A Catalog of Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made On (Weatherhead Books on Asia)

We rated this book:


Dung Kai-Cheung’s A Catalog of Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made On is a literary collection fixated on things. More fragments of life than short stories, each vignette features an item or cultural phenomenon and spins it on its tail, exploring the relationship between humans, our things, and the way we create meaning and culture from them. Out of plastic, wood, and fabric, Dung constructs a still-life of 90s Hong Kong that is absurd, outrageous, fantastical, and true.

From cargo shorts to My Melody to Tomb Raider III, Dung’s collection is a museum of oddities, a time capsule of what it meant to be a person during that era and place, in the middle of radical political and social movement. Zooming in with blurred eyes, the stories together also form a parody of the social and material ego. Each one features a character who is changed by the chosen material item on physical and spiritual scales. While these transformations read very specific to the time, they also have a sense of timelessness, a universal feeling of never feeling quite right amid a global yet exponentially intimate society.

In the forward, Dung acknowledges the obscurity of these materials and the book’s subject matter, pointing to obsolescence “itself an aesthetic value.” They wrote their vignettes from 1998 to 1999, choosing topics from local papers and magazines and letting each item take its own life. As a time capsule of an increasingly distant era and culture, A Catalog of Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made On also stands in a wave of Y2K nostalgia, a yearning for all things unabashed, pixelated, and metallic.

Reviewed By:

Author Kai-cheung Dung
Star Count /5
Format Trade
Page Count 344 pages
Publisher Columbia University Press
Publish Date 21-Jun-2022
ISBN 9780231205436
Bookshop.org Buy this Book
Issue September 2022
Category Modern Literature