Today I'm sharing a book with you which I'm planning on starting this weekend. This book is The Ten Thousand Things by John Spurling which has me ever so slightly absolutely fascinated.
In the turbulent final years of the Yuan Dynasty, Wang Meng is a low-level bureaucrat, employed by the government of Mongol conquerors established by the Kublai Khan. Though he wonders about his own complicity wit this regime—the Mongols, after all, are invaders—he prefers not to dwell on his official duties, choosing instead to live the life of the mind.Tuesday Intros is hosted by Diane over at Bibliophile by the Sea and Teaser Tuesdays is hosted by A Daily Rhythm.
Wang is an extraordinarily gifted artist. His paintings are at once delicate and confident; in them, one can see the wind blowing through the trees, the water rushing through rocky valleys, the infinite expanse of China’s natural beauty. But this is not a time for sitting still, and as The Ten Thousand Things unfolds, we follow Wang as he travels through an empire in turmoil. In his wanderings, he encounters, among many memorable characters, other master painters of the period, including the austere eccentric Ni Zan, a fierce female warrior known as the White Tigress who will recruit him as a military strategist, and an ugly young Buddhist monk who rises from beggary to extraordinary heights.
The Ten Thousand Things is rich with exquisite observations, and John Spurling endows every description—every detail—with the precision and depth that the real-life Wang Meng brought to his painting. But it is also a novel of fated meetings, grand battles, and riveting drama, and in its seamless fusion of the epic and the intimate, it achieves a truly singular beauty. A novel that deserves to be compared to the classic Chinese novels that inspired it, The Ten Thousand Things is nothing short of a literary event.
'The times are turning bad again. I have been arrested for going to see a private art collection. Can you believe it? An old man of nearly eighty, a retired magistrate, is put in prison on suspicion. Instead of sitting on a dais giving judgement, here I am sitting on a stone floor waiting to be judged. Of course I'm only on remand. No one has tried or condemned me yet for the crime I am supposed to have committed, but still I've been here for weeks - long enough almost to have got used to the stench of the bucket in the corner.' 1%I love how Spurling consciously puts the reader on the wrong foot with his first line. With the slightest of references to Dickens' greatest opening line, Spurling seems to set a very heavy mood, only to then flip it with his hilarious second line. I can't imagine getting arrested for seeing an art collection. The beginning paragraph only seems to be getting more absurd until the reality of the protagonist's situation actually hits towards the end of it.
'The geomancer discovered an auspicious day for the funeral later that week.' 37%I saw this line while browsing for a fun teaser and I simply couldn't not pick it. I mean, there is something beautifully absurd and yet logical about this sentence and I can't wait to see what happens in that first third of the book to get us to this line. Also, whose funeral are we planning?
Does The Ten Thousand Things sounds like your kind of book? I personally love big sagas that span generations, so I think I'll enjoy this one very much.