Kim Gek Lin Short’s China Cowboy (Tarpaulin Sky Press, 2012) is having a good week.
At The Lantern Review, Jai Arun Ravine, who previously reviewed Short’s The Bugging Watch and Other Exhibits, proves once again that any review written by Ravine (author of แล้ว and then entwine (Tinfish Press)) is a text worth reading, independent of its subject, although Ravine does appear uniquely adapted to expressing the dynamics at work in Short’s grim and “gorgeous” texts.
“All ‘gorge,’ gore and zero pretty,” says Ravine,
Short’s work is often grossly disturbing and excruciatingly seductive, catching the reader in a tense push and pull with and against the text. Sticky and stuck among the fucking and fucked-up, Short binds us within tales of fierce femme survival….
Ravine goes on to examine China Cowboy and its young protagonist, La La, in a variety of literary and cinematic contexts, including the “femme deadliness” of Lucy Liu’s character, O-Ren Ishii, in Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill.
[TSky wonders: Are there comparisons to made to the recent discussion of "violent femme" at Montevidayo?]
Ravine also sees in La La “an Asian Sissy Hankshaw hitchhiking with enormous thumbs in Even Cowgirls Get the Blues“; “Laloo and the color red in Bhanu Kapil’s Incubation: A Space for Monsters“; “the star-crossed lovers Rumpoey and Dum in the ‘pad Thai’ western Tears of the Black Tiger“; even Street Fighter video game character Chun-Li, or Knives Chau in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
In the context of the last two, Ravine writes:
Through the small-framed but indestructible body of La La, Short utilizes a poetics of excess (an over-saturation of sex, secretions, child sexuality, pedophilia, country music and murder) that intervenes on popular representations of East Asian “femme fatales” and on the white American male’s fetishistic desire for this kind of deadly Asian girl, even if it’s only a costume or role-play…. The trauma induced by a repeated eroticization and fetishization of these bodies by white men (who mark them as Asian, female, deadly, sexy, other, and reduce them to objects in porn, feature films and video games) is avenged by La La’s persistent screaming/singing as she re-fashions her crooning into a weapon. No matter who is preying on her or picking her up, no matter how many times the white devil leaves his mark upon her body, the desire and pleasure is always hers.
We’re thrilled to learn that China Cowboy has garnered all involved another coveted Blurby Award from the California Journal of Poetics. This time, the award is for “Slimmest Monster,” thanks to Christian TeBordo’s praise of CC as “more hydra than hybrid, a slim monster sprouting new directions for form, narrative, culture, and identity. Meanwhile, everything it bites comes to vicious, gorgeous life.” Check out all the Blurbies, here.