shanghai.shanghai...

My Private China

The Man Who Dammed...

White Jade

Panda Diaries

Lipstick

Chinese Opera

Selected publications

  



PROSE




In his impressive body of work spanning 40 years, Alex Kuo consistently pushes the limits of literary genres while defying some of society's most deeply entrenched assumptions.  It is easy to see the influence his voice has had not only on writers, but also on our collective views of race, culture, and politics.  Narratives are rarely neat; and he is not an author who relies on facile notions of how stories, characters, and even wording should play out.  But nothing in Mr. Kuo's writing is pointless, and even the smallest details have the power to burrow far into the imagination.  In fusing the political and the literary, Mr. Kuo illuminates over and over again the profound power of the art. 
--Pauline Chen, Final Exam: A Surgeon's Reflection on Mortality



shanghai.shanghai.shanghai is a novel about the culture writer and closet novelist Ge and his encounters with such people as a Bogota pickpocket, a defiant Uighur woman with borrowed baby, a German naval attaché, American evangelicals working the Beijing Olympics, and China’s first woman conductor of western classical music.  Its main themes play with the thin fabric that separates state-censorship and self-censorship, and collaboration and corroboration in China’s war of infinite resistance.

It avoids conventional narrative techniques; instead it focuses on episodic and interconnected moments revolving in a Shanghai between its foreign-occupied 1939, state-occupied 1989, and the self-occupied present in a Möbius loop, sometimes in the same sentence, and uses backstory sidebars and seven English and three Chinese type faces to maintain a fluid and cohesive story.


This novel is the last in the Ge trilogy.

The Man Who Dammed the Yangtze is a political and environmental novel bound to raise eyebrows on both sides of the Pacific.  Two finite-numbers mathematicians--a Chinese woman and a Chinese American man--wrestle with their professional careers.  Disillusioned with teaching, they find a compromise:  one works at the Three Gorges Dam in China, and the other for Westinghouse in Pittsburgh. Unknown to each other, they struggle to balance their personal values against the global corporate determinism of dam building.  In discovering the significant meanings of their respective histories--for Ge, it is the hemorrhaging of China's recent past, and for Ge, the invention of the American West--they decide to hunker down and do something about it.  This tightly shaped doppelganger novel is energetic, disrespectful, lyrical and funny. 

This novel is the second in the Ge trilogy.  The first is Panda Diaries, and the third shanghai.shanghai.shanghai.




"10,000 Dildoes" begins this collection of seven short stories set in the American West and linked by the politics and culture of time and place, leading to the trans-Pacific novella "White Jade."




A revisionist history of China, guided by an animal mascot, that speaks to the heart. Panda Diaries is profound, wickedly comic, and a poetic parody of Chinese politics and international relations. The Cultural Revolution is the supposed backdrop for Kuo’s unusual and brilliant novel, and he delves into the larger history of modern China with sparkling insight, confronting the meaning of human existence in the face of a universal absurdity. Mailman Panda brings us letters we mustn’t ignore. —Xu Xi




Take a Deep Breath.  The stories in this collection are short in word length, brief, but resonate long after they are read.  I had to take a deep breath after each piece, the subtext and implications of what Kuo is doing in using language and writing techniques as a direct reflection of the ambiguity of memory juxtaposed against an almost equally tenuous contemporary identity is fascinating and admirable.  I believe if more people knew about Alex Kuo, a 2002 American Book Award winner, they would enjoy reading this work, though I can also say that Kuo is a writer's writer.  There is fine craftsmanship in these stories as well as a diversity of thought and exploration that raises this collection above the pointless displays of colorless wordplay infesting contemporary "American" literature.  --Lee M. McGuire


In Alex Kuo's novel Chinese Opera, Sonny Ling and Sissy George are in Beijing.  He's a hotshot pianist teaching at the Central Conservatory of Music.  She's a gutsy nightclub singer.  It's the political spring of 1989, but behind the walls of the Conservatory Madame Zhou rules.  While their friends struggle to remain calm amidst the chaos and violence, Sonny and Sissy give the performances of their lives in a Chinese drama played out to the accompaniment of Bizet's Carmen.