Tripmaster Monkey

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Given the recent upheavals in China, Wittman’s vision of returning to his ancestral homeland, and of what he will find there, is sentimentally single-minded: “Everywhere demonstrative customs of affection--holding hands, sitting in laps, pats and strokes on heads and backs, arms around waists, fingers and cheeks touching cheeks. . . . Men are brothers holding hands, and women hold hands, and mothers and fathers kiss children.” Sentimental too, though bitterly so, is his vision of what becomes of these unified, loving Chinese people after arriving in America: “they’re walking apart. They’ve learned not to go about so queer. They have come to a lonely country, where men get killed for holding hands.”

The tension between one’s yearning for a sense of belonging in a community and one’s bitter feelings of homelessness and displacement, visibly Chinese but not culturally Chinese in America, will be familiar to readers of Kingston’s earlier books. Wittman, like this novel, is filled and driven by that tension; so intent is he upon exposing how Chinese Americans are dealt with prejudicially, that he frequently seems obsessively paranoid (for example, he makes love with a white woman and then, once finished, he quizzes her about which of his characteristics she finds attractive).

Six feet tall and verbose, Wittman devotes himself to writing and staging an impossibly huge version of numerous Chinese novels and folktales in the form of a play requiring a cast...

(The entire section is 610 words.)