Synopses & Reviews
“Jack Livingss stories of China are marvels of the imagination.” —Paul Harding, author of Tinkers
Set in the shifting landscape of contemporary China, Jack Livingss The Dog explodes the countrys cultural and social fault lines, revealing a nation accustomed to rations, bitter struggle, and the stranglehold of communism as it confronts a generation rife with the promise of unforeseen prosperity.
In this riveting, richly imagined collection, a wealthy factory owner—once a rural peasant—refuses to help the victims of an earthquake until his daughter starts a relief effort of her own; a marginalized but powerful Uyghur gangster clashes with his homosexual grandson; and a dogged journalist is forced to resign as young writers in “pink Izod golf shirts and knockoff Italian loafers” write his stories out from under him. With spare, penetrating prose, Livings gives shape to the anonymous faces in the crowd and illuminates the tensions, ironies, and possibilities of life in modern China. As heartbreaking as it is hopeful, The Dog marks the debut of a startling and wildly imaginative new voice in fiction.
"Livings's debut collection of stories set in China builds on the works of fellow writers Yiyun Li and Ma Jian in illustrating the ways in which personal dynamics and workplace disharmony are refractions of a culture of corruption and control as well as China's wider revolutionary history. In the title story, an unhappy couple whose dog-racing side-business is subjected to a government crackdown resolves to eat the evidence. 'Mountain of Swords, Sea of Fire,' in which a weathered journalist despairs of the hack work and political cant he produces while living in denial of his own complicity in silencing democratic agitators, develops Livings's themes more subtly, as does 'The Pocketbook,' in which the universities' placating attitude toward scholars and foreign guests is laid bare after a rich American student has her purse stolen. Livings has a talent for showing how officially sanctioned credos underscore grim realities: 'Donate!' deals with the personal stakes of charity, as a factory worker becomes enmeshed in a relief fund set up for earthquake victims, and 'The Crystal Sarcophagus' recounts the lengths to which a glass factory must go after it is tasked with the construction of Chairman Mao's coffin. Though a few of Livings's stories verge uneasily on allegory, masterpieces like 'The Heir,' with its unflinching depiction of an aging Uighur gangster whose stranglehold on the community is threatened by government thugs, make this collection a socially complex and pitch-perfect account of modernization's grueling aftermath." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
“Excellent tales that are by turns witty and scary and wise . . . Livings is a superb and singular writer.” —Kurt Andersen
“Exquisitely observed . . . What gives these stories their dark, upsetting grandeur is in every case the luminosity of hope, no matter how fragile, how vulnerable, how very nearly extinguished.” —Paul Harding
"Stunning . . . In The Dog
, Mr. Livings demonstrates his virtuosity as a storyteller, his ability to immerse us instantly in the lives of his characters, to conjure the daily reality of the very different worlds they inhabit . . . [Livings] writes less as an outsider, observing the exotic customs and traditions of a foreign land, than as a sort of Chekhovian observer, attuned to the absurdities and ironies of his characters lives . . . Together, his tales open a prismatic window on China, showing us how part of the country is rushing to embrace the 21st century, even as its history continues to exert a magnetic hold over peoples thinking and expectations . . . With The Dog
, Mr. Livings has made an incisive—and highly impressive—debut." —Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"[An] impressive collection . . . The prose in The Dog
is crisp and forceful, honed by a journalists eye for sharp detail." —Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal
"Jack Livings ability to create completely relatable characters in what, for many of his readers, may be unrelatable daily circumstances, is an impressive literary accomplishment. That he appears to do this so easily is another testament to his mastery of the craft . . . [The Dog] is a solid debut from a writer to watch." —City Weekend Beijing"[Livings] is unusually perceptive about political realities and the moral cost they exact from ordinary citizens." —The New Yorker"An arresting debut collection of short stories, with prose that is tight and compact and stories that are raw and honest." —Melanie Ho, Asian Review of Books"One of the rewards of this book is the range of vividly human experience it presents. Plus, Jack Livings is a very gifted story-teller." —James Fallows, The Atlantic"Fascinating." —Steve Donoghue, Open Letters Monthly"Extraordinary . . . The Dog is chock-a-block with stories chronicling the fascinating paradoxes of post-Mao China, told by a man who is both a superbly gifted writer and an artful reporter." —Robert Collison, The Toronto Star"[A] remarkable achievement." —The Wichita Eagle"The Dog, a debut collection of eight stories set in China, demonstrates Jack Livings excellent sense of what makes a story." —Tom Zelman, Star Tribune"A powerful tale of post-Mao China . . . In The Dog: Stories, Livings has proved himself to be a masterful storyteller, creating evocative characters that exist in richly described worlds . . . an impressive debut to say the least." —Kit Gillet, South China Morning Post"These stories, one after another, accomplish those miraculous great-fiction tricks of taking you to places youve never been and cant otherwise go, making the exotic familiar and the ordinary otherworldly, getting you inside the heads of compelling people who seem absolutely real—and they do all this in impeccable prose while being excellent tales that are by turns witty and scary and wise. Jack Livings is a superb and singular writer." —Kurt Andersen, author of True Believers
"Jack Livingss The Dog presents a kaleidoscopic view of the small ironies and stupendous lies of contemporary China. Ranging from the last days of the Cultural Revolution to the first days of the Sichuan earthquake, these stories do what stories do best: they filter history and ideology through the experiences of individuals, with compassion, biting wit, and unsparing honesty." —Jess Row, author of The Train to Lo Wu"In prose that is at once unadorned and poetic, with a Chekhovian tenderness for even his most corrupt characters, Jack Livings presents us with a startling new portrait of contemporary China. Ruthless and compassionate in its depiction of social, cultural, and familial strife, this is raw, vital storytelling from a voice we cannot ignore. The Dog should be read and studied alongside the stories of Joyce and Cheever, Faulkner and Carver. Listen up, America: We need this book." —Jamie Quatro, author of I Want to Show You More "Jack Livingss stories of China are marvels of the imagination. Rendered in precise and exquisitely observed detail, they read like directly reported dispatches from the tragic, ruthless, beset, nearly hopeless souls of China. It is Livingss genius, though, to know that nearly hopeless is not the same thing as hopeless. What gives these stories their dark, upsetting grandeur is in every case the luminosity of hope, no matter how fragile, how vulnerable, how very nearly extinguished." —Paul Harding, author of Tinkers "A socially complex and pitch-perfect account of modernizations grueling aftermath." —Publishers Weekly"[Jack Livingss] first collection of short fiction, with its tales of volatile protagonists struggling to survive in contemporary China, should attract widespread attention and praise . . . Any unfamiliarity with the Chinese locales and culture is quickly eased by Livingss imaginative yet realistic scenarios and vividly drawn characters. A brilliant and promising debut." —Carl Hays, Booklist"[Jack Livings] writes so simply, and so well . . . These stories are sneaky, almost subliminal, in their ambitions and connections." —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Jack Livings's stories of China are marvels of the imagination." Paul Harding, author of Tinkers
Set in the shifting landscape of contemporary China, Jack Livings's The Dog explodes the country's cultural and social fault lines, revealing a nation accustomed to rations, bitter struggle, and the stranglehold of communism as it confronts a generation rife with the promise of unforeseen prosperity.
In this riveting, richly imagined collection, a wealthy factory owner once a rural peasant refuses to help the victims of an earthquake until his daughter starts a relief effort of her own; a marginalized but powerful Uyghur gangster clashes with his homosexual grandson; and a dogged journalist is forced to resign as young writers in "pink Izod golf shirts and knockoff Italian loafers" write his stories out from under him. With spare, penetrating prose, Livings gives shape to the anonymous faces in the crowd and illuminates the tensions, ironies, and possibilities of life in modern China. As heartbreaking as it is hopeful, The Dog marks the debut of a startling and wildly imaginative new voice in fiction.
About the Author
Jack Livings received his MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop and was a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford. He has published stories in The Paris Review, A Public Space, StoryQuarterly, Tin House, and The Best American Short Stories, and has been awarded a Pushcart Prize and short-listed for an O. Henry Award. Livings interviewed Tobias Wolff and Salman Rushdie for The Paris Reviews Art of Fiction series; the Rushdie interview has been reprinted in The Paris Review Interviews III. He works at a well-known news magazine and lives in New York with his wife, the writer Jennie Yabroff.