Wednesday, August 20, 2008

On "China Mobile" by Summer Block (3381 words) ****

Stories in exotic locales or involving exotic characters have long enchanted, almost always in part because of the exoticism itself. Good stories, however, do more than just show off the exoticness. Sometimes they manage to convey a sense of place and time and character that makes one think for a moment, "Yes, I too was there," even though of course you weren't. This is one of those. "China Mobile" does this in part by running down a description of a list of friends, friends like Chloe, who "was more than just pretty, but . . . was also pretty." A few sentences on each, a few comments on drinking and getting along, and one gets a sense of this narrator's world. It is a small place, just one little microcosm in something so much larger, so much larger that it is beyond words. We can't know China, but we can know this one little piece of it--a piece of it that is at base still American. One of the things I admired so much about Jay McInerney's novel Ransom, on first read many years ago, was the way it was able to conjure up a world similar to this, a world of American exiles at "home" in some strange, weird place. Block manages something similar here, but without the excesses of plot that made Ransom seem far fetched. Read the story here at Stirring.

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