Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

"Love in the Market Place" by Yiyun Li (2005, from A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, 2005 Frank O'Connor Prize Winner)

Official bio from author's web page

Yiyun Li grew up in Beijing and came to the United States in 1996. Her stories and essays have been published in The New YorkerBest American Short StoriesO Henry Prize Stories, and elsewhere. She has received fellowships and awards from Lannan Foundation and Whiting Foundation. Her debut collection, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers, won the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award, PEN/Hemingway Award, Guardian First Book Award, and California Book Award for first fiction; it was also shortlisted for Kiriyama Prize and Orange Prize for New Writers. Her novel, The Vagrants, won the gold medal of California Book Award for fiction. She was selected by Granta as one of the 21 Best Young American Novelists under 35, and was named by The New Yorker as one of the top 20 writers under 40. MacArthur Foundation named her a 2010 fellow. She is a contributing editor to the Brooklyn-based literary magazine, A Public Space. She lives in Oakland, California with her husband and their two sons, and teaches at University of California, Davis.

If you want to read stories by the very best contemporary writers, one decent idea  is  Frank O'Connor International Short Story winners works.  Yiyun Li won  in 2005 for her debut collection, A Thousand Years of Good Prayers.   I have previously posted on her superb novel The Vagrants and some of her short stories, all set either in contemporary China or related settings.  

"Love in the Market Place" is set in Beijing.  It centers on a female school teacher.  She loves the movie Casablanca and plays it for every class.   I love that movie also and I liked the teacher once I read that. She thinks the movie has strong ethical lessons to teach about keeping your promises.  Ten years ago she was jilted by a man who ended up moving to America with another woman.   She is completely single.   I liked her even more when I learned her only real comfort in life were a small collection of classic novels,  "works one could spend a life time studying", she bought in college.  Her mother makes hard boiled eggs and sells them in a train station, she has been doing this for forty years.  She prides her self on the care she takes to make the very best of hard boiled eggs.  Her daughter tells her why bother no one will take notice.   Her mother has big news for her.  The man who jilted her ten years ago is now divorced and is back in town.  Her mother pushes her to throw her self at the man.  She resists.  The conversations between mother and daughter are brilliant.  

The ending is remarkable, for some strange reason it made me think of Kafka's "The Hunger Artist".  The ending perplexed and disturbed me as I struggled to take it in.  This is a great short story.  I will post on more of her work, I hope.  

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