Notes of A Crocodile

Notes of A Crocodile

Book - 2017
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"Set in the post-martial-law era of 1990s Taipei, Notes of a Crocodile depicts the coming-of-age of a group of queer misfits discovering love, friendship, and artistic affinity while hardly studying at Taiwan's most prestigious university. Told through the eyes of an anonymous lesbian narrator nicknamed Lazi, Qiu Miaojin's cult classic novel is a postmodern pastiche of diaries, vignettes, mash notes, aphorisms, exegesis, and satire by an incisive prose stylist and countercultural icon. Afflicted by her fatalistic attraction to Shui Ling, an older woman who is alternately hot and cold toward her, Lazi turns for support to a circle of friends that includes the devil-may-care, rich-kid-turned-criminal Meng Sheng and his troubled, self-destructive gay lover Chu Kuang, as well as the bored, mischievous overachiever Tun Tun and her alluring slacker artist girlfriend Zhi Rou. Bursting with the optimism of newfound liberation and romantic idealism despite corroding innocence, Notes of a Crocodile is a poignant and intimate masterpiece of social defiance by a singular voice in contemporary Chinese literature"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York :, New York Review Books,, [2017]
ISBN: 9781681370767
168137076X
Characteristics: 242 pages ; 21 cm
Additional Contributors: Huie, Bonnie - Translator

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l
lostintheshelves
Sep 06, 2017

It was a clandestine form of dating—the kind where the person you're going out with doesn't know it's a date. I denied myself, and I denied the fact that she was part of my life, so much so that I denied the dotted line that connected the two of us and our entire relationship to a crime.

l
lostintheshelves
Sep 06, 2017

For a long time, my hidden shame had made me push everyone away. I'd rejected them before they could reject me. I ran away from close relationships even with people who loved me.

l
lostintheshelves
Sep 06, 2017

When all is said and done, you and I aren't quite cut from the same cloth. Society still considers you a normal woman. Your love for me was a feminine, maternal love that can just as easily be extended to any man. Basically the only difference between you and other women is that your heart is more open. But me, our relationship left me fundamentally altered. You tore me open and exposed the man inside. That new me has no rightful place within humanity. I don't think you've been cast out. You can still return to that place where I'm no longer allowed.

l
lostintheshelves
Sep 06, 2017

Zhi Rou took a gulp of beer and puffed on her cigarette. She looked so tough that I had to chuckle. Then she grew solemn. "Lazi, there's something you once said that I've always remembered: 'Only healthy people are capable of being in love. Using love to treat an illness just makes the illness worse.' I realize that's exactly what I did: I used love to fight illness, and it ruined me. I have to change my ways. I can't be like that anymore."

l
lostintheshelves
Sep 06, 2017

[Zhi Rou said,] "I have a huge existential void, and no one can make me happy. When I'm with a man, I see the beauty of a woman's soul, and I wish I were free all over again. But I can't be with a woman, either, because then I fantasize to death about men's bodies."

l
lostintheshelves
Sep 06, 2017

I was determined to transform myself into a real girl. At Tun Tun's encouragement, I made a big decision: I wasn't going to fall in love with another woman. This time, I was going to make a clean break with the past and pursue a normal happiness.

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l
lostintheshelves
Sep 06, 2017

This fascinating novel interweaves the story of lesbian college student Lazi (now Chinese slang for lesbian) and her gay and bisexual friends in late 1980s Taiwan with the surreal adventures of the Crocodile, who wears a human suit and tries to escape notice in a society increasing obsessed with crocodiles. It's not for young queers looking for happy stories: all the characters are warped by self-hatred, and constantly trying to "cure" their sexuality, self-mutilating, or (if male) inflicting violence on others. Qiu’s allusions to European avant-garde film (both in the text and in the non-narrative structure) also won’t be for everyone.

But it is an important work of both queer and contemporary Chinese literature, and the characters do learn and grow from their mistakes, even if no one but the Crocodile fully embraces their sexuality. It's also a dead-on accurate portrayal of the emotions of young adulthood. Lazi and her friends feel everything intensely, think in terms of grand concepts, and decry the evils of the world while treating their partners badly. More than any other book I've read, it shows how hard it is to disentangle the shame of internalized homophobia with the universal difficulty of creating your first adult relationships.

That said, I wish the publisher had included an afterword to provide English-language readers with context, especially about the real-life Taiwanese media obsession with homosexuality the book satirizes, and the character's ideas of masculinity and femininity, which feel very culturally specific and loom large in their attempts to change.

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