When we had finished tea, we went down to the beach. My host untied an outrigger canoe and pushed it out into the shallows. I rolled up my trousers and followed him, my backpack on my back. I tossed the backpack into the boat and climbed in. Soon we were out in the bay, the sea floor falling rapidly away beneath us, the water sparkling and clear. We paddled away from the land, and then he turned the boat to the north, following the line of the coast. It was a beautiful day, and it felt good to be out on the water.
Rao Pingru and Mao Meitang married in Nanchang in 1948, when China was still dominated by rhythms and rituals lingering from imperial days. They stayed married through the Mao years, despite being separated for over two decades; in 1958, Pingru, was sent off for “Reeducation Through Labor”. His crime? He’d once served in the Kuomintang army. Their marriage ended in 2008, with Meitang’s death from kidney failure.
A Tokyo Romance is a memoir of living in Japan from 1975 to 1981 that immerses the reader in a world of avant-garde theatre and film. It serves as an interesting look at a time when Japan, not China was taking the world by storm. The author, Ian Buruma, currently editor of the New York Review of Books, meditates on living in Japan as a foreigner and how to approach being a perennial outsider. For Buruma, the experience is liberating and Japan is a catalyst for finding his own artistic voice.
It’s always been a pleasure to handle a Folio Society book, and having three of them at one time, all on Asian themes, was even better.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not, nor has it been, easy to adopt a child from China. Babies do not exit the country like cheap electronics and fast fashion. But there was one period when the doors were slightly ajar. It was during this period that Patti Waldmeir was able to adopt two baby girls.
Scientists don’t write autobiographies. That’s strange, really, because in most cases they’re obliged to record everything they do in some sort of laboratory notebook for either patent or publication purposes. Here, though, we have an exception. In Confessions of a Hong Kong Naturalist, Graham Reels recounts 12 years of wading watercourses, slogging through swamps and beating about in the bushes of Hong Kong.
Writers of all stripes tend to dislike discussing their formative years and experiences. Getting to grips with the job of translating one’s understanding of a subject into something publishable tends to be painful enough, without then raking over the process in retrospect. This can lead to a sense, however, that somehow writers arrive fully-formed, with a gift for observation and understanding which requires little practice or refinement. This feeling can be particularly acute in regard to those who write on China, the “university in which no degree is ever granted”, to adapt Stanley Karnow’s phrase, where the gulf between ignorance and understanding often appears so vast.