Webster’s Second was not afraid of passing judgment:Apache were “nomads, of warlike disposition and relatively low culture.” Aleut were “peacable” but only “semi-civilized.” And it was rather puritanical. Many sexual terms were suppressed, and those that made it in were deprived of their naughty side. Horny was defined only as having something to do with actual horns.
Who knew that Webster’s had such a checkered past?
The Chinese novel, perhaps, had no Victorian heyday to teach it decorum; certainly both Su Tong and Mo Yan are cheerfully free with the physical details that accompany sex, birth, illness, and violent death.
Yesterday, Mo Yan received the Nobel Prized for Literature. In 2005, John Updike reviewed his novel, Big Breasts & Wide Hips.
“Since the Prize is partially funded by the present Hungarian government, and since the policies of this right-wing regime tend toward authoritarian rule and the consequent curtailing of freedom of expression and civil liberties, I find it impossible for me to accept the Prize in the United States. Thus I must refuse the Prize in its present terms.”
Ferlinghetti’s reaction shouldn’t be too surprising. He’s the man who published Howl, after all.
It would be easy to be lulled by these opening chapters, thinking them merely a supremely well-written version of something we’ve seen before — the generic proper nouns; the placid, unquestioning populace; the spunky protagonist primed to puncture its illusions. But Lowry clearly has little interest in confining herself to a template, and the story soon veers off the expected path and, literally, into the wild.
It has been a long wait, but it sounds like Son is more than worth it.