Set in rural China during the 1970s, Ruyan Meng’s debut novel Only the Cat Knows is told from the point of view of a young factory worker married to a woman who stays home with their three children, two of whom suffer from ramifications of malnutrition. His wife could in theory work, but their sickly children need much attention and there’s no one else to care for them. The narrator’s salary falls short of monthly expenses for medication and food. Under no illusions that life is fair, he nonetheless sees others in his factory receive paychecks with bonuses and raises.
Dung Kai-cheung’s A Catalog of Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made On is an exercise in the influence of late-90s, mainly Japanese, popular culture on young women in end-of-the-century Hong Kong. The “catalog” consists of ninety-nine sketches, perhaps in an homage to Raymond Queneau’s Exercises in Style, where Queneau took an unremarkable short episode and retold it in ninety-nine discursive styles. Queneau’s exercises are clever play with the structures and uses of language. Dung Kai-cheung’s catalog is a cultural “thick description” of popular culture filled with dry wit and humor. His sketches are not short stories. He offers flights of fancy.
The first diplomatic mission from Brazil to China took place from 1879-1882; it also included Brazil’s first circumnavigation of the globe (sailing east in this case). An account—Primeira circum-navegação brasileira e primeira missão do Brasil à China (1879) by Marli Cristina Scomazzon and Jeff Franco—has recently been published. This excerpt about the delegation’s stop-over in Hong Kong and Macau has been translated from the original Portuguese and is published with permission.
Whether the Manila Galleon—the crossings between Manila and Acapulco that began three-quarters of the way through the 16th century—really ushered what has since come to be called “globalization” remains a matter of some debate, but one which depends more on what is considered globalization rather than the global significance of this trade itself.
In 1973, the Philadelphia Orchestra boarded a Pan Am 707 plane in Philadelphia for a once-in-a-lifetime journey: a multi-city tour of Maoist China, months after Nixon’s history-making visit. There was drama immediately after they landed in Shanghai. Chinese officials asked for a last-minute change to the program: Beethoven’s Sixth. After protests that the Orchestra didn’t bring scores with them, officials returned with copies haphazardly sourced from across the country, with different notations and different notes, forcing the orchestra to make do.
Since the English edition of this book first came into my possession, it seemed obvious to me that it should be published in Spanish. Fortunately, after some frustrated attempts, the ever-ready publisher Siruela saw fit to take it on. It is a small book and, therefore, doubly interesting, and not only because of what Baltasar Gracián summed up with the sparkling phrase: “Lo bueno, si breve, dos veces bueno” (“what is good, if brief, is good twice over”). There is another factor, or perhaps two, to take into account. The first is that La Plata y el Pacífico illuminates an essential chapter of universal history, that is, the first stage of economic globalization along the axis of the Pacific via the Manila Galleon or Nao de China, an episode largely unknown to the wider public, whether of English-, Spanish- or Chinese-speaking backgrounds.
The question as to whether fashion is art or there is art in fashion has long been disputed. If so, how would one define the art of fashion? Guo Pei: Couture Fantasy, presented by The Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco (SFMOMA), is a companion volume to the Beijing-based couturier’s 2022 exhibition showcasing her fine talent in fashion. Held at the Legion of Honor in San Francisco, the exhibition of couture costumes is a blockbuster on fashion in an art museum that casts an interesting light on why fashion aesthetics is a good reason to be considered for an exhibition in museums.