'Bald New World' writer talks Murakami comparisons

Peter Tieryas Liu's upcoming novel "Bald New World" takes in China and America in its globe-trotting dystopian story of world-changing hair loss, but he won't count Haruki Murakami among his influences.

His well-received 2012 short story collection "Watering Heaven" won him plentiful comparisons to Murakami, but the Asian American author told Hyphen Magazine that he has "actually never read" the famous Japanese writer.

"I never read him," he explained, "but after 'Watering Heaven' came out, people were always mentioning him, so then I just actually avoided him."

Nonetheless, "Watering Heaven" led to Liu's entry on the 2013 Frank O'Connor Short Story Award longlist, a prize that Murakami won back in 2006 with "Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman."

Already tipped for further success in 2014 as one of Buzzfeed's 15 Highly Anticipated Books From (Mostly) Small Presses, and highlighted by Kollaboration in March as one of three Asian American authors on the rise, Liu's debut novel "Bald New World" deals with a global epidemic of follicular proportions.

Cash-strapped American filmmaker Nick Guan stars with friend and movie making crony Larry Chao, whose family runs a prosperous wig factory in China.

But when Baldification hits the planet, the pair find themselves caught up in an sci-fi tinged international conspiracy, turning their penchant for adventure into a series of daring discoveries.

So if Murakami's not feeding into this writer's psyche, what does feature in Liu's melting pot of literary influences, aside from the title's obvious Huxley reference?

"This is going to sound weird, but the Bible," Liu said. "I like that when you go back in the Bible, all those characters are so flawed. It's kind of like, that's what appeals to people and these are religious figures, holy figures, and regardless of what you believe, the accounting of their lives is really touching."

Beat poets, philosophers and giants of Chinese literature feature, too.

"I'm also influenced by [John Steinbeck's] 'East of Eden' and Melville's 'Moby Dick,' and Nietsche, of course. That's on the western side."

"On the Chinese/Asian side, there's 'Dream of the Red Chamber' by Hong Lou Meng and Pu Songling - he's often considered to be like a Chinese Kafka. With 'Bald New World,' I went back to the epics because I wanted to do a big book."

Bald New World is available from May 30 as an e-book and in print from Perfect Edge Books.

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