TRIPMASTER MONKEY by Maxine Hong Kingston
Kirkus Star

TRIPMASTER MONKEY

His Fake Book
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KIRKUS REVIEW

In The Warrior Woman (1976) and China Men (1980), Kingston approached the genius of the Chinese-American heritage in a robust blaze of mythic intuitions and shrewd, historical, autobiographical notation. Here, in her first novel, she swirls stories from myth and wild circumstance about the Sixties' soul-journey of a recent Berkeley grad of Chinese ancestry--as he pads about the S.F. environs on Steppenwolfian, jumpy paws, experiencing Vietnam-era Fear and Loathing, love and friendship, and the creative bangs and shudders of a poet. He'll finally bring to birth "an enormous loud play. . .that will make us [Chinese-Americans] braver. . ." On the way to reawakening the Chinese soul via the great show, Wittman Ah Sing, fired from a department store (something naughty went on in Toys), parties (sans drugs) with inventively seeking pals and strenuously experiencing LSD heads; falls in love ("she likes me, a heartbreaker and a rover"); gets married (sort of), but the two may not love; visits satisfyingly mad parents; confronts the Government at the Unemployment Office; and at last casts his theatrical epic with a cast of Wittman's everybody (after all, "it takes enormous populations to play out all the ways of being human"). Among the cast: a Japanese friend and his Young Millionairess; the wife Wittman may not love and the beautiful girl he may; mother Ruby and her showgirl pals who'll perform again their (WW II) War Bonds China Rescue act; "old futs"; PoPo, the luck-crowned deserted grandmother; and a cast of neighborhood thousands. At the first night close (the play is continuous, night after night) of story, music, and dance, Wittman--in a fiery monologue--blasts the "innocent" ones who won't recognize other Americans in their native land ("We need to take the hyphen out. . .'American' the noun and 'Chinese' the adjective"). There are some enchanting turns here (a boring girl becomes a "blue boar" in a twinkling--" the lips moved, the tusks flashed"); and throughout Kingston offers bright-bannered "talk stories" of heroes and monsters, the grand and gruesome. But trips inside the head of a heavy experiencer and fantasizer can create a static, claustrophobic climate. As for Wittman's ethnic-pride orations--right on! (though better said than read). Rather a dense, occasionally rewarding trip, which should ride comfortably on the excellence of Kingston's nonfiction.

Pub Date: April 27th, 1989
ISBN: 0679727892
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1989




MORE BY MAXINE HONG KINGSTON

NonfictionI LOVE A BROAD MARGIN TO MY LIFE by Maxine Hong Kingston
by Maxine Hong Kingston
NonfictionTHE FIFTH BOOK OF PEACE by Maxine Hong Kingston
by Maxine Hong Kingston
NonfictionCHINA MEN by Maxine Hong Kingston
by Maxine Hong Kingston

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