rebel without a cause in Beijing, does recall a woman, a job, a table full of friends and one figure sitting close by whom he can't quite identify. The authorities have picked Yan as their best suspect. He moves in panic through his beloved Beijing, always meeting people he knows, and even some who think he's someone else. Is he that someone else? Did he actually kill once? Is the man really dead? And who is the sitting figure on the far edges of his memory? The humor is dry yet clearly intentional. The cultural references are slight enough that these could be whoring, gambling, shiftless young men pretty much anywhere. Yan is a slovenly immoral drifter living on his charm and his wits-and clearly running low on both. Even if he's not guilty in this particular instance, he deserves at least some of the mental torture the narrative creates for him in a series of plot lurches drawn in equal parts from crime lore, existentialism and pure moral farce.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
I hated this book, but found it totally addictive. Wang Shuo is a master storyteller, and like a good film director, cleverly manipulates his audience, and we are always exactly where he wants us to be.
The plot is pretty petty and pointless, but the rambling narrative presents the best literary portrait there is of Beijing in the 1980s. It is especially amusing in its scathing portrait of the new semi-rich wheeler-dealer class, in all their tastelessness and self-importance.
Wang Shuo is arguably the most critically and commercially successful writer in modern China, and is also an acclaimed screen writer. This book may not provide a sense of his importance, but it will introduce readers to his expertly maneuvered prose.
I personally just can't help clearifying that there are not so many banned books in China as some of the westen readers might expect. No harm is meant here.
Wang Shuo is one of the most controversial writer in China at present. He is extremely famous for criticize and challenge of a lot of well-recognized scholars. He has a large number of both followers and criticizers, which forms a extradonary literacy phenomenon in China.
Playing for thrills is a book known for his sarcastic, spoken language style. It is real fun to read this book. But the author seems to show off his writing skills as he admitted later. I am personally a follower of Wang Shuo, but will not hesitate to point out the weakness in his ideology. I hope more of his works will be translated into foreign languages.