I really think that Yiyun Li might be my favourite short story writer, and it’s not like that’s a field where competition is thin on the ground. As with Gold Boy, Emerald Girl I find myself fruitlessly casting around for something intelligent to say in order to express just how good this is, and failing utterly. GB,EG might just shade it, to be honest, but that’s such a high bar that even coming close enough to fall short is a significant achievement.
The sky has been a bright blue desert since spring. The sun rises every morning, a bright white disc growing larger and hotter every day. Cicadas drawl halfheartedly in the trees. The reservoir outside the village has shrunken into a bathtub for the boys, peeing at one another in the waist deep water. Two girls, four or five, stand by the main road, their bare arms waving like desperate wings of baby birds as they chant to the motionless air, “Come the east wind. Come the west wind. Come the east-west-north-south wind and cool my armpits.”