Title: Maxine, Aoki, Beto & Me
Author: Wena Poon
“That’s the thing, zai zai, life doesn’t have a point! You find the point! Find the point!” – Laura, The Distance Between Two Points
Architects and their works all over the world. Village racers in rural Japan. A conversation between a matador and the monstrocity from the demonic depths of mythology. All these situations come alive in Wena Poon’s newest collection of stories, titled, “Maxine, Aoki, Beto & Me.”
The stories set in various parts of the world and accompanied by photographs taken during Wena’s travels by the author herself. Most of the photos depicting the representation Wena deems most apt for that particular anecdote.
13 stories in, I decided to pick 3 which struck me the most.
Maxine, Aoki, Beto & Me, the namesake of the collection, tells a great tale of globalization and the seemingly connected world we live in now. Centered on Victor Cheung, a playboy fashion photographer, he finds himself in a tangled web of global supply when Maxine (his Michelin star chef grandmother) phones him in crisis. Her global supply chain of rice (where Aoki and Beto come in), had been disrupted. And this time, Victor traverses countries for a different reason, with a different sense of identity.
Dialogue Between Novillera and Minotaur was in the Top 5 Shortlist for the Prix Hemingway 2011 in France. Incorporating the mythical, fantastical element into this short story, it references one of my favourites among her works – Alex y Robert. On top of the fact that her career as a matador is largely ignored, Alejandra Herrera battles both reality and tries to escape the labyrinth of her own mind.
The Mayor of Akahashi talks about the struggle to maintain existence and the ironic need for connectivity and commercialization to somehow make it work. The young mayor of a small village around Tokyo, at risk of merging into historical non-existence, finds his struggle alleviated with the help of global connectivity and mass production.
While most of the stories vary in topic and location, Wena manages to weave these stories and position them in such a way that the stories flow. Readers will find themselves travelling East to West to East again with minimal disruptions. Also, if you have read any of her previous works, you’ll appreciate her insertion of certain references.
Wena Poon does amazing reading performances, especially with works like Maxine, Aoki, Beto & Me, and The Adventures of Snow Fox & Sword Girl. For more information on Wena and her works, click here.