China Cowboy

China Cowboy
Kim Gek Lin Short

ISBN: 9780982541685
Lyric Novel | 6″x8″, 132 pp, pbk | June 2012
Cover design: Andrew Shuta

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In the technicolor timewarp called Hell, Hong Kong, wannabe cowgirl La La is hellbent on realizing her dream to be a folk-singing sensation, even if it means surviving a dysfunctional relationship with her kidnapper, Ren, who is just hellbent. Ren thinks he’ll win, but La La, dead or alive, always wins.

Short is an elegant, entrancing writer, and her second book-length collection is both devastating and uncomfortably enjoyable.

—Megan Milks, American Book Review

A satanically intricate narrative with seemingly infinite vantage points in space, time and sympathy … has expanded and fused the poetic and narrative fields, creating a zone where elegance and grace can gambol with the just-plain-fucked-up.

Sarah Heady, HTML Giant

…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….

—Jai Arun Ravine, The Lantern Review

[A]s savage as it is entertaining, [Gek Lin Short’s] ambitious story—while bleak—is a marvel of modern storytelling, [with] characters whose stories will haunt you long after you finish the book, and will more than likely draw you back for another read.

—John Deming and Steven Karl, Coldfront‘s Top 40 Poetry Books of 2012

Bring[s] the reader to the brink of every sensory extreme and back again … a darkly surreal adventure in perception that leaves one’s nerves exposed and moral fortitude shaken.

—Travis Macdonald, Fact-Simile

China Cowboy pulls me deep into “the belly of Hell,” a genre- and voice-switching push-and-pull that La La with her indomitable will refuses to give way to…. La La may be victimized, but she never submits…. I want every child to own such unyielding puissance; I want it for me, too.

—Marthe Reed, OPEN / Horse Less Press

Moving between the explicit descriptions of the Marquis de Sade and the implicit ironies of Nabokov, these pieces are excruciatingly compelling, so infernal as they are related in languages variously pornographic and desperately, radically tender. Short’s brilliant tragicomedy can be read as a metaphor for China’s dynamic with American culture or the story of any determined enterprising youth whose eager “bloody head” under a bumbling tyrant’s “boot is bent.” A bold, imaginative, timely work from a courageous and complex thinker.

—Heidi Lynn Staples

Heated & heartbreaking, China Cowboy charms like wedding cans, flesh-filled, on tarmac. This car (perhaps an old, long Cadillac with longhorns glaring & charred) contains a man, Ren: a “family man” or “something commensurate.” La-La: our heroine. & the driver, guiding us expertly over the bluegrass, bodies & Time Warps of Hell, child abuse, power & Country Music is Kim Gek Lin Short.

—Rauan Klassnik

China Cowboy is 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.

—Christian TeBordo

La La is a myth-making myth. What we learn from her is that we all are. Born in Hong Kong to a family of thieves, she survives by giving herself fully to her religion—Americana. Her saints: Loretta Lynn and Clint Eastwood. Even after being kidnapped and brutally tortured by one of her family’s victims—ironically a farmer from Missouri named Ren—she asks herself, “what would Patsy Cline do?” The answer: “she’d belt every song in that / scratchy face.” Composed primarily of prose blocks that miraculously retain the surprise of linebreaks, this fragmented narrative chronicles their dreams, delusions, and horrific physical lives. La La and Ren are as searing as any characters I’ve encountered—Henry and Mr. Bones, Lolita and Humbert Humbert, Hannibal Lecter and Buffalo Bill, etc.—and we share with them the reality that something must be imagined in order to keep going. Mired in what he is doing to La La, even Ren can comfort himself: “I grasp myself with my arms and say it is / almost too much to contain, this happiness.” La La can only respond by yelling “into her microphone: ‘Shut up, Lao Ren! I caint hear / myself sing!’”

—Chris Tonelli


about the author

Photo by Amanda Hall Studios

Photo by Amanda Hall Studios

Kim Gek Lin Short is also the author of China Cowboy and The Bugging Watch & Other Exhibits, both from Tarpaulin Sky Press, along with the chapbooks Run (Rope-a-Dope) and The Residents (dancing girl press). China Cowboy is her second full-length collection.

Read more at our author page for Kim Gek Lin Short.