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Books: Urban chronicler turns purchased objects into prose

Dung Kai-cheung's catalog of consumerism brings recognition to Hong Kong writers

In "A Catalog of Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made On," Hong Kong novelist Dung Kai-cheung deftly evokes the inner emotions of recent college graduates, office workers, gang members and lonely singles in search of rescue from anonymity as much as love. (Courtesy of Dung Kai-cheung, Columbia University Press)

HONG KONG -- What do Prada, Tomb Raider III, Birkenstock shoes, cheesecake, cargo shorts, egg tarts, Windows 98, Che Guevara T-shirts and Hello Kitty have in common? In the hands of Hong Kong novelist Dung Kai-cheung, these and almost 100 other status goods are points of reference that reveal the inner lives of people in the island territory -- caught between East and West but rarely given a voice.

With the translation and publication of "A Catalog of Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made On," conceived more than 20 years ago as "Cantonese Love Stories," longtime urban chronicler Dung has achieved rare distinction as one of very few figures writing about Hong Kong to win recognition in world literature. He has done so by turning mundane, unexamined items in all our lives into haunting, near-Shakespearian spiritual forces.

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