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THAT MAN IN OUR LIVES
new novel • C & R Press • releases September 15 2016


The Transnational 21st Century Novel

In THAT MAN IN OUR LIVES, New York-Hong Kong author Xu Xi extends the fictional universe of her earlier novels. New York is the perch from which she examines the shifting balance of power between China and the U.S., set against a tale of lifelong friendships between Gordon Ashberry — “Gordie” or “Hui Guo 灰果” — and his two best friends Harold Haight and Larry Woo and their families. Born to wealthy East Coast parents, Gordon is a Sinophile who has never held a job, married or raised children. His one attempt in his thirties to run an aircraft leasing business almost ends in bankruptcy and the loss of his inheritance. When Gordon turns fifty, he tells Harold, a tax lawyer, that he wants to give all his money away. An opportunistic young Chinese writer learns of this, she approaches him to write a book (Honey Money) about his decision, and upon publication it becomes a minor cult success. The ensuing publicity sends him into a self-imposed exile for several years, including from all his friends. The novel opens in March 2003 when Gordon is fifty-five and decides to disappear during a flight delay in Tokyo. The pre and post fallout around that disappearance informs this novel about the friend who has always been in your life, until he isn’t, and how much or little we know of those we think we know well. Originally inspired by John Adams’ opera “Nixon in China,” a large cast of characters traverse the globe in search of this missing protagonist, a Gatsby-ish figure with Chinese characteristics. THAT MAN IN OUR LIVES is Xu’s metafictional answer to the late 18th Century Chinese classic novel, Cao Xueqin’s Dreams of Red Chambers.

Praise for Xu's novel:

"Brilliantly explores what is perhaps the most fundamental dynamic of our existence, the profound interaction of two forces, one social and one personal: our connectedness with each other and our yearning to find a self. Beautifully refined in both intelligence and prose, this novel will not let a reader put it down." - Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize in Fiction

“That Man in Our Lives is a complex and compelling tale of the mysteries of love, friendship, and lives led between China and North America. Xu Xi takes us deep into the two cultures in a mesmerizing polyphonic plot woven around the disappearance of her Gatsby-like central character Gordon Ashberry, a Sinophile scion of a wealthy Connecticut family. Written by a truly transnational writer at the height of her powers, That Man in Our Lives educates and delights the reader at the same time.” - Vesna Goldsworthy, Professor of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia & author of the novel Gorsky

"A metaphysical novel that unravels the real and imagined political and cultural identities of both  inhabitants and expatriates in Hong Kong after it aweighed its colonial anchor and returned to China in 1997.   With candor, wile and wit, the main character Gordie adopts the personae of the Monkey King who unties this knot of ever more complex intimate and public experiences.  This is a must read for anyone interested in understanding the merging and intractable financial and cultural intersections between China and the United States, and their everyday impact on their citizens." -  Alex Kuo, winner of the American Book Award & author of the novel shanghai.shanghai.shanghai


events for the novel



other publications & media


Above that evanescent isle, Hong Kong. Photo by Paul Hilton
"Why I Stopped Being Chinese" (essay), Iowa Review, Issue 45, Spring 2015.

"Off Season with Snake" (essay), Your Impossible Voice, Issue 7, Spring 2015.

"The 15th Annual Anniversary" (story), Water-Stone Review, Minnesota, Issue 17, 2014.

"Home Base" (essay) Kweili Journal, December 2014.

"Kaspar's Warp" (story) Drunken Boat, Issue 20, December 2014.



Essay : WHY I STOPPED BEING CHINESE

The HOW is impossible. Chinese blood and hair, clichéd almond eyes. You do not escape physiognomy or the interlocked outer and inner miens. The Why is not about the How, and this is not some how-to manual of shame. Instead, let’s zero in on the Who, What and Where, in this rhetoric of How and Why . . .

Click the link under the cover image to purchase the issue of THE IOWA REVIEW to read the rest of the essay.

Essay: OFF SEASON WITH SNAKE (from the essay collection-in-progress TYPHOON MUM)

There should not be typhoons in November, but during this Chinese year – the snake one beginning mid February 2013 that straddles early 2014 – everything is in turmoil. Typhoon season lingers too long into an Indian summer, that quaint romantic idée no longer fixe. Friends die too young, succumbing to the cancer they fought too long. Sanctuaries disappear, sold to the highest bidder, because they remained occupied too long by renters, instead of occupied by you as they once were or intended to be. Yet none of this is tragic, nothing to bemoan, because the weather is merely the victim of climatic change (or cycles), death cuts short enduring life (the way curve balls shortstop ambition) and the property market is perennially profitable because you always, always, always buy low and sell high (the way Auntie Caroline taught you to do before she died) for all your locations, locations, locations.

Only Mum’s life feels like tragedy . . . [click link under image to read the rest of the essay]



Fiction (short story): THE 15th ANNUAL ANNIVERSARY

He had gone, against his better judgment, to their high school class’s 35th reunion dinner. Only because F was persistent. His emails and Facebook bulletins during the past year had subtly ratcheted up the pressure, culminating with an offer to pay for Christopher’s share to attend, which was not cheap, never cheap, when it came to these boys of La Salle. But F was doing well in Seattle—happily married, adorable twin girls aged nine, a systems engineer in Boeing’s senior management—unlike Christopher, who had never ventured further than Macau, at least not for almost thirty years, who’d never finished university, but who still managed to scrape by thanks to his steady, dead-end job at home in Hong Kong . . .

Click the link under the image to purchase a copy of the issue of WATER-STONE REVIEW to read the rest of the story.



ALL ABOUT SKIN

Edited by Jina Ortiz & Rochelle Spencer, with a foreword by Helena Maria Viramontes, this exciting new anthology is, according to Pulitzer fiction author Junot Diaz, "electrifying and absolutely necessary." Xu Xi's work is the title story and the volume features twenty-seven stories by women of color. Published in November, 2014 by the University of Wisconsin press.

ALL ABOUT SKIN named a Ms. Magazine 2014 must-read feminist book of the year.

What does it mean to be a ‘Hong Kong person’? Hong Kong has never been an independent state, nor has it completely reverted to mainland Chinese control. Once a British colony, now a semi- autonomous Special Administrative Region of China, Hong Kong is something of a mystery even to itself. Although it has long had a majority Cantonese Chinese population, the presence of significant expatriate communities — Western, Indian, Filipino, and others — creates a unique cultural diversity. This is evident in Hong Kong’s literary output as well: although Cantonese is by far the majority language, English writing occupies a small but enduring niche. In this collection of short stories, eight writers explore the questions of what it means to be in, from, and of the Hong Kong of the past, the present, and the future.

ISBN 978-1-905510-43-6
Publication date September 23, 2014
Print edition 133mm x 210mm perfect bound paperback
Page count 160
HK $130.00
UK £9.99
USA $16.00

To order: sales@cccpress.co.uk or visit your favorite online bookseller to buy the E Book

Speaker at the Dante Aligheri Society: path to Dante's hell?

What do we think we desire? What do we truly desire? These are the two competing forces underlying Xu Xi’s latest fiction collection, ACCESS, released November 2011 by Signal 8 Press. These thirteen tales are at once acerbic and heartbreaking, directing our gaze at the incongruities of human relations and the persistence of wounds our hearts cannot heal.

Contents
TALL TALES: Anon. • Iron Light • The Wang Candidate
CIRCULAR TALES: Space • To Body To Chicken • Servitude
FAIRY TALES: Access • Agora • Famine
OLD WIVES' TALES: Trashy Desires of Women Nearing Fifty • Available
BEASTLY TALES: Crying with Audrey Hepburn • Lady Day

OTHER WRITERS SAY:
“A collection of tales with hints of Chaucer, ranging from the world of privilege to office workers and massage girls; from heavily ironic vignettes on the corporate world to edgy stories of broken lives and selfish times . . . the access code to this grammar is to glean the shadow of loss lying between language and the loneliness of existence.”
Brian Castro, author of Shanghai Dancing, The Bath Fugues and The Garden Book

“Xu Xi has a sharp ear. The dominant voices in her latest collection of short stories belong to the bold and elegant Chinese women, the high achievers, losers, dreamers and dancers with families and lovers, who are separated by continents and cultures. Their stories, unsentimentally told, are a stimulating read.”
Suchen Christine Lim, author of A Bit of Earth, Fistful of Colours and Rice Bowl

BACKLIST now available as E BOOKS


1994: Chinese Walls (novel)
1996: Daughters of Hui (fiction collection)
1997: Hong Kong Rose (novel)
2001: The Unwalled City (novel)
2010: Habit of a Foreign Sky (novel)



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In March 2010, Xu Xi was named the first Writer-in-Residence at City University of Hong Kong.


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