Tsai Yahsun, Professor, Department of Applied Language and Culture, National Taiwan Normal University
“Plain Moon” took second place in the 1990 United Daily News Fiction Awards. The story deals with the interactions of Hong Kong immigrants and Mainland Chinese students living in the USA.
Plain Moon (Suyue), a young woman who works in the Wealth & Riches Garment Factory in New York City’s Chinatown, passes her days sewing clothes, machine-like, with no time for romance or meetings with prospective marriage partners. On a wall in her room she has hung a poster of Zhang Guorong (Leslie Cheung, a Hong Kong pop-star) and spends her days listening to his music. One day while eating lunch at the neighborhood Phoenix Restaurant, Plain Moon meets Li Ping, a delivery boy new to the area, and immediately falls for the young man. She begins putting on makeup before going to work, and spends her break-time in the restaurant, hoping for another chance meeting with Li.
On a her day off Plain Moon wanders into Phoenix and runs into Li Ping, who is wearing a white headband with red Chinese characters written on it – he is going to the Chinese consulate in New York City to participate in a student pro-democracy demonstration. Li invites Plain Moon to join him, and the two take part in the protest. The next day Li phones Plain Moon to tell her student demonstrators have been slaughtered in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square. From then on the two grow ever closer, she offering consolation and a sympathetic ear.
One evening Li Ping rushes to tell Plain Moon that his visa has been cancelled – someone has reported Li’s participation in the demonstration to authorities at the Chinese consulate. In love with the young man, Plain Moon suggests they marry, which would qualify Li Ping for permanent US residency in two years. After they wed, however, Plain Moon’s catches wind of Li Ping’s ongoing dalliances with other women. When Li admits to having a fiancée in China, Plain Moon calmly denounces the philanderer, ordering him to leave.
That night Plain Moon sits absently staring out a window until dawn. She has taken her marriage photo down from the wall, replacing it with the Leslie Cheung poster. She quits her job at Wealth & Riches and finds employment at another clothing factory, doing piecework, sewing a hundred shirts every eight-hour shift, a return to her dreary, machine-like existence.
Gu Zhaosen’s narrative style is calm and direct, yet meticulous in carving out characters’ inner worlds. In portraying Plain Moon and her social milieu, the writer uses Cantonese dialogue, accurately capturing Hong Kong immigrants’ outlook and attitudes. The Tiananmen massacre serves as the story’s backdrop, the era’s upheavals implicit within the narrative – Plain Moon and Li Ping are victims of the times, people forgotten by history.
Ma Yihang, PhD candidate, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan Normal University
Gu Zhaosen (1954-1994) graduated from Tunghai University’s Department of Life Science and earned a doctorate from the New York University School of Medicine. He began writing at age sixteen, and is a recipient of the Liang Shih-ch’iu Literary Award, the United Daily News Literature Award, and other prestigious literary prizes. His published works of fiction include The Dismantled Boat (1979), Cat Face Days (1986), The Sound of the Moon Rising (1989), The Face of the Seasons (1991), and A Winter Voyage – Selected Stories (1994). Essay collections include Following Good Advice (1987) and Sentimental Value (1990). Gu has also published a nonfiction novel, A Gun Spoke for Him – the Lu Gang Killings (1993).
Cat Face Days won the 1986 Government Information Office Golden Tripod Award. A critical favorite, the work dispassionately and profoundly depicts the ups and downs of Chinese living in the USA. Unlike much early “exchange-student literature,” which primarily dealt with themes of culture shock, identity, roots, and return, Gu focused on the diversity of Chinese in America, treating issues arising from class, occupation, and gender differences. The somber tone and character-driven narrative portray Chinese in US wavering between the past and future, the old country and the new, engaged in a process of search, trial, and loss. Gu’s other works of fiction touch on social situations, family and marriage, the artist’s image, and differences in cultural identity, his cool objectivity and writerly restraint informing both both plot and language. Additionally, in stories such “Zhang Wei” and “Shadow of the Sun” the writer examines sexual orientation, intimate relationships, the body, and disease; thus Gu Zhaosen’s work also occupy an important place in Taiwan’s LGBT literary canon.
|Anthology：||The Taipei Chinese Pen《中華民國筆會英季刊－當代台灣文學英譯》|
|Author：||Gu Zhaosen (Dschau-sen J. Ku)|
|Literary Genre：||Short Story|
|Publisher：||Taipei: Taipei Chinese Center, International P.E.N.|
|Ordering information for original work(Link)：||http://www.books.com.tw/products/0010096787|
Ordering information for original work(Note)：
|The “book.com.tw” Internet Bookstore|
|Ordering information for translation(Link)：||http://www.taipen.org/the_chinese_pen/the_chinese_pen_03.htm|
|Ordering information for translation(Note)：||Taipei Chinese Center, International P.E.N.|