Prolific Hong Kong author Xu Xi has just released a new collection of short stories through a new Hong Kong press: Signal 8, an imprint of Typhoon Media. I am currently doing some voluntary work with Signal 8 thanks to a conversation with Xu Xi herself. It's an exciting opportunity to get some extra publishing experience as I pursue my goal of working as an editor full-time. Meanwhile, I get to read some very cool new books and help to promote them. Because of my affiliation with Signal 8, I won't write about ACCESS in my usual review format.
The collection explores different kinds of tales: tall tales, old wives' tales, fairy tales, circular tales and beastly tales. A majority of the characters are women, and they struggle with family dynamics, aging, relationships, and the balance between independence and duty. Xu Xi's characters are usually mobile, international Chinese searching for an identity in a global context. The tales feel open-ended in the same way that real life is open-ended. She leaves her characters with unanswered questions and unrealized resolutions, while creating compelling pictures of the way people live and struggle for access. My favorite tales were Famine, To Body, To Chicken, and Lady Day, which is a provocative masterpiece.
This is a thought-provoking, thoroughly modern collection that I recommend without hesitation.
On Friday evening, Xu Xi officially launched ACCESS at City University. She read selections from four of the tales (Famine, Access, Iron Light and To Body, To Chicken) to a fully engaged audience. Xu Xi has a powerful reading voice, and it is always a privilege to hear her in person. She discussed her work with the publisher of Signal 8 Press and answered many questions from the audience, which included students of Xu Xi's MFA program as well as local writers and academics.
Xu Xi spoke about the sprawling nature of her tales as opposed to tight, classic short stories. She is interested in creating whole worlds, even though short tales may only capture a slice of those worlds. A student asked about the writing life in Hong Kong, and she acknowledged that it can be a difficult place to be a writer, although the literary scene has improved since she first began pursuing her writing career. She discussed the future of the publishing industry, and she is interested in exploring the possibilities of ebooks by writing shorter works and essays to supplement her long career as a novelist.
The Kindle edition is $8.99 (in the US) and the paperback is $15.95 on Amazon.