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Please Don't Call Me Human: 18 (No Exit Press 18 Years Classic) [Paperback]

Wang Shuo
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
RRP: 6.99
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Please Don't Call Me Human: 18 (No Exit Press 18 Years Classic) + Playing for Thrills
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  • Playing for Thrills 6.79


Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: No Exit Press; 18th Birthday ed edition (1 Aug 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1842431625
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842431627
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 19.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 327,093 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Synopsis

Stephen King called Playing for Thrills, Wang Shuo's stupendous debut novel, 'perhaps the most brilliantly entertaining hardboiled novel of the 90's...Raymond Chandler crossed with Bruce Lee.' Now Wang Shuo, easily China's coolest and most popular novelist, applies his genius for satire and cultural irreverence to one of the world's sacred rituals, the Olympic games. In Please Don't Call me Human, he imagines an Olympics where nations compete not on the basis of athletic prowess, but on their citizens' capacity for humiliation - and China is determined to win at any cost. The novel's anti-hero is a slacker pedicab driver from Beijing, a degenerate nihilist who rips off his own face in order to win the gold for China. Banned in China for its 'rudeness' and 'vulgarity', this astonishing, tripped-out novel is filled with the kind of word play and outlandish antics that have earned Wang Shuo his own genre, 'hooligan literature'.

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Customer Reviews

3.0 out of 5 stars
3.0 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile 8 April 2009
Format:Paperback
This book was written ca. 2000 by Wang Shuo and translated into English the same year. Wang has been writing since at least the 1980s and gained prominence after one of his novels was filmed in 1993. A number of his works have followed the lives of disaffected youths during his nation's shift from socialism to a market economy, demonstrating an ear for language. He's been called a "spiritual pollutant" by his government.

This novel followed the adventures of a martial arts boxer who was chosen by a private-sector committee to represent China and revenge defeat by a foreign wrestler. The committee gave lip service to preserving the nation's honor, but was no less concerned with the profits they expected to make on him. They required full mobilization at all times, political correctness -- or at least the appearance of it -- and training in every possible method -- qigong, ballet and so on. Each member's self-interest was masked by appeals to the greater good.

The individual at the center -- the boxer -- was required to make ever-greater sacrifices in accordance with the committee's whimsical decisions. He did this without complaint, because unlike most other characters he lacked an agenda and was sincere. Other plots followed the boxer's aged father, a participant in the 1900 Boxer Rebellion, who the authorities wished characteristically to condemn for historical mistakes, and the fate of the boxer's neighborhood, which was fenced off and destroyed by the authorities, who auctioned off the contents to the highest bidder.

The main things I could get from this book were the author's condemnation of his society's utter lack of concern for the individual, who was at the mercy of any social entity that claimed it was acting for the greater good.
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8 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Funny, fresh and excting 30 Dec 2000
Format:Paperback
One of the most remarkable books I have ever read. The action moves from one chapter to the next, taking in slapstick comedy (highly evocative of Jackie Chan films), romance, drama and some of the most surrealist setups ever given to print.

My favourite scene must be in the modern museum, as the ballet class practice one afternoon. The curator has a fit when they start dismantling one of the exhibits - their clothes hung here and there on the walls, was it an exhibition, or was it a joke? Either way they leave wearing nothing but their gym costumes.

Frank writing and an open and honest look at authority and government are rich veins throughout, probably why then that Wang Shuo is so despised by the Chinese government. That's not to say this book is overtly political, you are never bombarded with the propoganda and rantings found in lesser stories. No, Shuo has taken a snapshot of life as it really must be.

The antagonisers, the oppresed and the disenchanted are all playing musical chairs. Possibly only let down by the crazy and "where did that come from?" ending (if you've seen Akira, you'll recognise it), but then, from one of the most insane authors comes one of the most insane books - how else could it end?
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0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Worst book i have ever read 22 Feb 2010
Format:Paperback
Truly the worst book i have ever read, hopefully this book was lost in translation as it wouldn't have been published otherwise.

Really was that bad, mad me angry having to finnish it and only did as i was on a long train journey!

Maybe i just didn't get it...
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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Olympics of Humiliation 28 Sep 2000
By Augusta Palmer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Don't Call Me Human is a shockingly fun read filled with off-color humor and disgusting detail. The plot revolves around a shady Beijing organization called MobCom, which is desperate to vindicate China's humiliating loss at the hands of an oafish American wrestler. MobCom's search for a modern-day Chinese hero who knows the secrets of the Boxers (who, among other things, mistakenly thought they were immune to the power of firearms) finds its unfortunate object in a Beijing pedicab driver named Tang Yuanbao. Written by China's most famous liumang (low-life slacker is an acceptable translation), Wang Shuo,the novel follows the miseducation and shameless promotion of Tang by MobCom, an endeavor which requires multiple press conferences ridiculously devoid of content, ballet lessons given by an octogenarian in an abandoned art gallery, an unbelievable mock-military excercise in which Tang single-handedly defeats more than one battalion, and even an eventual sex change. The rise and fall of Tang and his backers (who manage to consume 7,000 packages of instant noodles, 100 kilos of tea, and 14000 cigarettes in their first week of hardly working) is the best-told tale of slacking off and deep national/personal humiliation you're ever likely to read.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Kafka-esque. But I mean that in a good way 23 Jan 2001
By mungo181 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
One of the funniest books I've read in a while, "Please Don't Call Me Human" goes way beyond being a satire of Chinese nationalism--it's an hysterical condemnation of how far people will go for fame. So original, each outrageous event is a huge surprise.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Daring, Devastating Satire 5 Mar 2009
By Reader in Tokyo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This book was published in China in late 1989, several months after the Tiananmen crackdown. It wasn't translated into English until 2000.

Wang was prominent in China from the mid-1980s; in 1988-89, four of his works were filmed. A number of early stories and novels followed the lives of cynical urban youths during his nation's shift from socialism to a market economy. His early writing demonstrated an ear for language and an eye for the gap between convention and reality. This book has been called his funniest and most devastating political satire. He's been called a "spiritual pollutant" by his government.

This novel followed the adventures of a martial arts boxer who was chosen by a private-sector committee to represent China and revenge defeat by a foreign wrestler. The committee gave lip service to preserving the nation's honor, but was no less concerned with the profits they expected to make on him. They required full mobilization at all times, political correctness -- or at least the appearance of it -- and training in every possible method -- qigong, ballet and so on. Each member's self-interest was masked by appeals to the greater good.

The individual at the center -- the boxer -- was required to make ever-greater sacrifices in accordance with the committee's whimsical decisions. He did this without complaint, because unlike most other characters he lacked an agenda and was sincere. Other plots followed the boxer's aged father, a participant in the 1900 Boxer Rebellion, who the authorities wished characteristically to condemn for historical mistakes, and the fate of the boxer's neighborhood, which was fenced off and destroyed by the authorities, who auctioned off the contents to the highest bidder.

The main things I could get from this book were the author's condemnation of his society's utter lack of concern for the individual, who was at the mercy of any entity that claimed it was acting for the greater good. And the author's contempt for the hypocrisy of those who cloaked greed in appeals to the national interest. Near the book's end, authorities were asked, "What will you do if the Communist Party ever returns to power?"

In its irony, ear for language, dark view of people and groups, and political manipulation of a naive hero, the book often seemed like the Chinese counterpart of A Cool Million, a 1930s novel by the American Nathanael West. Wang's conception and sarcasm were brilliant: the story's development allowed him to comment on everything from committee operations to media advertising to the position of women in society. Many of the committee's campaigns seemed to end in scenes reminiscent of the Cultural Revolution, in mass demonstrations or mass denunciations.

Especially interesting was the author's use of various types of language -- proverbs quoted by most participants at the drop of a hat, the speech of committees, the pungent words of members behind the scenes, the language that common people used with officials. The parodies of bureaucratic language as well as speech directed at officials must be some of the most provocative of the period. On the other hand, the novel's execution often seemed slapdash and cartoonish, and some scenes and details remained obscure.

Excerpts:

"Comrades, we must act prudently, just beating up some foreigner won't do it. Our ultimate purpose is to establish a national model."

"The publicity should focus on how we took a pile of s*** and a puddle of p--s and turned it into somebody. We must make this clear to the masses."

"I have strict orders from old Zhao to reach his profit quota."

"Is there anyone here who actually treats you as a human? They're all using you for their own purposes, and they'll destroy you in the process. They'll turn you into whatever their hearts desire."

"If you close your eyes, I no longer exist, I only sense my existence from your reactions. If you're happy, I feel that my life is of value."

"You have retrieved the golden goblet of national integrity . . . you have lived gloriously and will die with honor . . . Flying across the mountain pass, you raise your glass to toast the bright moon; in dreams the universe is vast, awake one's life is long . . . The little boat leaves from here, the rest of one's life is claimed by rivers and oceans. When bright mountain flowers are in full bloom, your laughter will emerge from the thicket . . ."

"Revered and wise and beloved pioneer vanguard architect beacon torch demon-revealing mirror dog-beating club father mother grandfather grandmother ancestor primal ape imperial father ancient sage Jade Emperor Guanyin Boddhisatva commander-in-chief, you have been busy with a myriad of daily matters suffering untold hardships old habits die hard overworked to the point of illness addicted to labor shouldering crushing burdens mounting the clouds and riding the mist soaring across the sky helping those in danger and relieving those in distress restoring justice banishing evil and expelling heresies curing rheumatism and cold sweats invigorating the yang nourishing the kidneys and the brain building up the liver harmonizing the stomach easing pain suppressing coughs and relieving constipation . . ."

[In a TV commercial, the newly minted hero] buries his face in a book and says with profound emotion: "Whenever I get tired of reading, my thoughts turn to the East and to Chill-Way refrigerators."

"We, all of us, have razor-sharp tongues but hearts made of tofu. If we . . . weren't forced to serve the greater good, do you really think we could turn into what we've become -- beasts in human form?"
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Almost Quit 23 Aug 2007
By Walter C. Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I'm bullheaded and will finish most every book which I did here but came close to putting it down for good.
I guess the thing I got out of it was the Chinese thought of "saving face" no matter how unredeemable the
situation is.
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