When Fox is a Thousand
Larissa Lai. Vancouver: Press Gang, 1995

image taken from 
Press Gang's webpage
Possible Contexts Cultural syncreticism vs. "root" lesbianism
a paper by D. Wills Relevant Links

Characters and Structure:

Ancient China
Contemporary Vancouver
  • Yu Hsuan-chi
  • Fox
  • Artimes Wong, Mercy/Ming Lee, Diane Wong
  • Claude Chow, Eden
  • Structure:
    1. How the Fox Came to Live Alone:
    2. Familiar Shapes:
    3. Different Degrees of Recognition
    4. When Fox is a Thousand

    I. Possible Contexts:

    II.  Patriarchal society, Western exploitation of the Orient vs. Cultural fluidity and syncreticism

    I) Examples of Patriarch/Colonial control:

    -- the traveling of culture (Acknowledgment p. 2)
    Larissa Lai (in a interview): "In my fiction writing of recent years I have been focussing on trying to create a sort of historical launch pad for hybrid flowers like myself. I have been trying to foster the germination of a culture of women identified women of Chinese descent living in the West.  I suppose it is my way of trying to escape the reactiveness of identity politics by claiming a mythic, fictive sort of originality, my way of saying, but people like me (take that how you will) have been here all along, and we are infinitely more than the sum of the identities that this statistics crazy society wants to pin on me."
    [In the same interview Lai denies that this is a kind of  " born-again liberalism that denies the very real struggles of marginalized
    people in this country."  For her between confrontational politics and liberalism, there should be a "third space."] Larissa Lai (in a interview): But the most interesting thing [about Pu-Song-ling's stories] for me were, of course, these traditional fox stories. Not all the texts are particularly compelling.  There are many which are misogynist tales of wily supernatural fox women who lead innocent men to their doom and receive their just reward. But there are also those versions in which an unsavory young man leers at a beautiful woman who turns out to be a fox. The fox trounces him. There are other versions where the fox and the young man fall in love--star-crossed love, of course, because the human and the divine are not supposed to have such dealings with one another. So you see how the stories can take on a proto-feminist sort of bent, or display quite a savvy bit of class analysis!"
    --transformation: from animal-eating, to animating the dead.   Here she focuses a lot on women, from helping them, to having sex with them  (e.g. helping the wife in the first story),
    -- Journey to the West
    -- to animate a dead body and then living body, and then focus on Yu.
    --not only feminist, but lesbian  (see below)
    II. Identity: fragmentation and reconstructions
  • Contemporary Chinese-Canadian identity:

  • --a second-generation Chinese-Canadian 1. with no fixed "root" (biological mother), 2. having gone through a lot of transformation (like the fox and cyborg), and forming a family with her friends, esp. female ones.
    -- different "families" and different sense of family'Artemis and her white adoptive parents 39; Mercy's --the Lees 28-29: Tobin, their capitalist/poet father; Diane's, the Wongs Mercy's sense of family57; Artemis' sense of family 97
  • images of fragmentation
  • III.  lesbianism--sexuality, conflict, and mutual support

    Deborah Wills.  "But Do You Have to Write About It? Transgression and Multiplicity"  Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English (ACCUTE) Learned Socieites Conference.  June 1997

                 (Deborah Wills--Mount Allison University, Sackville, New Brunswick, Canada   E0A 3C0)
    *We would like to thank Deborah here for her agreement to give us her conference paper, and her persistent efforts in doing so via-email.
    three sections: "Fluidity";  "Fixity," and "Being Transfixed." 
    "Fluidity"--"The matrix of this space of liminality and contiguity, this gap between "between" and 
                  across," is offered as an ambivalent space of violence, sensuality, and metamorphosis." 
                  e.g. confusion of identity markers, masquerade, doubling 
    "Fixity"--"[Fox] takes on the whole of recorded history as inadequate, oppressive, and exclusionary:  a master narrative that masters its subjects by pinning them down in false or incomplete stories 
                or exiling them altogether."  e.g. official history, museum, art collector 
               --"the pageantry, costumes, and disguises in which the characters revel offer no quick fixes: 
             instead, even they may lead to stasis, to fixity." 
    "Being Transfixed"--"I have tried to acknowledge this by adding the prefix "trans" to my previous term 'fixed';  by doing this I want to recognize both the way that this ambivalent process works along and across lines and  boundaries, and also to admit the twist the Lai gives to the idea of fixation."  e.g. marginal bodies, "each  character is not only transformed but transfixed:  frozen in the gaze of a dangerous lover, ..."

    Relevant Links