Contemporary Short Stories From Taiwan (I)

Last weekend I went to the bookstore to look for some books to study before class starts in March.  One of them was a book used in the program at ICLP at the advanced level*.  It is called, Contemporary Short Stories (I).  The book contains 9 short stories from real Taiwanese authors of modern fiction.  Before going to bed, I read the first story, “車票” by Li Jia-Tong.  When I opened the book, I thought I was just going to read a little to see what it as like, but the story was so good that I ended up finishing it!  The first thing that I wanted to know is whether or not the stories in the book appear in their original form or had been dumbed down to make reading easier.  I went to a few Chinese websites to look at the story and was pleased to find that they are the same as the one in my book.

I’m hoping that the rest of the stories are also free from any well-meaning tampering.  I am not really interested in reading anything that isn’t in its original format, and I think it is a bad idea to make a reader like this and then simplify the stories.  I think most people who pick up a book of short stories would like to read it in its original form, but have chosen a textbook so they can take advantage of the vocabulary list.  If a sentence or two in the story seems too difficult, I’d rather they put a start by it with a short explanation or even do nothing at all.  If it is hard, so what?  If it is really that important to the story, I’ll take the time to figure it out on my own, and if it isn’t then I’ll just skip it.

Okay, back to the book.  If you glance at the vocabulary lists for the stories, you might find their length a bit daunting.  Yes, they are long, but no, they are not filled with a bunch of difficult vocabulary.  In fact, if you are worried that you will still run into a word you don’t know and it won’t be on the list—-don’t.  I can almost guarantee you they have included it.   Which brings me to the only real fault I have with this book: the vocabulary on the lists is poorly chosen and wastes space.  Since it is an advanced reader, I’m not really sure why they thought it necessary to include so many low-level vocabulary words.  For example, on the first page you will see “餅乾” “歌曲” and “即使”.  I don’t really think that an advanced reader, or even an intermediate reader for that matter, would need a definition for these words.  If these words were removed from the lists, the lists would be half of their current size and you could just combine books I and II.

That being said, I still highly recommend this book.  I’ve only read a few stories, but the few I’ve read were great.

*(I think it is the advanced level, but their website was down, so I couldn’t actually check.)

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2 responses to “Contemporary Short Stories From Taiwan (I)”

  1. 樂嵐 says :

    Hi what is the title of the book in Chinese and the publishing company in Chinese? What other stories and other authors did it have?

    • musingsonmandarin says :

      The title of the book is “台灣現代短篇小說選(一)”. It is published by ICLP (International Chinese Language Program) at National Taiwan University. Other authors and stories: Small Leaf by Xiao Sa, A Woman Like Me by Xi Xi, God’s Dice by Guo Zheng, A Requiem for the Dead by Zhuang Yu-An, From Seas into Mulberry Fields by Yuan Qiong-Qiong, Death in a Cornfield by Ping Lu, and Everybody Needs Qin Defu by Huang Fan.

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