Playing for Thrills

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9780688130466: Playing for Thrills

Still by far the most popular writer in China even after all his work has been officially banned as reactionary and vulgar, Wang Shuo is famous for his cynical wit, his raw descriptions of sex, and his casual depiction of Chinese drifters, wiseguys, and hooligans. Now, for the first time, comes the publication of one of his novels in English. Playing for Thrills will introduce readers around the world to the writer Newsweek calls "China's literary bad boy" and The Washington Post acclaims as "the irreverent voice of a disillusioned generation."

A tripped-out, sarcastic novel of urban alienation, Playing for Thrills follows the investigation of a mysterious murder of a possibly imaginary character that took place more than ten years before. The chief suspect is the narrator of the novel who may or may not have committed the crime--even he isn't sure. As our charismatic antihero careens around Beijing drinking beer, having sex, and questioning a bunch of people who speak like characters in a gangster movie, he tries to find someone who can remind him which girl he was with and what he was doing at the time of the murder. Suddenly, the narrative explodes, and the reader is thrust into a countdown leading up to the crime itself. The result is a sometimes frightening, sometimes hilarious, always astonishing novel that is totally unlike anything ever published from China.

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Review:

Here's a book that succeeds on several different levels: as a gripping (if slightly eccentric) thriller, as a political statement, and as a social document about the way people can lead colorful and dangerously exciting underground lives even in a repressive country. Wang Shuo is a pioneer in what China has labeled "hooligan literature," writing novels, movie scripts, television series, and songs about people and subjects deemed so unfit for public consumption that his work is officially banned (although widely popular). Playing for Thrills, the first of his books to appear in English, is narrated by a former soldier and current wise guy named Fang Yan, who spends his time gambling, eating, drinking, trying to have sex, and wondering if he was indeed involved in the murder of a former army buddy 10 years ago, as the police seem to think. In Howard Goldblatt's lively translation, the author's dialogue has the snap of enhanced reality: "Not so fast," says a character called Fat Man Wu as he describes the small, exclusive "party" that he and Fang Yan belong to. "With us it's instinct. Sooner or later every member of our party cools his heels in jail--that's how we keep things jumping politically." --Dick Adler

About the Author:

Wang Shuo's more than twenty novels have sold nearly ten million copies. He has also written television series, scripts for movies (two of which were recently banned), and songs. Born in Nanjing in 1958, he spent four years in the navy and held a variety of odd and shady jobs, while starting to write. Beloved by Chinese students and workers alike for celebrating the "dark corners of new China" ( Newsweek), he has never lost touch with the world of the low-life slackers who populate his fiction. Wang Shuo lives in Beijing with his wife and daughter.

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Wang Shuo
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