About The Chicken Cage: Chilung

A foreigner and Taiwanese woman fall in love. Can their bond endure China’s obstinate traditions? The Chicken Cage is a tragic allegory, focusing upon entrapment.

The Chicken Cage: Chilung – Q’s and A’s

What was your inspiration for The Chicken Cage: Chilung?

My inspiration was that I saw a very vivid literary device in the name of the city, meaning ‘Chicken Cage’ in Chinese. The place was extremely crowded, and was like a dismal cage because it rains more than 200 days a year there and it is much polluted. Also, as I was a pedestrian in the city, everything was at street level and I experienced the city at a very personal level. I studied various authors while getting my Bachelor of Arts in English, and was influenced by James Joyce, Herman Melville, Chaucer, and sundry other authors. I saw that Chilung was a great setting for an allegorical story, based in real fiction.

How would you describe your main protagonist Colin and how does his character change  as the book progresses?

Colin is a somewhat innocent and conservative-minded character who remains quite static throughout the book. He starts out confused when he arrives in Taiwan, and he never comes to understand the people and culture of the island. At the end of the book he is disillusioned and can not come to terms as to why he could not be with Bonita. This is part of the theme of the book – people are trapped (caged) in ways of thinking and conducting themselves and can never fully break out from how they are shaped (warped, in some cases). At the end of the novel, he feels so cheated that he hurls a promise ring into the fetid harbour in Chilung.

As for his friend Tom, he is a valuable literary device as he is what foreigners can tend to become when they live (exist) in Taiwan for too long. He has lost hope, and is trapped in a world where his wife is insane and he relies heavily on drugs/alcohol as an escape from his bleak life. He could break out of his entrapment, but is fearful of trying to escape. Ultimately, his distorted views lead him to suicide. It turned out to be his only escape. Tom is based on a real person that I knew while teaching in Taiwan, and he did jump to his death.

How much of real life did you base this book on?

The book is very much based on my experiences, and other foreigners’ experiences, in Taiwan. I lived the realities of life, and purveyed them in the novel.

What do you feel is the main theme of this book, and what would you like readers to walk away feeling?

The novel is an allegory of entrapment. I would like readers to walk away feeling as if they have read a book that challenges them to see the allegorical messages in the book, and I would like them to realize that most people in this life are limited, or entombed, in their cultures and ways of thinking that are inculcated into them. I would also hope that people would know the realities of living in Asia.

How did you come up with the character of Bonita?

Bonita is based upon a young woman who I was going to marry, but her parents went to great lengths to oppose the union. The mother really did feign a suicide attempt, and the parents actually told the young woman that they would disown her if she married me. The sad thing is, the young woman went on to marry another foreigner and she moved to California. The parents, ultimately, did lose their daughter.

What did you learn about yourself when writing this book?

I learned that I could plan, write, rewrite and accept a lot of feedback about the book. I revised the novel numerous times, and have never been fully satisfied with the beginning of the book. I learned that I need an editor or advisor to help me with things I get stuck on. I rewrote the first 50 pages of the book many times, and still feel it could be better.

Are you planning on writing any more novels in this genre?

I have an idea that I could write a novel called The Doomed, based on the history of a community in Calgary called Forest Lawn. The community started out in the 1960s as low-budget housing for people who worked in stockyards and other east-side industrial park Calgary enterprises. The community is now the ‘Hood’, as all the crime was forced out of downtown. It moved across Deerfoot Trail to Forest Lawn. The community was designed on a north-south, east-west street and avenue grid that looks like a net. The literary device for the novel would be based upon the net, and how people are caught in it. I will pursue this novel if the genre succeeds with The Chicken Cage: Chilung.

The Chicken Cage: Chilung
is available at Amazon.com, Amazon.ca, Chapters/Indigo.ca

Price: $15.95 CAN
ISBN:   978-0595468324Pages:   208 paperback9 x 6 x 0.6 inches
Written by Miles Anthony Burn
I Universe-Indigo (Fall 2008)


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