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Hilarious Amazon.com Comment

Quoted in Full from Amazon.com of David Tod Roy’s translation of Plum in the Golden Vase.

David Roy has deceived us; he is not going to finish it.,
June 10, 1998
Reviewer: “jfw” (Door County WI) –

This will be more of a commentary than a review, and a sad commentary at that. Arthur Waley many years ago offered a translation of the Chin Ping Mei that was, at least at that time, a wonderful introduction to this most facinating epic. For many years, until my copy became dog-eared and worn, a number of people were introduced to Chinese literature by my old copy of the Chin Ping Mei and invariably were most thankful for the experience.

Then, after a few other efforts by various academics,about which the reviews were mixed enough to not entice me to replace my Arthur Waley copy, David Roy came up with his
return to a poetic renditioning: The Plum in the Golden Vase. I bought it; I read it and I was sunk. This is THE translation. This is, I am sure, as close as we are going to get to the Chinese poetry of the original. Wait! We are not going to get this translation after all. Dr. Roy is too
old to complete what he started( this, according to his publisher after I dug around in the Princeton Press and bothered them month after month, year after year). This sad fact came to light after the publication date for volume two, which had been projected for l995 or some such, had passed by without the faintest hint of when we would get
that next volume.

I had been hoping that David Tod Roy was a young and vigorous thirty-something. This man is in his sixties or seventies and he projects another four volumes! I also am in my seventies and at the rate of publication I will be in my nineties by the last volume. I can’t believe that this man will be inspired to erotica with the same verve at ninety that he was when he started his translation. I speak for myself as well as Dr.Roy.

The fact is that I feel deceived: I have had a delicious first course, the wine is in the decanter and I have had my first tentative sip and now everything stops; the vegetables grow limp, the sauces cool and congeal. I know what this cook is capable of producing yet I feel certain that I will never finish this feast, never savort! he wines, all of which I can see faintly in the distant kitchen and serving rooms. How sad and disappointing. Don’t buy this book.

Note: I bought this book on the basis of this single review. Volume 2 actually did come out in 2002, but it’s a little too expensive now ($28 for 700 pages). But I intend to read the whole series, that is, if David Roy doesn’t kick the bucket. Reading over several newsgroups, I find that the book is sexually suggestive, though not smutty. (Most people who say they enjoy it sound almost defensive about it). Here’s a sample chapter from Book 2.

{ 3 comments… add one }
  • Elsa 5/19/2011, 7:13 pm

    I have just placed order on the first volumn. It is still on it’s way to me. I am a Chinese so I don’t have trouble reading the original. But I was too, enticed to purchase because of this review.

    I kind of feel sorry for the reviewer. I dug around for the following three volumns’ reviews, but did not find him writing anymore. He was in his seventies in 1998. I sincerely hope he is still alive, enjoying the translations by David Roy.

  • Paul Robertz 7/19/2012, 1:19 pm

    I am happy to report that David T Roy is alive and well, in good health, and still working on the last volume. (Vol. 4 was published last year). He had asked me to tune up his home computer and fix a minor problem with his home printer. He works on an even older computer at his office, which he hopes will last him until he completes the last volume.

  • ia 12/19/2012, 11:17 pm

    If paternal genetics is a significant indicia, then Prof. D.T. Roy’s father lived to 101 y.o. and was healthy almost until his death.
    http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/obituaries/obituary-andrew-tod-roy-missionary-teacher-in-china-536232/
    I wrote to the aforementioned jfw and demurred. I fully expect Professor Roy to finish his magnum opus.

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