Cao Kou (b. 1977) has steadily gained prominence since his literary debut in 2001 and presently enjoys a wide following and literary standing as a prolific author of fiction ranging from full-length novel to flash fiction and short, personal essays. While some call Cao as a “decadent” writer who rejects the status quo, others define his work by its fragmentary quality. This essay argues for Cao’s “in-betweenness” in Nanjing literature, citing generational and geographical divides as the reasons. Further, I argue that Cao Kou’s self-conscious outsider persona, positioning as part of an “intermediate generation,” and caustic and sometimes experimental narrative technique allow him to act as a caustic, insider’s eye on down-in-the-mouth Yangtze basin masculinity. Unlike classical outsider literature, the milieu is not outcast but embedded, presenting a critical but resigned view of the Chinese city from the author’s home island in the river.
Chinese contemporary literature