Magazine article Chinese Literature Today

A Multitude of Clamor

Magazine article Chinese Literature Today

A Multitude of Clamor

Article excerpt

Wang Anyi. A Multitude of Clamor. Fiction. Shanghai. Shanghai Literature Art Press. 2013. 200 pages. 23.00 RMB. ISBN 9787532147151.

When all is said and done, this novel is a dreamland among literature. It has both a sense of being closed offwhile remaining open. A Multitude of Clamor is a trial novel for author Wang Anyi. She builds an expanding world: China, from the several square kilometers surrounding the road-side button shop of her main character, Uncle Ou, where the clamor and vanity of China are shut in.

A beginning novel writer, Wang Anyi and her narrative are captivating, especially her narrative's rhythm, which is almost musical. Whether an eventful story opening or descriptive background music during the plot's main points, her reader's senses are completely unfastened. Wang's work not only challenges the difficulties of writing, but also vividly illustrates experiences for the reader's eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and body. Her literary language has color, sound, and aroma.

The author delineates her narrative's degree of difficulty through the character Uncle Ou, who has a speech impediment. He is the owner of a button shop and father to three boys and one girl. Unfortunately he rarely talks due to a stroke. When he does talk, he normally disagrees, reiterating, "It is not possible."

The phrase, "it is not possible," has many meanings. Uncle Ou watches the city of Shanghai from his several meters of space by the downstairs window, like looking through a lens. Using the eyes of Uncle Ou, the author is able to illustrate, as an observer would, Shanghai's changes over recent years. Wang Anyi's character Uncle Ou is, as a small shop owner, both a benefit to the general public and accustomed to his impairment. Because the relaxed responsibility of selling buttons requires almost no physical labor and does not earn much profit, the store is free of hectic chaos. Nevertheless, it almost always has at least two or three customers beyond the front counter comparing goods and making their thoughts and appreciations known.

Buttons were commonly found in Shanghai Longtang (narrow alleyways commonly seen in southern China) during the 1980s. Worth little value, they are small and often overlooked for more common, daily wares. …

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