Monday, 16 July 2007

Shanghai Baby

SHANGHAI BABY by Wei Hui is a bit like those painted wooden Russian dolls, one fitting inside the other until you come to the final core doll, a tiny replica of the big one. A story within a story, a novel within a novel. Is Shanghai Baby Wei Hui? Is the character of Coco her double? I felt like I was reading a made up tale, or was it a true story told within a made up tale? I cant tell...

It's a book of out front eroticism—hot, but shallow—immature emotions and true depth of feeling.

"My name is Nikki but my friends all call me Coco after Coco Chanel, a French lady who lived to be almost ninety. She is my idol, after Henry Miller. Every morning when I open my eyes I wonder what I can do to make myself famous. It's become my ambition, almost my raison d'être, to burst upon the city like fireworks. This has a lot to do with the fact that I live in Shanghai. A mystical fog envelops the city, mixed with continual rumors and an air of superiority...this hint of smugness affects me: I both love and hate it. "

Coco is a writer. Like Wei Hui. And, like Wei Hui, Coco has published stories using the same titles—Shriek Of The Butterfly, Virgin In The Water, Desire Pistol—as Wei Hui. And real life Wei Hui has even published a story called Crazy Like Wei Hui. Coco is a party girl, an addicted shopper, an urbane lover and poetic girlfriend. Throughout the book she is writing a novel and I could never be sure if I was seeing Wei Hui in the mirror Coco looked into, or if what I was reading was all Coco fiction: "I've always believed that writing is like sorcery. Like me, my heroine did not want to lead an ordinary life. She is ambitious, has two men and lives an emotional roller coaster...Like me, she was afraid that when she went to hell there would be no films to watch, no comfortable pajamas to wear, no heavenly sounds of records to be heard--just suffocating boredom."

It doesn't matter if it's Coco's story or Wei Hui's. I was taken to Shanghai and the backdrop of that old, cosmopolitan city, with its long history of foreign influence, keeps the story in place. I travel the streets with Coco, meet her friends—Madonna, Spider, Ah Dick, Flying Apple and company, and we meet her lovers: The impotent painter, Tian Tian and the sexually charged German, Mark, a rich businessman with whom Coco shares a carnality that sautés the pages. Ouch.

Coco only glances at world problems. Or at the plight of Chinese peasants—-no where to be seen in Shanghai, except for the take-out Chinese delivery boy (Coco eats either junk food, take-out or fancy restaurant fare paid for by someone else.) Her private angst consumes her. In Tian Tian she has found her soul mate. A lovely almost feminine man, he is supported by his mother, an expatriate living in Spain, who, according to Tian Tian's grandmother, is responsible for the murder of Tian Tian's father. Tian Tian is haunted by his absentee mother, he is fragile and too vulnerable for the world. It is no surprise that he succumbs to the lure of drugs; he's tailor made for opiates. But it is Tian Tian who encourages Coco to write her novel, and they are blissful together when he paints and she writes. Alas, there is that impotency issue. "My brain was a screen covered in dust, and my darling and I were the world's most hopeless leading couple." What can one do with deep love minus deep sex?

Coco tells me about her problems, her life, her what if's and her why's. It's a pronouncement, abd I got used to them. And to the fast-paced lyricism that shines here and there throughout. I love Wei Hui's book, with its unashamed female-ness and free thought.
And I closed the book with one thougt- I wonder if Coco's book as good as Wei Hui's?
And now Im curious. I must try and get Wei Hui's other books...

Brilliant read... Love it.

Rating: 10/10- the best book for me yet.

Sunday, 8 July 2007

The Givenchy Code

Same sort of story line like the Davinci Code, same sort of plot, someone being hunt by someone else, except it is more of a game with loads of clothes, shoes and handbag brands where the plot is concerned. I could actually put the book down, I didn't get lost in some translation of the codes, as it was somewhat straight forward.
I was actually reading it in parallel with some other book- Shanghai Baby, which I found more interesting.

Back to the Givenchy Code.

The girl was chosen to be a target by some sicko who invented the game over the Internet. Along the way, she met her protector and obviously her killer. Also she found out the guy that gave her the red Givenchy shoes that was supposedly killed in the game has something to do with the plot. He is also her ex boyfriend.

So there, the plot is not all that thick, but it was an easy read for me.

Ratings: 5 out of 10