Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Bridge across the Pacific

By Kang Liao | Go to book overview

through her numerous books toward correcting Westerners' distorted image of the Chinese" ( H. Liu65). These articles are politically partial and have done much injustice to her and her books.

Furthermore, Pearl Buck was, after all, an American, and so, when the representative works of Chinese-Americans were selected or anthologized, she was ineligible for consideration. For instance, The Heath Anthology of American Literature is now the most multicultural collection, and one of the editors is Professor Amy Ling, whose specialty is multi-ethnic literature in the United States and Chinamerican literature. She selected works on Chinese themes by Edith Maud Eaton [ 1865-1914], Maxine Hong Kingston [b. 1940], Amy Tan [b. 1952], Gish Jen [b. 1955], Cathy Song [b. 1955], and David Henry Hwang [b. 1957] among others. Pearl Buck would bridge the chronological gap between Eaton and Kingston nicely, but Pearl Buck was not anthologized, not because her works have less artistic value than theirs, but because she had no Chinese blood. In the traditional classification of literature by nationality and race she was again an outsider, as she was when living in China, when attending Randolph-Macon Woman's College, and when settling down in the United States. An excerpt of Younghill Kang East Goes West is included in the anthology, and in the headnote, Elaine H. Kim mentioned that Kang once commented that "it was his great misfortune that Pearl Buck's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about China, The Good Earth, was published in the same year as The Great Roof, eclipsing his own tale of Asia" ( 1949). If Kang could live to see Ling's selection, he would sigh, "Such is the fate of an outsider!"


NOTES
1.
See page 109 of Paul Doyle Pearl S. Buck. A passage is quoted from Dragon Seed to demonstrate that it is "not far from the tone and manner of A Farewell to Arms."
2.
It is really strange that she should judge so. See George A. Cevasco essay "Pearl Buck's Best Books" in Notes on Modern American Literature Summer 1981: 5 ( 3), item 19.
3.
Even among those who defended Pearl Buck, some assumed that the Swedish Academy was thinking of only The Good Earth, as Henry Seidel Canby put it in Saturday Review of Literature on 11 November 1938: "[ The Nobel Committee] must be crowning one book, a masterpiece which richly deserves exalted recognition . . . a unique book, and in all probability belongs among the permanent contributions to world literature of our times" (24).
4.
See the New York Times. 24 December 1938: 13. The translations of the citation are often slightly different. The word "genuine" instead of "generous" appears in most of later quotations.
5.
Pearl Buck's first response to the news that she had won the Nobel Prize was not to believe it, thinking it was a practical joke the reporters played on her. After a verifying phone call to Stockholm, she said the prize should have gone to Theodore Dreiser. See New York Times, 11 Nov. 1938: 1 or My Several Worlds, 77.
6.
See My Several Worlds, p. 283.

-44-

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Pearl S. Buck: A Cultural Bridge across the Pacific
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Recent Titles in Contributions to the Study of World Literature ii
  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • 1 - A Paradoxical Enigma 1
  • Notes 15
  • 2 - A Neglected Laureate 17
  • Notes 44
  • 3 - A Single-Handed Crusader 47
  • Notes 82
  • 4 - A Multicultural Mediator 83
  • Notes 118
  • 5 - A Historic Mirror 121
  • Notes 137
  • Index 173
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