The bear­able like­ness of end­less de­bauch­ery

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Justin Wolfers

Diary of a Naked Of­fi­cial By Ouyang Yu Tran­sit Lounge, 224pp, $24.95 IT was not till that mo­ment that I re­alised, per­haps for the hun­dredth time, that if there is any fine dif­fer­ence be­tween love and sex it lies be­tween the first mouth and the sec­ond mouth. A woman in love with you will want both, for as much depth and heat as pos­si­ble, but a woman in sex with you will only open one, the one be­low, to per­form the func­tion of a fee-charg­ing pump un­til you run dry. THE diary-keeper’s de­sires are base, animalistic, and the only way he sus­tains them is in know­ing that “youth is the best pill’’. The read­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of Diary of a Naked Of­fi­cial is what this man’s life is like — an ac­cu­mu­la­tion of per­ver­sions, nor­malised over time into a blase, ev­ery­day eroti­cism. He tells of his own de­prav­ity, over and over, un­til we don’t find it alarm­ing any­more.

Ouyang Yu has writ­ten ex­ten­sively in both Chi­nese and English since he moved to Aus­tralia in 1991, of­ten writ­ing at the edges be­tween the two cul­tures, with a pro­lific out­put of bilin­gual po­etry and trans­la­tion work, as well as his di­verse out­put of fic­tion and crit­i­cism.

In this novel, he ex­plores the Chi­nese fas­ci­na­tion with eroti­cism, through the diary of a mid­dle-aged deputy edi­tor at a pub­lish­ing house in China, who com­mis­sions books that are of­ten trans­la­tions, of­ten erotic, while writ­ing his own diary of sex­ual mis­ad­ven­ture in English. It’s an ex­plicit cat­a­logue, fea­tur­ing a range of mostly teenage pros­ti­tutes.

Yet if por­tray­ing the ug­li­ness of the anony­mous diary-keeper’s life is the goal, Yu is too ef­fec­tive. That is not to say the novel is un­bear-

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