Book picks similar to
Imperfect Paradise: Twenty-Four Stories by Shen Congwen


short-stories
chinese-literature
china
literary-fiction

An Empty Room


Mu Xin - 1982
    A cycle of thirteen tenderly evocative stories written while Mu Xin was living in exile, this collection is reminiscent of the structural beauty of Hemingway’s In Our Time and the imagistic power of Kawabata’s palm-of-the-hand stories. From the ordinary (a bus accident) to the unusual (Buddhist halos) to the wise (Goethe, Lao Zi), Mu Xin’s wandering “I” interweaves plots with philosophical grace and spiritual profundity. A small blue bowl becomes a symbol of vanishing childhood; a painter in a race against fading memory scribblesnotes in an underground prison during the Cultural Revolution; an abandoned temple room holds a dark mystery. An Empty Room is a soul-stirring page turner, a Sebaldian reverie of passing time, loss, and humanity regained.

Frontier


Can Xue - 2017
    Her publications in English include The Embroidered Shoes, Five Spice Street, Vertical Motion, and The Last Lover, which won the 2015 Best Translated Book Award for Fiction.Karen Gernant is a professor emerita of Chinese history at Southern Oregon University. She translates in collaboration with Chen Zeping.Chen Zeping is a professor of Chinese linguistics at Fujian Teachers' University, and has collaborated with Karen Gernant on more than ten translations.

Duet


Carol Shields - 2003
    Carol Shields' first novels, "Small Ceremonies" and "The Box Garden," each told from the viewpoint of a sister, published as one.

Ingratitude


Ying Chen - 1995
    In Ingratitude,Ying Chen tells the story of Yan-Zi, who decides to commit suicide in order to escape the yoke of her dominating mother. The narrator's account of her final days recalls the chilling detachment of Camus's The Stranger.

To Skin a Cat


Thomas McGuane - 1987
    "A cornucopia of McGuane's grace, humor, gusto and smarts . . ".

Ideas of Heaven


Joan Silber - 2005
    Though the stories stand alone, a minor element in one becomes major in the next. In "My Shape", a woman is taunted by her dance coach, who later suffers his own heartache. A Venetian poet of the 1500s, another storyteller, is introduced to a modern traveler reading Rilke. His story precedes a mesmerizing narrative of missionaries in China. In the final story, Giles, born to a priesthood family, leans toward Buddhism after a grievous loss, and in time falls in love with the dancer of the first story. So deft and subtle is Joan Silber with these various perspectives that we come full circle surprised and enchanted by her myriad worlds. National Book Award finalist. Reading group guide included.

Maybe This Time


Alois Hotschnig - 2006
    A man becomes obsessed with observing his neighbors. A large family gathers for Christmas only to wait for the one member who never turns up. An old woman lures a man into her house where he finds dolls resembling himself as a boy. Mesmerizing and haunting stories about loss of identity in the modern world.Why Peirene chose to publish this book: 'I love Kafka and here we have a Kafkaesque sense of alienation - not to mention narrative experiments galore! Outwardly normal events slip into drama before they tip into horror. These oblique tales exert a fascinating hold over the reader.' Meike Ziervogel, PublisherFirst published under the original German title: Die Kinder beruhigte das nicht by Kiepenheuer & Witsch, 2006

Shadow Play


Charles Baxter - 1993
    These two books, set in the Michigan landscape that Baxter has made his own, display his unparalleled gift for revealing the unexpected in everyday life. In the novel Shadow Play, a decent man, having made a "devil's bargain," finds himself on that precarious border between personal love and social responsibility. Reading group guide included.

Easy in the Islands


Bob Shacochis - 1985
    An entire island bureaucracy casually confounds the attempts of Tillman, a hotel owner, in his attempt to get his dead mother out of the freezer and into a real grave; stymied, he resorts to a highly unusual form of burial. Two poor islanders stumble into a high-class dance party one night and find themselves caught up in a violent encounter that just might escalate into revolution. And a young woman sails off into the romantic tropics with the man of her dreams, only to learn the hard way - as Eve did - that paradise is just another place to leave behind.Winner of the National Book Award for first fiction, Easy in the Islands is a “stunning” (Washington Post) collection of stories by one of America’s foremost contemporary fiction writers. Infused with the rhythms and the beat of the Caribbean, these vivid tales of paradise sought and paradise lost are as lush, steamy, and invigorating as the islands themselves.From fishing fleets in remote atolls too small to appear on any map and reggae bars on islands narrow enough to walk across in an hour, to the sprawling barrios and yacht filled marinas of Miami, Bob Shacochis charts a course across a Caribbean that no one who has ever been there on vacation will recognize.

Pack of Cards


Penelope Lively - 1999
    Whether she writes about a widow on a visit to Russia, a small boy's consignment to boarding school, or an agoraphobic housewife, Penelope Lively takes the reader past the closed curtains, through the locked door, into a world that seems at first mundane and then at second glance, proves to be uniquely memorable.

Love Of Fat Men


Helen Dunmore - 1998
    In Short days, Long Nights a woman wakes to find a man in her bed and tries to piece together the jigsaw of the night before. But is he dead or just sleeping? In Girls on Ice two fashion students walk on the frozen sea until they are caught in a snowstorn, out of sight of land. Set as far apart as Finland, the Austrian Tyrol and upstate New York, the worlds of these stores come alive to the touch. Characters, themes and nuances resound from story to story forming unexpected connections and delightful surprises.

The King of Trees: Three Novellas: The King of Trees, The King of Chess, The King of Children


Ah Cheng - 1990
    Never before had a fiction writer dealt with the Cultural Revolution in such Daoist-Confucian terms, discarding Mao-speak, and mixing both traditional and vernacular elements with an aesthetic that emphasized not the hardships and miseries of those years, but the joys of close, meaningful friendships. In The King of Chess, a student’s obsession with finding worthy chess opponents symbolizes his pursuit of the dao; in The King of Children—made into an award-winning film by Chen Kaige, the director of Farewell My Concubine—an educated youth is sent to teach at an impoverished village school where one boy’s devotion to learning is so great he is ready to spend 500 days copying his teacher’s dictionary; and in the title novella a peasant’s innate connection to a giant primeval tree takes a tragic turn when a group of educated youth arrive to clear the mountain forest. The King of Trees is a masterpiece of world literature, full of passion and noble emotions that stir the inner chambers of the heart.

The End of Love


Marcos Giralt Torrente - 2011
    Each finds a man carefully churning over his past, trying to fathom how the distance between people can become suddenly unbridgeable. Two tourists visit a remote island off the coast of Africa and are undone by a disconcerting encounter with another couple. A young man, enchanted by his bohemian cousin and her husband, watches them fall into a state of resentful dependence over the course of decades. A chaste but all-consuming love affair between a troubled boy and a wealthy but equally troubled girl leaves a scar that never heals. The son of divorced parents tries in vain to reunite them before realizing why he is wrong to do so. In The End of Love, Giralt Torrente forges discomfiting and gripping dramas from the small but consequential misunderstandings that shape our lives.

Finding a Girl in America


Andre Dubus - 1980
    Set in Dubus's largely coastal New England world, these short works focus on the residual anguish and momentary elation of deep emotional attachments--between lovers, between parent and child, and between estranged spouses.

The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea


Christopher Meeks - 2005
    In one narrative, a man wakes up one morning to find the odor of dead fish won't go away, but no one else can smell it. In another, a couple's visit with friends to watch the Academy Awards has the protagonist envying his friends' lawn and lifestyle. In these and eleven other stories, Christopher Meeks balances tragedy and wit. As novelist David Scott Milton explains, "In this collection, Christopher Meeks examines the small heartbreaks of quiet despair that are so much a part of all our lives. He does it in language that is resonant, poetic, and precise.... If you like Raymond Carver, you'll love Meeks. He may be as good--or better."