February 03, 2009

Stinky Penguin vs. Big Butt

The third Chinese book I have read so far this year is called Stinky Penguin vs. Big Butt (臭企鵝vs.大屁股), which gives this post an extremely disreputably-sounding title. The book is written by Taiwanese writer Xiao Ye (小野) and his son Li Zhong (李中). The book is subtitled "The War between Father and Son, Round 1". For some reason (which the book does not explain), Li Zhong started calling his father "Stinky Penguin," and in retaliation, the father calls the son "Big Butt."

The most common form of Taiwanese literature is the essay, which is found in many daily newspapers. These writings are often collected and published as a book. (This isn't my own observation--I read this in a book published by the ROC government.) This book is an example of such: the essays in this book appeared in the newspaper before making it into the book.

This book, published in 1999, is Xiao Ye's 70th book, and counting his 30 movie scripts, it is his 100th work. I read and enjoyed one of his short novels that seemed to be written for young people. So, I chose this book not because of the ridiculous title, but because it was the most interesting choice out of about five books that I had to choose from during the New Year's vacation.

Xiao Ye has been a popular author for years, and according to his Wikipedia article, his popularity started in 1975 with a book (蛹之生) that won an award from the United Daily News. He also won an award for best original screenplay at the 23rd annual Golden Horse Awards. He now has a blog with the Apple Daily.

In this book there are fifteen pairs of essay, where each pair has one essay written by father and one written by son on the same topic. Some of the topics are: getting a driver's license, watching a meteor shower, movies, military camp, reading, college entrance exams, and leisure activities. As you can see, the writing is mostly about everyday life. I usually don't read this kind of thing, but it wasn't bad. Reading books from another culture also has the benefit that you can learn a little more about the culture.



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