The Boat Rocker : A Novel
From the award-winning author of Waiting and War Trash: an urgent, timely novel that follows an aspiring author, an outrageous book idea, and a lone journalist s dogged quest for truth in the Internet age.
New York, 2005. Chinese expatriate Feng Danlin is a fiercely principled reporter at a small news agency that produces a website read by the Chinese diaspora around the world. Danlin s explosive exposes have made him legendary among readers and feared by Communist officials. But his newest assignment may be his undoing: investigating his ex-wife, Yan Haili, an unscrupulous novelist who has willingly become a pawn of the Chinese government in order to realize her dreams of literary stardom.
Haili s scheme infuriates Danlin both morally and personally he will do whatever it takes to expose her as a fraud. But in outing Haili, he is also provoking her powerful political allies, and he will need to draw on all of his journalistic cunning to emerge from this investigation with his career and his life still intact. A brilliant, darkly funny story of corruption, integrity, and the power of the pen, The Boat Rocker is a tour de force of modern fiction."
The China-born but United States-based author Xuefei Jin, who publishes under the nom de plume Ha Jin, is a writer of simple yet powerful gifts. . . . [The Boat Rocker s] cast features people of varying backgrounds whose speech patterns Jin captures in pitch-perfect dialogue. . . . The novel includes nuanced debates on loyalty and identity. . . . Jin also reveals an added talent, previously hidden, for savage satire. Jeffrey Wasserstrom, The New York Times Book Review A delicious satire. . . . There s a darkly comic element to all this, delightful to see in Ha Jin s work. . . . Here, he expands his tonal range and approaches a kind of Kafkaesque absurdity. . . . A former Chinese Army soldier who chose to stay in the United States after the Tiananmen Square massacre, Ha Jin has lived and worked under two very different sets of rules. He knows the Communist Party s elaborate control of mass media just as well as he understands the free market s complicated influence on what we read and watch. That bifocal vision brings uncanny depth to his eighth novel, The Boat Rocker, which should find its place alongside Janet Malcolm s The Journalist and the Murderer as one of the most unsettling books about the moral dimensions of modern journalism. . . . Rocking the boat is not just a right; it s a sacred duty no matter where it leads. Ron Charles, The Washington Post It s 2005, and Danlin, who s in his mid-30s, lives in New York City, where he writes for the small but ambitious Global News Agency. . . . Danlin s column boasts a reputation for, in his words, shining a light onto the towering corruption of Chinese politics and media. So when his ex-wife Haili, whose fiction he knows to be unremarkable and generally the size of a block of tofu, is touted by the Chinese state press as a new literary star, he smells a rat. . . . In a slow-burning twist that Jin brings into play with consummate skill, Danlin grows aware that China now enjoys such reach that it can engineer the outcome it desires for Haili s state-sponsored book even abroad. . . . Convincing as well as timely. . . . [Has] a powerful moral core. Rayyan Al-Shawaf, The Christian Science Monitor The narrative framework is fertile ground for Jin s brilliant and nuanced political and social observations. . . . Danlin s feelings of despair and deracination propel the novel on an unexpected trajectory, where storytelling becomes secondary to fascinating and vital topics (mostly through conversations) of resettlement, the role of the intellectual, Chinese living abroad, and race in America. . . . These are cogent, incisive impressions, and it feels like a miracle and a splendid irony that an immigrant writer can fashion a novel with such quintessentially American themes from the front lines of the Chinese diaspora. David Takami, The Seattle Times Jin s criticism of modern-day Communist China is stunning, easily the best part of an already well-crafted novel. I was reminded of1984and the passages Winston and Julia read aloud fromThe Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism. Nandini Balial, Los Angeles Review of Books Page-turning but profound. . . .The twists and turns of Danlin s fight with Haili makeThe Boat Rockera compelling read, but Jin s insight into nationalism, patriotism and the true cost of freedom of the press gives the novel depth and brilliance. Carrie Rollwagen, BookPage (Top Pick in Fiction) Jin s conceit is intriguing, even ingenious, and he dazzles with every scene in which his reporter is confronted by hostile forces. . . . Bracing and absorbing, at its heart lurks a chilling message: Truth depends on how you shape and present it. " Malcolm Forbes, The National At once hilarious and sobering, The Boat Rocker tells the story of Danlin s quest through a multifaceted journalistic detective story, exploration of the politics and economics of contemporary literature, polemic against contemporary China, meditation on Chinese expatriate life, and romantic revenge tale. The endearing Danlin is an obsessed narrator, ever eagle-eyed when it comes to the malfeasances of others, yet regularly blinded by his own vendettas; a self-admitted Don Quixote of the Internet era. . . . In The Boat Rocker, [Jin] shows what happens when truthful stories hit the wall of Chinese politics, and it s not pretty. At the same time, in crafting a memorable hero and a narrative that is both entertaining and thought-provoking, he affirms the value of fiction itself as . . . a powerful vehicle for the truths of our times. Rebecca Steinitz, The Boston Globe Ha Jin s prose is always pleasurable to read. . . . In his latest novel, Ha Jin (Waiting) takes aim at exploitative novels and international relations as he tells the story of Feng Danlin, a Chinese expatriate journalist living in New York and working for an independent, and influential, Chinese news agency. The year is 2005, and when word comes in that Danlin s ex-wife, Yan Haili, has written a novel touted by the Chinese government as an instant worldwide bestseller, he pens several exposes concerning the book, challenging everything from the novel s lackluster style and use of a 9/11 backdrop to Haili s claims that she has signed a million-dollar-plus deal to adapt her tale into a Hollywood film. It isn t long before Danlin s articles gain traction and are reprinted throughout China. He finds himself celebrated by readers, but also the target of a series of verbal and written attacks by Haili and her entourage, and his boat rocking leaves many wondering if, by exposing Haili as a liar and the Chinese government as nefarious, Danlin may also be damaging potential Chinese/American interactions. Publishers Weekly Since emigrating from his native China, Jin has earned considerable renown for his poetry, stories, and novels (Waiting won the National Book Award in 1999). But he's never been known as a barrel of laughs. What makes his latest so refreshing is that it's laugh-out-loud funny while being as illuminating as ever. The plot is simple enough: investigative reporter Feng Danlin, who narrates the book, works for a Chinese news agency in New York. His editor assigns him to unravel the true story behind a blockbuster novel by his ex-wife, Yan Haili, who dumped him on the day he traveled to America to join her and who's now written a romance that exploits 9/11 and is attracting international attention and million-dollar film deals and even an endorsement from President George W. Bush. . . . The problem is that everything he writes in his exposes seems to some like the bitterness of a jilted husband whose own writing has never generated such interest. There are accusations about his failings as a husband, his misogyny, and his betrayal of China. As the plot thickens, it seems that not only does the Chinese government have a vested interest in the success of Haili's novel, but that American bureaucracy and Danlin's own employers have begun colluding against him. . . . The tensions extend well beyond the two antagonists, as relationships of male/female, fact/fiction, Chinese/American, freedom/fatalism, and ideals/realities are all thrown up for grabs, subverting conventional wisdom. The narrator ultimately realizes what an innocent he's been, and the reader shares the epiphanies of this pilgrim's progress. Kirkus Reviews (starred) When Fen Danlin first landed in New York to join his wife, Yan Haili, she delivered him to a seedy Chinatown inn with $500 and instructions to stay alone within walking distance of an arranged restaurant job. She returned the next day with divorce papers, leaving him sobbing. Seven years later, Danlin is an online newspaper columnist known for his exposes revealing the towering corruption of Chinese politics and media. He s assigned to write about an upcoming landmark novel allegedly endorsed by George Bush, with multinational editions pending and Hollywood rights already sold. The author of this potboiler, which preys on 9/11 sentiment with headlines coinciding a week before the tragedy s fifth anniversary, is Danlin s ex-wife. . . . Unmasking Haili s lousy writing and bloated mendacity pits Danlin against China s unforgiving power elite; at stake are his career, his relationships, even his safety. National Book Award-winningHa Jinuses sly, black humor to underscore the high price of integrity, the consequences of betrayal, and the power of the written word. Jin s latest should cross multiple genres and is especially timely for an election year. Library Journal (starred review) Ha Jin only gets better and better. In The Boat Rocker he continues with his supply of unadorned prose, as evocative as Chekhov s and sometimes as charming as E.B. White s. But he also draws us, so gently that we hardly notice, into some very deep questions, first about Chinese-American identity, then about identity for any person, and then about the value and the risks, for anyone, of living with integrity. Perry Link"
HA JIN left his native China in 1985 to attend Brandeis University. He is the author of seven previous novels, four story collections, three volumes of poetry, and a book of essays. He has received the National Book Award, two PEN/Faulkner Awards, the PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award, the Asian American Literary Award, and the Flannery O'Connor Award for Short Fiction. In 2014 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Ha Jin lives in the Boston area and is director of the creative writing program at Boston University.