Sarah M. Allen
History, Gossip, and Lore in Narratives from Tang Dynasty China
Harvard University Asia Center 2014
New Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in East Asian StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books Network March 9, 2015 Carla Nappi
Sarah M. Allen‘s new book looks at the literature of tales in eighth- and ninth-century China. Shifting Stories: History, Gossip, and Lore in Narratives from Tang Dynasty China (Harvard University Asia Center, 2014) situates Tang tales in the context of social story exchange among elite men. Allen’s work not only contributes significantly to how we understand and frame concepts like fiction and fact, authorship, gossip, and collection, but also presents a bookful of fascinating stories. These tales relayed gossip about rulers and high officials and became vehicles for the discussion and debate of popular events, they narrated travelers’ encounters with stranger that kept secrets, they offered riddles and games, and they transformed through reading and rewriting. Shifting Stories is a joy to read and should be on the shelves of anyone with an interest in Tang China, the history of storytelling, or histories of textuality and authorship.