A review of
Mad Science in Imperial City
by Shanxing Wang
Shanxing Wang’s debut collection, Mad Science in Imperial City, is an exploration of how bearing witness is “burdened by the solidification and densification of its own memory and the difficulty of telling it faithfully.” An extraordinary work of collapsed geography and conflated event, it argues that only through engaging with tradition can we understand our experience of the world as it changes around us.
Four linked sections of poetic prose that draw both from the lyric and the novelistic, Mad Science resists classification. It utilizes scientific diagrams, mathematical equations, lists, and even a menu from an imagined Poetry Auction (“poetry of fresh masquerade, $6.75”). Broadly, it relates the experience of someone who left China after the Tiananmen Square massacre to settle in the U.S., carrying the fourth edition of the American Heritage dictionary “wherever I go.” The book uses this emigration to investigate what constitutes the individual and where narration resides.
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