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Litchfield reviews ‘Hsi-wei Tales’ for the Colorado Review

Hsi-wei Tales by Robert Wexelblatt

Published today in the Colorado Review is my review of Robert Wexelblatt’s wonderful story collection Hsi-wei Tales. Here is a snippet:

“There is an admirable, lyrical splendor to Robert Wexelblatt’s heartwarming tales centered on the fictional Chen Hsi-wei, an itinerant Chinese shoemaker and celebrated peasant-poet of the Sui period. Previously, Wexelblatt, a professor of humanities at Boston University, merged creative writing and musical composition to great effect in his rather tuneful story collection, Petites Suites. His latest Hsi-wei Tales chart the adventures of a shy, benign, vagabond poet who once served as a war messenger to the future Emperor and chose to receive an education as a reward over gold, land, and concubines. His poetry earns him fame, public affection, and influence, and his nomadic lifestyle brings him in contact with people of all classes, educating him about political dilemmas, corruption, and community hardships. Through audiences with senior officials and the ruling classes, he is able to try to correct countless imbalances.

The humble central character, nobly propagating amity and fairness, is a character of mythological proportions, yet one so affectionately etched into literature that one cannot help but admire the forethought that went into him. The delicate articulacy of his verse and the valiant way the author channels it throughout the collection to counter ill-doing, touches the hearts and minds of those Hsi-wei encounters. How he redresses the scales of justice is a testament to the power and timelessness of poetry. Like a pair of Hsi-wei’s durable sandals, this is a collection worthy of praise and preservation.”

Read the full, in-depth book review here.