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Monday, April 19, 2004
The Good Earth Yet Again  
Haven't written a review in ages because ... well, tarak masa, tarak hati. Then suddenly, I read a worthy book and I feel like slashing it to pieces. Well, not because it was bad, it was very good actually, except the condition it was in was horribly ... well, the book was falling apart and I had to be so careful with it, at times I became really frustrated and felt like tearing it apart.

Anyway...

I finally managed to finish Grace's very old and fragile copy of Pearl S. Buck's gem during three hours of quiet time while my tuition student was frantically trying to beat the clock at attempting a model test paper. Not all books allow me the interest and motivation to 'gobble' them up. The language is stark yet convincing, Buck's simple narration of the life of protagonist Wang Lung is a prime example of how it is more valuable to be understandable, than bombastically impressive. The plot is engaging because it climaxes in all the right places, and the systematic but balanced development of the characters, whether minor or major, is impressive. It is obviously a well-planned book, a sure-winner that must have stood out amongst all the other contenders of the awards that it had beaten.

The Good Earth is a good book, not because it won the Pulitzer Prize, although that alone can be a good determiner of its supremacy. Whether fortunate or not, however, it fails to capture this reader. At the end of the novel, I felt merely fed, not satiated.

I suppose where the likes of Christine Suchen Lim, Catherine Lim, and our very own Shirley Geok-lin Lim (how come they all have the same surname still boggles me) have been captivating many a foreign soul with their strong depictions of what it is like to be thoroughly Asian and female, what is absorbing has ironically, become strangely stagnant amidst a topic that is overbeaten, and over-discussed. It embraces the reader, but you have read it before, if you flipped through Joss and Gold. It gives you a glimpse of the old Chinese life, but you've seen it before, if you read 'A Pair of Tickets'. Its lines describe the strength of the female suppressed, but you've pitied her before, when you cried with The Joy Luck Club.

To be fair, Buck was the first, and that deserves her the recognition and praise... but I'm not too generous because, even though Buck set the genre, the ones that came after her stroked it too hard. In that sense, when I read this book, it was a relief for the idle mind, and that was all it was. The phenomenonal genius that The Good Earth must have been in the time it was released seemed to me, lifeless and ailing.

In that sense, Buck is a dying phenomenon in what has now become a single theme too-oft talked about and emphasized, by many in her time, and in the times to come.

NB: This book was previously reviewed here.

minishorts  # 10:33 PM
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