The 15 stories in the book deal with the contradictions, paradoxes and ironies of Indian life. The combination of setting, memorable characters, clear writing, and themes suggest a vision of an expansive and vast country of wonder. Among the stories, “Hawana of the East” was nominated for the Pushcart Prize 2012. “Sunday with Mary” was part of the list for Best of the Net 2013 Prize.
Since the cinema that served as modern Hong Kong’s introduction to the world was such a hodgepodge of triad gangsters, crooked cops, ghosts, prostitutes and clueless romantics—sometimes all in the same film—one should hardly be surprised when a literary anthology shows the same genre-busting proclivities. Hong Kong Noir, the latest in a lengthy list of urban “Noir” collections published by Akashic Books, will surely raise the hackles of genre purists much as Hong Kong movies of the 1980s and ’90s initially did with filmgoers abroad. “Such a classic crime scene,” you can almost hear them say. “Why drag in the ghosts?”
The daughter of a Jewish Azerbaijani father and a Russian mother, Sophia Shalmiyev grew up in 1980s Leningrad hearing her grandmother recite anti-Semitic jingles, ruffling Sophia’s hair as if this act of act of affection could erase the sting of her words.
Many potential readers of James Griffiths’s new book well have had direct experience of the “Great Firewall of China” of the title. But that doesn’t mean they won’t find the book useful. Griffiths stitches events and issues, most of which are—individually—reasonably well-known, into a coherent narrative. The result is a readable, well-documented history of the internet in China.
Fans of political skulduggery will appreciate this satirical tale of double-dealing, media manipulation and murder among the ruling classes of West Bengal.
Expat memoirs set in a plane-ride away in Asia have, well, taken off. Some, like Peter Hessler’s River Town, Michael Meyer’s The Last Days of Old Beijing, and Michael Levy’s Kosher Chinese, are written by former Peace Corps volunteers. Others like Rachel DeWoskin’s Foreign Babes in Beijing and Susan Jane Gilman’s Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven address the sometimes harrowing experiences of American women in China. And Tracy Slater’s The Good Shufu and Lisa Fineberg Cook’s unfortunately-titled Japan Took the J.A.P. Out of Me relay family struggles when these American writers follow their husbands to Japan.
To attempt a revisionist history of Western imperialism in just over 150 pages is, to say the least, ambitious. It has largely been an article of faith that the West “won” history. Even those whom the West presumably defeated didn’t usually take much issue with the conclusion. Seeking to turn conventional wisdom about Western global expansion on its head, Sharman argues in Empires of the Weak not only that the reasons normally given for it don’t hold up, but that this “victory” was largely illusory.