Notes of a Crocodile by Qiu Miaojin

You know that feeling when you read a book you’re pretty sure was written for you but you can’t get into it, not even after struggling through almost the entire thing?

Qiu Miaojin - Notes of a Crocodile.jpgNotes of a Crocodile seemed promising when I picked it up. The cover is interesting and the blurb announced that it was about struggling queer kids in Taipei, so I picked it up. When looking up the author I discovered that Miaojin commited suicide not long after she wrote this book. Perhaps it is that fact that made me ambivalent. I’ve read about enough queer tragedy, so having a real life tragedy to burn into the pages worried me.

The book is strange. Beautiful in places, yes, and wonderfully translated; Bonnie Huie has been nominated for a prize for her work. Surreal fiction, especially with queer misfits, would usually be my jam.

Except nothing much happens in this book. The tangled love life of the main character catches and snags on those of her friends, but none of them had much personality themselves. They were, at heart, extensions of the main character. I don’t know if that’s a result of the translation or the original text but I could not tell you much about any of the characters now, even having thought about it for a while.

Despite that, I am glad I read this book. It’s good to read international fiction based on the queer experience since it’s a rare thing to find here in Canada; you have to actively seek it out. I’ve seen this book in a few places since I finished it.

(A quiet admission: I gave up about ten pages from the end out of sheer exhaustion since I had no clue what was going on and didn’t care how it ended.)

This is a book that might find its way back into my grubby paws in the future, but we shall see. It is an odd one and perhaps others may like it more than I do. Don’t let me ambivalence put you off; perhaps I’m just immune to queer angst these days.

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