Guo, Xiaolu 1973-

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Guo, Xiaolu 1973-

PERSONAL:

Born 1973, in China. Education: Graduated from the Beijing Film Academy.

ADDRESSES:

Home—London, England; Beijing, China. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer, screenwriter, film director, and film producer. Director and producer of Far and Near, The Concrete Revolution, How Is Your Fish Today? Address Unknown, and We Went to Wonderland. Also acted in How Is Your Fish Today?

AWARDS, HONORS:

Grand Jury Prize for best feature fiction film, International Women Film Festival, Creteil, 2007, for How Is Your Fish Today? A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers.

WRITINGS:

ESSAYS

Flying in My Dreams, Shanxi People's Publishing House (Shanxi, China), 2000.

Movie Map, Shanghai Literature and Art Publishing House (Shanghai, China), 2001.

Notes on Movie Theory, China Film Press (Beijing, China), 2002.

NOVELS

Fenfang's 37.2 Degrees, Shanxi People's Publishing House (Shanxi, China), 2000, translation published as Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth, Nan A. Talese/Doubleday (New York, NY), 2008.

Village of Stone, translated by Cindy Carter, Chatto & Windus (London, England), 2004.

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, Nan A. Talese/Doubleday (New York, NY), 2007.

Village of Stone has been published in Chinese, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, and Polish.

OTHER

Who Is My Mother's Boyfriend? (collected film scripts), China Film Press (Beijing, China), 1999.

Author of poetry and screenplays for films, including Love in the Internet Age, 1999; Far and Near, 2003; The Concrete Revolution, 2004; How Is Your Fish Today? (written with Rao Hui), 2006; Address Unknown, 2006; We Went to Wonderland, 2008; author of screenplays for television, including Knowledge Can Change Your Fate, 1998, and A Boat in the Sea, 2000.

SIDELIGHTS:

Xiaolu Guo is a prolific writer of essays, novels, screenplays, and poetry. "Through novel writing and film making, I try to discover how someone who has always felt like an outsider reveals the truth of human existence in a chaotic reality," the author writes on her home page.

Guo's novel Village of Stone was translated from the Chinese by Cindy Carter. The story revolves around the narrator, Coral, and her boyfriend, Red, who live in an apartment in Beijing. Coral is a video store clerk, and Red is a Frisbee tournament organizer who receives money from his parents to live. When Coral receives a mysterious package containing a large dried eel from the small village where she grew up, she and Red begin trying to work their way through eating all of the eel via a variety of recipes. For Coral, however, the eel is a reminder of her past, which included sexual abuse, and a harbinger of a change to come in her relationship with Red. The novel follows the couple's relationship and Coral's remembrances of her unhappy past life. "Village of Stone is a charming little novel that is both memorable and entertaining," wrote Danny Yee on the Danny Yee's Book Reviews Web site. Writing on the Age.com, Linda Jaivin noted: "Even when her subject is bleak, Guo's writing is entrancingly lyrical."

Guo's 2007 novel A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers is the first novel that the author wrote in English, and it was shortlisted for Britain's 2007 Orange Prize. Leann Restaino, writing in the Library Journal, called the novel "a sometimes sad and sometimes funny tale." The story is told in a diarylike, dictionary format by Zhuang, also known as "Z" to her foreign friends. "The dictionary format makes it a breeze to read," wrote Rick Kleffel on the Trashotron Web site. "But there's more than a breath of fresh air to be found here. Guo's novel of love and language, of the love of language is not about dictionary definitions; it's about how we define ourselves."

In the novel, the twenty-three-year-old Zhuang is sent to London by her parents, who run a successful shoe factory in China, for an education in English. Readers see the young Zhuang struggle and blossom in her new environment. She has an intense romance with a man she meets at the movies. However, Zhuang is headed for disappointment with her lover, who is twenty years older than she is and who turns out to be a hippie-like sculptor and drifter whose past affairs have mostly been homosexual ones. "What begins as a blossoming of love, sex and freedom gradually finds Z questioning the different ways in which each views their life together," wrote a contributor to the Bookshelf Web site. "Their relationship unravels when his growing need for solitude and his lack of commitment conflict with the closeness and community for which Z yearns." Throughout the novel, the author, through Zhuang, provides a view of someone who experiences culture shock, such as Zhuang's encounter in a sex shop and the Brits' penchant for talking about the weather. The language barrier also provides the author the opportunity to inject humor into her story.

A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers received widespread praise in both England and America. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted that the narrator's "unique, evolving voice fits perfectly for a heroine whose naivete is matched by a willingness to relay the truth." Other reviewers also commented on the device of the narrator's budding English capabilities. A reviewer writing on the Eve's Alexandria Web site noted: "The development of Z's language skills is well-captured—her struggles with prepositions and pronouns, her overenthusiastic adoption (and misuse) of idiomatic phrases, her painstakingly careful spelling, and her confused syntax." A Kirkus Reviews contributor commented: "Guo's U.S. debut quickly overcomes the early chapters' selfconscious winsomeness to become a compelling and moving tale of first love," adding that it is "an often-charming exploration of learning, love and loss."

In 2008, Guo's first novel Fenfang's 37.2 Degrees, was published in English as Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth. The story focuses on twenty-one-year-old Fenfang Wang and is told in twenty brief chapters with each chapter including a photograph by the author or a still from one of the author's films. "They're pretty good pictures and they set the scene and create a visual imagery for the reader to follow," wrote Colin Pantall on Colin Pantall's Blog.

In the novel, Wang has traveled to Beijing from working in the potato fields back home. However, once she arrives in Beijing, she finds a city undergoing rampant development and destruction and headed by a Communist regime that seems unable to keep up with the modern times. Determined to live a modern life, Wang lands a job working as an extra in films and soon comes under the influence of two shady young men. "Not a great deal happens in this novel, but then, I guess, that is the point," wrote Alastair Sooke in the New Statesman. "Xiaolu set out to write a splintered, postmodern narrative about a drifter suffering ennui in a ‘vast’ and ‘messy’ city." Sooke went on to refer to the story as "a nihilistic, Generation X-style manifesto for existential posers in Beijing," adding: "Maturity is not one of its strengths, but don't let that put you off: its impudent, hand-on-hip attitude cannot fail to charm."

Guo has also written, directed, and produced numerous films, from shorts and documentaries to a feature film titled How Is Your Fish Today? Written by Guo and Rao Hui, How Is Your Fish Today? has a dual focus that features a writer working on a screenplay and his creation, a character traveling across China. "It is a film made in completely documentary language and about a Chinese scriptwriter's inner journey across China in a messy and chaotic reality," Guo noted in an interview on the indieWIRE Web site. The film was selected for viewing at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Bookseller, September 30, 2005, review of A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, p. 13; January 18, 2008, Chloe Kyriakou, review of Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth, p. 15.

Entertainment Weekly, September 7, 2007, Hannah Tucker, review of A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, p. 83.

Guardian (London, England), June 12, 2007, Julian Baggini, "Xiaolu Guo on Censorship, UK Style."

Kirkus Reviews, July 1, 2007, review of A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers.

Library Journal, August 1, 2007, Leann Restaino, review of A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, p. 67.

New Statesman, January 28, 2008, Alastair Sooke, "Generation X, Beijing," review of Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth, p. 57.

Publishers Weekly, June 25, 2007, review of A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, p. 28.

Spectator, February 17, 2007, Jonathan Mirsky, "Cute Pidgin Pie," review of A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers.

Times Literary Supplement, April 23, 2004, Su Lin Lewis, "Rolling with Demons," review of Village of Stone, p. 21; February 23, 2007, Simon Baker, review of A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, p. 23.

ONLINE

Age.com,http://www.theage.com.au/ (September 18, 2004), Linda Jaivin, review of Village of Stone.

Bookbuffet.com,http://www.bookbuffet.com/ (December 9, 2007), Dee Raffo, "Xiaolu Guo's Third Novel Is Set in London," review of A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers.

Bookshelf,http://whatiskimreading.blogspot.com/ (January 7, 2008), review of A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers.

Colin Pantall's Blog,http://colinpantall.blogspot.com/ (January 11, 2008), Colin Pantall, review of A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers; (March 3, 2008), review of A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers and brief discussion of Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth.

Danny Yee's Book Reviews,http://dannyreviews.com/ (April 6, 2005), Danny Yee, review of Village of Stone.

Eve's Alexandria,http://evesalexandria.typepad.com/ (July 21, 2007), "Everything for the Best, in the Best of All Possible Worlds," review of A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers.

Fractious,http://mrfractious.blogspot.com/ (March 16, 2008), review of A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers.

Internet Movie Database,http://www.imdb.com/ (April 8, 2008), information on author's film work.

indieWIRE,http://www.indiewire.com/ (January 15, 2007), "Park City '07 Interview."

OpenDemocracy,http://www.opendemocracy.net/ (April 8, 2008), brief profile of author.

Random House Web site,http://www.randomhouse.com/ (April 8, 2008), brief profile of author.

Trashotron,http://trashotron.com/ (September 11, 2007), Rick Kleffel, review of A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers.

Xiaolu Guo Home Page,http://www.guoxiaolu.com (April 8, 2008).