on 15 August 1997
Set in the heady days of 1960's San Francisco, this is a bawdy, nonstop picaresque seen through the eyes of its hero: Wittman Ah Sing, recent Berkeley-grad and aspiring poet/playwright whose self-appointed quest is the staging of a massive conglomeration of Chinese myth & literature starring himself & everyone he knows. On the way, he marries, falls in love (though not to the same person), extemporizes hilarious "talk-stories" that get him both into and out of trouble, and learns not a little about himself & what it means to be an American who just happens to also be Chinese. Kingston has woven a vivid tapestry on which Wittman's antics (& heroics) are portrayed in language that never fails to delight. As funny & fun-filled as this novel is, it's also deeply serious about issues as basic as identity (both individual & national) and as topical as the Vietnam War. Think of it as The Joy Luck Club with more brains, more heart, and less syrup. Think of it as the Great American Classic that it is.
on 21 December 1998
Until I read Tripmaster Monkey, I was afraid I was the only "Wittman Ah Sing" in the world. I am no longer fearful. Maxine Hong Kingston crafts this book like a tasty dumpling; substantial, filling, and it sticks to your heart (rather than the roof of your mouth). One major incentive of this book is its blatant honesty. This story about an Asian hippie Wittman is not complete without the parent-like nagging of truths, always present, and always raising questions. Perhaps the only negative comment I can render unto this book is that it repeats itself sometimes quite obviously, and that may distract from a (certainly not mine) sensitive reader's enjoyment. However, the complex messages imbued within Tripmaster Monkey are a pleasure to decode and comprehend. Along with entertaining (and all too true) depictions of the Asian-American- I especially rememeber the one about Uncle Bun, the obsessive wheat germ-loving communist- this "fake" book has me firmly convinced it's the real thing. Authentic (for a novel) Maxine Hong Kingston, folks.
on 25 May 1999
This novel id loaded with lots of good insights into human nature and the American experience, especially during the sixties. Although I don't agree with much of what she says and I don't like jumping from the philosiphical to the weird, the weird seems to cheapen the philosophical. But the wierd does provide a good setup for the insights and the meat of the novel. I know missed a lot because I'm not familiar with chinese folklore.
on 27 June 1998
This is one of the worst books I've ever read. The storyline is garbled,confusing, and mixed with the consciousness of the protagonist. The characters are eccentric and not all endearing. It was a pain to turn each page. The book saved itself from being a door stopper because of the last chapter. It doesn't completely redeem itself, but it does bring order to the story. If you're a fan of Maxine Hong's read this at your own risk.