Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What is Jan Clausen reading?

The current featured contributor to Writers Read: Jan Clausen, essayist, poet, novelist, memoirist and critic. She has published creative work in Bloom, Fence, Gay and Lesbian Poetry in Our Time, Hanging Loose, The Kenyon Review, North American Review, Ploughshares, and many other periodicals and anthologies. Her essays, book reviews, and literary journalism appear in Boston Review, Ms., The Nation, Poets and Writers, and The Women’s Review of Books.

Clausen's poetry collections, From a Glass House (IKON) and If You Like Difficulty (Harbor Mountain Press) appeared in 2007.

One paragraph from her Writers Read entry:
Life and Death Are Wearing Me Out by Mo Yan (Arcade Publishing 2006, translated by Howard Goldblatt). Brilliantly combining elements of traditional mythology with a satire of recent Chinese history, Mo Yan takes as his premise the idea that a “rich peasant” executed for his sins against the revolution is reincarnated as a farm animal in his old village. We then get a slow lope through the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and the transition to a profit-based economy in the 1990’s, told from a combination of animal and human perspectives. There’s a lot of sadness here, but little clear-cut victimization, as people work the system to make the best of some very bad bargains. The reader is invited to laugh at human folly as seen through the eyes of (successively) a donkey, an ox, a pig, and a dog; but the laughter is cut short when one reflects that the human dramas—for instance, that of a boy torn between his father’s noble refusal to join the farm collective and his own adolescent attraction to the “mainstream” of his rural society, with its tractors and perks for the collectivized—are versions of a reality experienced by millions of Chinese people over the last half century.[read on]
Read excerpts from Clausen’s recently completed novel, The Company of Cannibals, and learn more about the author and her work at

Writers Read: Jan Clausen.

--Marshal Zeringue