excerpt from Night Bus by Zuo Ma

Night Bus reviewed in Publishers Weekly

Night Bus

Publishers Weekly    |    Publishers Weekly    |    June 28, 2021

The somber but mesmerizing stories in Ma’s debut collection follow a Lynchian dream logic, underpinned by themes of loss and a demented sense of humor. In “Niu Niu The Evil Hound,” Ma spins a twisted tale starring an anthropomorphized version of a beloved shih tzu he owned long ago. Other pieces are similarly grounded in Ma’s real-world experiences, such as dramatizing conversations about his professional stagnation, or his observations around China’s industrializing landscape. But even the more realistic narratives get interrupted by an abrupt encounter with the uncanny. In “Night Bus,” Ma reckons with his grandmother’s memory loss by envisioning the journey she takes as her cognition returns and fades; Ma imagines her as a young woman traveling through a dreamscape in search of the “night bus” that will spirit her off to the next world, where she encounters a series of oddities, such as two boys hunting for giant snails who are suddenly surprised by a UFO shaped like a cocoon. While Ma’s defiantly incomprehensible narratives leave an impression, it’s not always sustainable in the longer selections. But adventurous readers will awe at Ma’s transporting visions. (July)

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