The Bridegroom

The Bridegroom

5.0 2
by Ha Jin
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

From the remarkable Ha Jin, winner of the National Book Award for his celebrated novel Waiting, a collection of comical and deeply moving tales of contemporary China that are as warm and human as they are surprising, disturbing, and delightful.

In the title story, the head of security at a factory is shocked, first when the hansomest worker on the floor…  See more details below

Overview

From the remarkable Ha Jin, winner of the National Book Award for his celebrated novel Waiting, a collection of comical and deeply moving tales of contemporary China that are as warm and human as they are surprising, disturbing, and delightful.

In the title story, the head of security at a factory is shocked, first when the hansomest worker on the floor proposes marriage to his homely adopted daughter, and again when his new son-in-law is arrested for the "crime" of homosexuality. In "After Cowboy Chicken Came to Town," the workers at an American-style fast food franchise receive a hilarious crash course in marketing, deep frying, and that frustrating capitalist dictum, "the customer is always right."Ha Jin has triumphed again with his unforgettable storytelling in The Bridegroom.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
It's difficult to think of another writer who has captured the conflicting attitudes and desires, and the still-changing conditions of daily life, of post-Cultural Revolution China as well as Ha Jin does in his second collection, which follows his NBA-winning novel, Waiting. These 12 stories attain their significant cumulative effect through spare prose penetrated by wit, insight and a fine sense of irony. One realizes in reading them that while human nature is universal, China's cultural and political repression exacerbates such traits as fear of authority (and the desire to circumvent it), male chauvinism and suspicion of outsiders. In "The Woman from New York," a young wife and mother who goes to the States for four years finds, on her return to Muji City (where most of these tales are set), that her child, her marriage, her job and her honor are forever lost. American business methods clash with Chinese traditions in "After Cowboy Chicken Came to Town," in which Chinese workers' anger about the behavior of their boss, Mr. Shapiro, is redoubled when they discover one of their own countrymen practicing the strange ethics of capitalism. Such varied protagonists as college professors, a factory worker, a horny cadre member, two uneducated peasants and a five-year-old girl illustrate the ways in which hardship, lack of living space, inflexible social rules and government quotas thwart happiness. The title story is perhaps the most telling indication of the clash of humanitarian feeling and bureaucratic intervention. The protagonist, who has been taught to believe that "homosexuality... originated in Western capitalism and bourgeois lifestyle,'' is unable to credit his own sympathy for his son-in-law, who is sent to a mental hospital to cure his "disease." Ha Jin has a rare empathy for people striving to balance the past and the future while caught on the cusp of change. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
Library Journal
Ha Jin follows up his National Book Award-winning novel, Waiting, with a collection of a dozen short stories dealing with political and human relations in China. In the opening work, "Saboteur," a newly married man is imprisoned and in an act of vengeance later becomes responsible for an outbreak of acute hepatitis that ultimately affects over 800 people and kills six. In the title piece, a gay man deceptively marries a rather homely and obtuse young woman, leaving her guardian to struggle with the consequences. "Entrepreneur's Story," a tale of class and greed, tells of a temporary brick layer who recalls being told by his sweetheart's mother that "she'd rather throw her daughter into a sewer" than to let him marry her. Two pieces in which Jin intertwines humor into otherwise intense stories are "A Tiger Fighter Is Hard to Find," in which a movie company pits an actor against a fierce tiger in a quest for realism results, and "After Cowboy Chicken Came to Town," which describes how a Texas-based fried chicken franchise affects the Chinese with its capitalistic ways. Jin uses this collection to exhibit his strong writing and storytelling skills with his laconic use of words. Recommended for most larger public, academic, and Asian literature collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 6/15/00.]--Shirley N. Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Verity Ludgate-Fraser
The Bridegroom is an absorbing work by a deeply gifted writer, spare yet rich, witty yet heart-rending. Despite the pain these characters endure, Jin rejoices in the humanity he so aptly depicts.
&&151;Christian Science Monitor
Perlman
Ha Jin's spare prose, subtle wit, and surprising plot twists make for a reak that is both quick and memorable.
Entertainment Weekly
Claire Messud
His literary vision, like his subjects thus far, is Chinese, and the English language not his calling but his arbitrary fate. But his eye for detail, his great storytelling talent -- these universal gifts suffuse his work and make 'The Bridegroom' a genuine pleasure.
New York Times Book Review
Kirkus Reviews
The cultural and economic consequences of capitalism vs. communism are dramatized in unforgettably human terms in this brilliant third collection of 12 stories (Under the Red Flag, 1997, etc.) by the Chinese-American author (Waiting, a 1999 National Book Award winner).

From the Publisher
"A genuine pleasure."
The New York Times Book Review

"Finely wrought... Every story here is cut like a stone."
Chicago Sun-Times

"The Bridegroom... showcases [Ha Jin's] mastery of craft, the consummate restraint and nearly telegraphic objectivity with which he paints difficult truths."
The Boston Globe

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780375421204
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/16/2001
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
730,142
File size:
259 KB

Read an Excerpt

A Tiger-Fighter Is Hard to Find

We were overwhelmed by a letter from the provincial governor's office. It praised our TV series Wu Song Beat the Tiger. The governor was impressed by the hero, who fought the tiger single-handedly and punched it to death. The letter read: "We ought to create more heroic characters of this kind as role models for the revolutionary masses to follow. You, writers and artists, are the engineers of the human soul. You have a noble task on your hands, which is to strengthen people's hearts and instill into them the spirit that fears neither heaven nor earth." But the last paragraph of the letter pointed out a weakness in the key episode, which was that the tiger looked fake and didn't present an authentic challenge to the hero. The governor wondered if we could improve this section, so that our province might send the series to Beijing before the end of the year.

That evening we had a meeting and decided to reshoot the tiger-fighting scene. Everybody was excited, because if the series was sent to the capital, it meant we'd compete for a national prize. We decided to let Wang Huping take the part of the hero again, since the governor had been impressed with him in the first version. He was more than happy to do it. Now the problem was the tiger. First, a real animal would cost a fortune. Second, how could we shoot a scene with such a dangerous animal?
With the governor's letter in hand, we obtained a grant from the Municipal Administration without difficulty. Four men were dispatched to Jilin Province to bring back a tiger just caught on Ever White Mountain. By law we were not allowed to acquire a protected animal, but we got papers that said we needed it for our city's zoo. A week later, the four men returned with a gorgeous Siberian tiger.

We all went to see the animal, which was being held in a cage in the backyard of our office building. It was a male, weighing over three hundred pounds. Its eyes glowed with a cold, brown light, and its scarlet tongue seemed wet with blood. What a thick coat it had, golden and glossy! Its black stripes would ripple whenever it shook its head or stretched its neck. I was amazed at how small its ears were, not much larger than a dog's. But it smelled awful, like ammonia.

We were told to feed it ten pounds of mutton a day. This was expensive, but if we wanted to keep it in good shape, we had no choice.

Wang Huping seemed a little unnerved by the tiger. Who wouldn't be? But Huping was a grand fellow: tall, muscular, straight-shouldered, and with dreamy eyes that would sparkle when he smiled. I would say he was the most handsome young man in our Muji City, just as his nickname, Prince, suggested. A girl told me that whenever he was nearby, her eyes would turn watery. Another girl said that whenever he spoke to her, her heart would pound and her face would burn with a tickle. I don't know if any of that was true.

A few days before the shooting, Director Yu, who used to be a lecturer at a
cinema school in Shanghai, gave Huping a small book to read. It was The Old Man and the Sea, by an American author, whose name has just escaped me.

The director told Huping, "A man's not born to be defeated, not by a shark or a tiger."

"I understand," said Huping.

That was what I liked most about him. He wasn't just handsome, like a flowered pillowcase without solid stuff in it; he studied serious books and was learned, different from most of us, who merely read picture books and comics. If he didn't like a novel, he would say, "Well, this isn't literature." What's more, he was skilled in kung fu, particularly mantis boxing. One night last winter, he was on his way back to his dorm when four thugs stopped him and demanded he give them his wallet. He gave them a beating instead. He felled them with his bare hands
and then dragged the ringleader to a nearby militia headquarters. For that, he got written about in the newspapers. Later, he was voted an outstanding actor.

The morning of the shooting was a little windy and overcast. Two Liberation trucks took us four miles out of the city, to the edge of an oak wood. We unloaded the tiger cage, mounted the camera on the tripod, and set up the scene by placing a few large rocks here and there and pulling out some tall grass to make the flattish ground more visible. A few people gathered around Huping and helped him with his costume and makeup. Near the cage stood two men, each toting a tranquilizer gun.
Director Yu was pacing back and forth behind the camera. A scene like this couldn't be repeated; we had to get everything right on the first take.
The medic took out a stout jar of White Flame and poured a full bowl of it. Without a word, Huping raised the liquor with both hands and drank it up in a long swallow. People watched him silently. He looked radiant in the shifting sunlight. A black mosquito landed on his jaw, but he didn't bother to slap at it.

When everything was ready, one man shot a tranquilizer dart into the tiger's rump. Holding his forefinger before Huping's face, Director Yu said in a high-pitched voice, "Try to get into
the character. Remember, once you are in the scene, you are no longer Wang Huping. You are the hero, a true tiger-fighter, a killer."

"I'll remember that," Huping said, punching his left palm with his right fist. He wore high leather boots and a short cudgel slung across his back.
Director Yu's gaze swept through the crowd, and he asked loudly if everyone was ready. A few people nodded.

"Action!" he cried.






The door of the cage was lifted up. The tiger rushed out, vigorously shaking its body. It opened its mouth, and four long canine teeth glinted. It began walking in circles and sniffing at the ground while Huping, with firm steps, began to approach it. The animal roared and pranced, but our hero took the cudgel from his back and went forward resolutely. When he was within ten feet of the tiger, the snarling beast suddenly sprang at him, but with all his might Huping struck its head with his cudgel. The blow staggered the tiger a little, yet it came back and lunged at him again. Huping leaped aside and hit its flank. This blow sent the animal tumbling a few feet away. Huping followed it, striking its back and head. The tiger turned around with a menacing look. Then they were in a real melee.
With a crack the front half of the cudgel flew away. Huping dropped the remaining half, just as Wu Song does in the story. The beast rushed forward, reached for Huping's leg, and ripped his pants, then jumped up, snapping at his throat. Our hero knocked the animal aside with his fist, but its attack threw Huping off balance--he tottered and almost fell.

"Keep engaging it!" Director Yu shouted at him.

I stood behind a large elm, hugging my ribs.

"Closer, closer!" the director ordered the cameraman.

Huping kicked the tiger in the side. The animal reeled around and sprang at him again. Huping dodged the attack and punched the tiger's neck. Now the drug began taking effect; the tiger wobbled a little and fell to its haunches. It lurched to its feet, but after a few steps it collapsed. Our hero jumped on its back, punching its head with all his strength. The tiger, as if dead, no longer reacted to the beating, only its tail lashing the grass now and again. Still Huping pulled and pushed its huge head, forcing its lips and teeth to scrape the dirt.

"Cut!" Director Yu called, and walked over to Huping as two men helped him up from the unconscious animal. The director said, "I guess we didn't time it well. The tiger passed out too soon."

"I killed him! I'm the number-one tiger-fighter!" Huping shouted. With his fists balled at his flanks, he began laughing huskily and stamping his feet.

People ran up to him and tried to calm him down. But he wouldn't stop laughing. "I killed him! I killed him!" he yelled, his eyes ablaze.

The medic poured some water into the bowl and took out a sedative tablet. He made Huping take the medicine.

"Good wine, good wine!" Huping said after drinking the water. He wiped his lips with his forearm.

Then, to our astonishment, he burst out singing like a hero in a revolutionary model opera:

My spirit rushing toward the Milky Way,
With my determination and bravery
I shall eradicate every vermin from earth. . . .

A young woman snickered. Two men clutched Huping's arms and dragged him away while he was babbling about plucking out the tiger's heart, liver, and lungs. They put him into the back of a truck.

"He's punch-drunk," said Secretary Feng. "Tough job--I don't blame him."
The tiger was lifted back into its cage. Director Yu wasn't happy about the botched scene. According to the classic story, which our audience would know well, the hero is supposed to ride the tiger for a while, bring it down, and punch its head hundreds of times until it breathes its last. The scene we had just shot missed the final struggle, so we would have to try again.
But Huping was in no condition to work. For the rest of the day he laughed or giggled at random. Whenever someone came into sight he'd shout, "Hey, I killed the tiger!" We worried about him, so we called in a pedicab and sent him to the hospital for a checkup.

The diagnosis was mild schizophrenia, and the doctor insisted that Huping be hospitalized.

What should we do about the fight scene? Get another tiger-fighter? Not so easy. Where on earth could we find a fellow as handsome and strapping as our Prince? We looked through a pile of movie and TV magazines in the hopes of finding someone who resembled him, but most of the young actors we saw were mere palefaced boys; few had the stature and spirit of a hero.

Somehow the prefecture's Propaganda Department heard about the governor's interest in our TV series. Its deputy director phoned, saying we should complete the revision as early as possible. It was already mid-September, and trees were dropping leaves. Soon frost and snow would change the color of the landscape and make it impossible to duplicate the setting.

Because it was unlikely that we would find a substitute for Huping, some people suggested using him again. Quite a few of us opposed this idea; those who supported it didn't seem to care that a man's life was at risk. In private, some of us--clerks, assistants, actors--complained about the classic novel that contains the tiger-fighting episode. Why would an author write such a difficult scene? It's impossible for any man to ride a tiger and then beat it to death bare-handed. The story is a pure fabrication that has misled readers for hundreds of years. It may have been easy for the writer to describe it on paper, but in reality, how could we create such a hero?
Full of anxiety, Director Yu suffered a case of inflamed eyes--they turned into curved slits between red, doughy lids. He'd wear sunglasses whenever he went out of the office building. He told us, "We must finish the scene! It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!"

One night he even dreamed he himself wrestled the tiger to the ground, and his elbow inflicted a bruise on his wife's chest.

We were worried, too. Our company couldn't afford to feed the tiger for long; besides, we had no place to shelter it for the coming winter.
The following week, Secretary Feng held a staff meeting with us. We discussed the predicament at some length. Gradually it became clear that if we couldn't find a substitute, we might have to use Huping again. The proponents of this idea argued their position logically and convinced us, its opponents, that this was the only way to get the job done.

At the end of the meeting, Director Yu stressed that this time everything had to be accurately designed and calculated. The tranquilizer dart should carry a smaller dose so that the tiger would remain on its feet long enough for our hero to ride it a while. Also, we would have to be more careful not to let the beast hurt him.

To our relief, when the leaders broached the plan with Huping, he eagerly agreed to fight the tiger again. He said that he'd live up to their expectations and that he felt fine now, ready for work. "I'm a tiger-fighter," he declared. His voice was quite hoarse, and his eyes glittered.

"Yes, you are," agreed Secretary Feng. "All the provincial leaders are watching you, Huping. Try to do a good job this time."

"I shall."

So we trucked the tiger to the site the next morning. The weather happened to be similar to that of the previous time: a little overcast, the sun peeking through the gray clouds now and then. I identified the elm and the spot where the fight had taken place before. Huping sat on a boulder with a short cudgel across his naked back while the medic was massaging his shoulders. After a tranquilizer dart was shot into the tiger's thigh, Huping rose to his feet and downed a bowl of White Flame in two gulps.

Director Yu went over to give him instructions, saying, "Don't lose your head. When I shout, 'On the tiger!' you get on its back, ride it for a while, then bring it down. Until it stops moving, keep punching its head."
"All right." Huping nodded, his gaze fixed on the caged animal.
In the distance, on the hillside, a few cows were grazing, the west wind occasionally blowing their voices to us.

The tiger was let out. It pranced around, bursting with life. It opened its mouth threateningly. It began eyeing the distant cows.

"Roll the camera!" shouted Director Yu.

As Huping was approaching the tiger, it growled and rushed toward him. Our hero seemed stunned. He stopped and raised the cudgel, but the beast just pounced on him and pawed at his shoulder. With a heartrending cry, Huping dropped his weapon and ran toward us. The tiger followed, but having been caged for weeks, it couldn't run fast. We scattered in every direction, and even the camera crew deserted their equipment. Huping jumped, caught a limb of the elm, and climbed up the tree. The animal leaped and ripped off Huping's left boot, and instantly a patch of blood appeared on his white sock.

Read More

Meet the Author

Ha Jinleft his native China in 1985 to attend Brandeis University. He is the author of the internationally bestselling novel Waiting, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award and the National Book Award, and War Trash, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, and was a Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize; the story collections The Bridegroom, which won the Asian American Literary Award, Under the Red Flag, which won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, and Ocean of Words, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award; the novels The Crazed and In the Pond; and three books of poetry. His latest novel,A Free Life is his first novel set in the United States. He lives in the Boston area and is a professor of English at Boston University.War Trash, The Crazed, The Bridegroom, Waiting, In the Pond, and Ocean of Words are available in paperback from Vintage Books.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Read More

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Boston, Massachusetts
Date of Birth:
February 21, 1956
Place of Birth:
Liaoning, China
Education:
B.A. in English, Heilongjiang University, 1981; Ph. D. in English, Brandeis University, 1993

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

Bridegroom 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Breathtaking, that's the first word that comes to my mind to describe this short story collection. Never have stories been so comical and yet achingly sad and earnest all at once. Jin brings readers into modern day China; into family relationships, governmental concerns, and small, yet no less important matters of the heart. His prose is sparse, direct, and honestly beautiful. Jin writes assuredly and never strays from the truths his characters posess. The stories in 'The Bridegroom' should be read slowly, allowing each story digestion and contemplation, for they make us reevaluate our own opinions and ideas as we read. Ha Jin has created another fabulous work of art. Do yourself a favor and read this collection.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago