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  1 The Ten Thousand Things: A Novel
Author: Spurling, John
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Class: Fiction
Age: Adult
Language: English
Demand: Moderate
LC: PR6069.P

Print Run: 35000
ISBN-13: 9781468308327
LCCN: 2013029571
Imprint: Overlook Press
Pub Date: 04/10/2014
Availability: Out of Stock Indefinitely
List: $27.95
Physical Description: 354 pages ; 24 cm H 9.24", W 6.32", D 1.26", 1.32 lbs.
LC Series:
Brodart Sources:
Awards: Kirkus Starred Reviews
Publishers Weekly Starred Reviews
Starred Reviews: Kirkus Reviews
Publishers Weekly
TIPS Subjects: Historical Fiction
BISAC Subjects: FICTION / Literary
FICTION / Historical / General
LC Subjects: Art, Chinese, Fiction
Artists, Fiction
China, History, Yuan dynasty, 1260-1368, Fiction
Epic fiction
FICTION / Historical
FICTION / Literary
Historical fiction
SEARS Subjects: Artists, Fiction
China, History, Fiction
Chinese art, Fiction
Epic fiction
Historical fiction
Reading Programs:
ONIX annotations | 02/05/2019
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. 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.
Starred Reviews:
Kirkus Reviews | 02/15/2014
With this richly told historical novel, English author Spurling (A Book of Liszts, 2011, etc.) takes readers back to the China of seven centuries ago. Wang Meng is descended from an emperor yet is content to support himself and his wife with a minor bureaucratic post in the Yuan dynasty. Wang's true calling is art. To his wife's chagrin, the middle-aged man would love to spend his days contemplating waterfalls and painting landscapes; she wishes he had more ambition. Meanwhile, the country is in the midst of turbulence and upheaval. Bandits roam the countryside. Wang leaves his home several times, once at the behest of the White Tigress, a beautiful woman who leads a group of bandits. Wang himself is a gentle soul, but he has plenty of sense in devising military stratagems. The great strength of this novel is not so much the plot but the rich detail that sets the reader in the middle of China. As Wang paints waterfalls and witnesses beheadings, Spurling paints an exquisite story of a deeply decent man and his surroundings. One almost feels that the author just returned from the 14th century carrying a notebook brimming with observations large and small. Yet the story moves along when it needs to--it has action, some of it violent--but pauses often to describe some of the 10,000 things in nature. When Wang goes to prison and contemplates endless time, a friend observes that in the long run, "Emperors and shit buckets are all one." Wang Meng was a real person famous for his richly detailed paintings, and this novel imagines the fabric of the last decades of his life. Spurling's novel is a work of art in itself. A thoroughly enjoyable literary sojourn by a master of historical fiction. 368pg. KIRKUS MEDIA LLC, c2014.
Publishers Weekly | 01/13/2014
Combining the delicacy of an old Chinese landscape painting with the brutality of Chinese history, Spurling's novel follows the wanderings of real-life painter/sometime bureaucrat Wang Meng during the last years of Mongol rule through the beginning of the Ming Dynasty. Talk about the best and worst of times! Before peace and prosperity, 14th-century China witnessed Kublai Khan's domain deteriorating into lawlessness. When the novel opens, Wang doesn't know that foreign domination will soon end, or that his paintings will inspire future generations. He only knows that he feels compelled to retreat into the mountains to study nature and attempt to capture it with paper and ink. Descended from a great family long in service to their Mongol overlords, Wang struggles to maintain a fragile balance between respect and self-expression, sensitivity to subtleties of honor and practical exigency. He befriends, among others, three artists with whom he will change Chinese art, and a 16-year-old Buddhist novice who will change Chinese history. He assists a fiery bandit queen, as well as the poet who memorializes her as a passive milkmaid. Wrongfully imprisoned during his old age by the regime he helped establish, Wang, as Spurling imagines him, records his life story both in first person and in third, in keeping with his observant, yet personal, painting style. The narrative resounds with the vivid detail and the ever-changing tides of war and politics, art and nature. (Apr.). 368p. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2014.
Journal Reviews
Booklist | 02/01/2014
Wang Meng is an unambitious bureaucrat in fourteenth-century China. Fed up with the petty quarrels of government service, he has retreated to his country estate to paint, much to the dismay of his cantankerous wife. Looking for peace and even insignificance, Wang soon finds that his life's adventure is just beginning. As the Mongols' rule over China is challenged by several uprisings, Wang is caught up in the overtures of competing generals, the vengeful attacks of bandits, and even the love of a charismatic woman warrior. Through it all, he seeks the company of other artists, both to plumb the mysteries of great painting and to help each other navigate the perilous waters of political loyalty. This is mostly a quiet novel, but a rich one. As one general ascends to power and the Ming dynasty is born, Wang seeks to act honorably and rationally in times of prosperity and disaster, in states of loneliness and companionship, with parents, wife, and servants alike. Readers will feel lucky to watch his journey and share his thoughts. Weber, Lynn. 368pg. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2014.