WATERING HEAVEN by Peter Tieryas Liu, Book Review: Avant garde

Watering Heaven Peter Tieryas LiuWatering Heaven Synopsis:

What would you do if you found out your girlfriend laid an egg every time she had sex? Who would you be if you were invited to a party in Beijing but had to make up a brand-new identity for six weeks?

Peter Tieryas Liu’s Watering Heaven is a travelogue of and requiem for the American dream in all its bizarre manifestations and a surreal, fantastic journey through the streets, alleys, and airports of China. Whether it’s a monk who uses acupuncture needles to help him fly or a city filled with rats about to be exterminated so that the mayor can win his re-election bid, be prepared to laugh, swoon, and shudder at the answers Liu offers in this provocative debut collection.

(Signal 8 Press)

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Watering Heaven by Peter Tieryas Liu is a collection of 20 stories ranging from 2 to 17 pages in length. This collection is an eclectic mix of profundity with surrealism and the avant-garde. 

“Words should have gravity. If you can’t get arrested for a word, it probably isn’t worth using.”

Watering Heaven has one of the most arty and edgy book trailers I have seen. It perfectly reflects the essence of the collection. I consider many of the storylines modern manifestations of eastern myth and folklore. Resonant themes include the superficiality of society and the obsession with career to the detriment of our own happiness and the well-being of our loved ones.

This collection contains numerous examples of Peter Tieryas Liu’s original and imaginative descriptions of both places and people. From this wonderful evocation of Beijing in ‘Forbidden City Hoops’,

I fell in love with Beijing’ eccentricities the moment I landed, the lavish landscape of skyscrapers intermingling casually with the ancient hustings and decrepit apartments. It all seemed like part of the canvas of a brilliant beatnik engineer suffering delusions of petulance, never satisfied, always proud. Flaws weren’t pariah here; foibles were badges of character, not something to be brushed away in Photoshop.

to lyricism such as this within ‘The Buddha of Many Parts’,

I could feel the cartography of my bitterness etched into the mountain ranges of envy, see all my life clear as a film flash and how crudely incomplete it was.

Watering Heaven is recommended for voyeurs of the written word.

As is probably clear, I enjoyed Peter Tieryas Liu’s prose in Watering Heaven immensely, but in some instances I found the story content less successful. The stories borne from conflict between the merging of the Chinese and American cultures and about living in the moment and finding love in the most unlikely and inopportune places really struck a chord with me. When the positive sentiments of the beauty of living in the moment veered into fatalism, resulting in suicide (on multiple occasions), I was left feeling deflated. For this reason I recommend reading this collection over time, rather than in a single sitting like I did.

Due to their edgy subject matter and surreal elements, I think the short stories in Watering Heaven have greater impact in isolation. I am however very grateful a collection of these works has been published, because if it had not the artistry of author Peter Tieryas Liu would not have been brought to my attention.

UPDATE: I have since read and thoroughly enjoyed 2 more titles from Peter — Bald New World (2014) and United States of Japan (2016).

BOOK RATING: The Story 3.5 / 5 ; The Writing 4.5 / 5  — Overall 4

Get your copy of Watering Heaven from:

Book Depository | Amazon  | B&N | Booktopia(Aus)

Genre: Short Stories, Sci-Fi-Fantasy, Drama, Romance, Mystery, Literature

About the Author, Peter Tieryas Liu

Peter Tieryas Liu has almost 200 publications in magazines and journals including Adirondack Review, anderbo, Bitter Oleander, Bookslut, Camera Obscura Journal, decomP, Evergreen Review, Gargoyle, Indiana Review, Kartika Review, Prism Review, Toad Suck Review, Word Riot, and ZYZZYVA, and was the recipient of the 2012 Fiction Award from Mojo, the magazine run by Wichita State University. He has also worked as a technical writer for LucasArts, the gaming division of LucasFilm. You can find him at his website… as well as travelling the world with his wife. Checkout Peter Tieryas Liu’s official website.

* Receiving this title free from Signal 8 Press did not impact my ability to express my honest opinions in the review above.