The Train to Lo Wu by Jess Row

Issue #96
Spring 2005

The Train to Lo Wu, stories by Jess Row (Dial): In Jess Row’s post-colonial Hong Kong, everything seems to be on the verge of disappearing. The city is a "mirage" that can be "swallowed in fog for days," the language slippery, "no tenses or articles, with seven different ways of saying the same syllable." No one can quite understand or apprehend each other in this debut collection. A young girl blindfolds herself to be sentient to her dead mother; a photographer decamps to a monastery to mull over his failing marriage; an American graduate student tries to manipulate a masseur into revealing his memories of the Cultural Revolution: "This is your problem," he tells her. "You only look with your eyes." Blindness and ghosts are frequent allusions —fitting, since gwailo¸ the word for foreigner, can also mean ghost or demon. But, as one expat says, the designation ultimately implies that they don’t matter to the locals, they don’t exist. In these seven quiet, deftly drawn stories, characters crisscross various demarcations of politics, history, race, and religion, but, agonizingly, they never seem able to locate one another, let alone themselves. —Don Lee