Chiang Kuoyu, MA, Graduate Institute of Taiwan Literature, National Taiwan University
Jiao Tong’s poetry collection Erotic Recipes: A Complete Menu for Male Potency Enhancement was published in 1999, the tail end Taiwan’s golden age of economic prosperity. The ending of martial law in 1987 sparked a ten-year period of rapid financial growth, firmly entrenching the capitalist market mechanism in Taiwanese society. Martial-law era shibboleths such as “Camaraderie” (the Republic of China Military Academy’s official motto) and “Honesty and Honor” gave way to “Money Rules!” – the era’s de facto philosophy. Thus, by the end of the 1990s, capitalism had become Taiwan’s true sovereign. Viewed in the context of the times, Jiao Tong’s poetry collection poses a question to readers: If a man (read “the KMT party-state”) is strong and virile, why would he need recipes for enhancing his sex drive?
The content of Erotic Recipes: A Complete Menu for Male Potency Enhancement lives up to the title – at its core are “castration fears” and “performance anxiety.” Male sexual malfunction echoes the “erectile dysfunction” of the KMT’s move toward democracy and capitalist economic policies, the poet likening the “autocratic” government’s lackluster administrative performance to sexual impotence, thus the need for aphrodisiacs. For example, in “I’ll Rise Again” potency-enhancers include “small fish that swim upstream in the rivers of China’s Fenghua County” and frozen Canadian glacier water, long and hard as an erect penis. “A Pillar That Supports the Sky” offers more phallic imagery: It’s getting longer and longer / Turning into Tokyo Tower / Now it’s tilting, tilting / Like the Leaning Tower of Pisa / Straighten it, straighten it / So it stands like a stele honoring a people’s hero.
Thus, the sacred codes of KMT “party-state” ideology have been stripped of context; the poet uses “appetites” for food and sex to construct new codes, satirizing outworn political catchphrases, e.g. “The nation will rise again” and “people’s hero.” In other words, the logic of lust (that is, the market’s logic) has replaced the sacred narrative of the “Chinese race” (KMT authoritarian logic). When the party-state – once master of the market – becomes the market’s servant, the flaccid penis of government has no choice but to rely on a phallic substitute – the “dildo” of economic prosperity and all-embracing capitalism. Because the holy ideology of race and robust masculinity has already experienced castration fears in the process of democratization, it even more fervently embraces market logic and desires as a means of upholding the phallus’s dignity, hence the lines: Boosting the libido / Is not a bad thing.
In the poet’s view, the neoliberal free-market ideology that gradually took shape in the 1990s, ultimately supplanting party-state ideology, is a symptom of social illness. Worth noting, however, is that the critical vision presented in this 1999 collection had not yet penetrated to the core of party-state ideological desires; thus, Erotic Recipes: A Complete Menu for Male Potency Enhancement provides a basis for probing even deeper into the subjects it touches on.
Jiao Tong, Associate Professor, Department of Chinese Literature, National Central University
Jiao Tong (1956- ) is the penname of Ye Zhenfu, a native of Kaohsiung. The writer holds a master’s degree from Chinese Culture University’s Graduate Institute of Fine Arts, and was enrolled in a doctoral program in comparative literature at Fu Jen University. He is the founder of Fish & Fish International Co., Ltd. and Diet magazine. He has studied drama, made experimental films, and written and directed a stage production that was performed in Taipei. He has been in charge of a long running literary radio show, and has served as assistant executive director of the China Times literary supplement group. He has also served as consultant to Media Chinese International, and is currently an associate professor at National Central University’s Department of Chinese Literature.
For the past twenty years Jiao Tong has promoted the development of Taiwanese food culture. In 2007 he launched an annual Taiwan restaurant evaluation project, convening the judges’ committee; he has also served as director-general of the Taiwan Dietary Culture Association. The writer has sponsored a number of international academic symposiums on diet and culture, and has held state banquets and themed banquets, e.g. “Spring Banquet,” “Impressionist Dinner Party,” “Hakka Banquet,” “Literary Banquet,” and “Indigenous People’s Banquet.”
As a student, Jiao Tong received the China Times Narrative Poetry Excellence Award, first prize in the United Daily News Reportage Awards, first prize in the National Students’ Literature Award for Modern Poetry, and second prize in the essay division. Binge Eating Everywhere (2009) won the Golden Tripod Best Book Award,
Jiao Tong’s publications include: the poetry collections Collected Poems: 1980-1993, and Erotic Recipes: A Complete Menu for Male Potency Enhancement; the essay collections On the Edge of the World, Binge Eating Everywhere, Taiwan Flavor, Taiwan Belly, Taiwan Tongue, Yunnan Flavor in Long Gang, and Formosan Flavor; the children’s book Black Swallowtail A-Qing’s Travels; and the studies Early Postwar Taiwanese Drama, and Taiwan’s Literary Street Movements: 1977-1999. He has published over thirty works. His poems have been translated into English, Japanese, and French. He has also edited over fifty volumes of selected writings on food, as well as poetry, fiction, and essay collections.
|Related Literary Themes：||Food in Literature|