Review: Sleep No More in Shanghai

Recently I’ve been thinking about Macbeth. Mainly because back in March I went to see Sleep No More, a new play here in Shanghai, and I read somewhere that it was loosely based on Macbeth. Having seen it I can tell you that I don’t see much connection at all. But at least it got me back to Macbeth, which I consider to be one of Shakespeare’s most important plays and possibly his most puzzling.

Continue reading

Buy the Book – Subway: A Shanghai Love Story

Here’s my book! Okay it’s really a novella – a love story set against the backdrop of the Shanghai metro. I’ve already moved about 50 copies and the response has been satisfactory so far. It’s illustrated by photos from Tom Carter, photographer behind one of the my favorite China photo books, China: Portrait of a People. You won’t find any foreigners in this book, just Chinese people. And I wager you won’t look at the subway the same way again.

I’m selling copies for RMB100 – which is just enough to cover production costs – plus shipping if you need it shipped. There’s no e-version of this one. Each comes numbered and signed. Support your local arts!

Email me at or you can message me through my Wechat OA – ConfuciusSez.


[Book Review] Crashing the Party: an American Reporter in China

Uncanny silence has surrounded Scott Savitt’s memoir since it was published in November last year. Though National Geographic and Vice both recommended it, there was no New York Times review, no big book tour, no NPR interview, no Literary Festival headlining slot. The local expat rags didn’t even pick it up which is surprising considering Savitt was for many years a well respected foreign correspondent and afterwards basically started what we now know as expat media in China. Why the lack of attention?

Continue reading

Sexpat: a Memoir

It’s surprising no one has ever titled a book “Sexpat.” Certainly this book has been lived many times all around the world, especially in China. Plus it’s a much better title than Shanghai Cocktales, the recently published memoir which was reviewed–and slammed–this past week on Beijing Cream. It reminded me of that simmering desultory debate about writing about sex in China.

Continue reading

Wolf Totem and the State of Chinese Film

Saw a couple of Mainland Chinese films recently: Gone with the Bullets, Taking of Tiger Mountain and Wolf Totem. Gone with the Bullets and Tiger Mountain I simply couldn’t finish–or even get into. Both were poor. Wolf Totem was different. It’s a good film, not great, but salvages hope at least that mainstream Mainland film isn’t entirely dead. I’ll talk about all three below.

Continue reading

Chinese Food Is Overrated

There are a lot of restaurants in Beijing and Shanghai, including a few very good ones. But recently I’ve concluded that your average restaurant-on-the-street in China frankly isn’t that good. This was driven home after I moved to Jinqiao (Pudong) and found that all the local eateries on my street a) pretty much serve all the same stuff and b) none of it  sparks my appetite. So, I’m going out on a limb here and saying something I know a lot of people are thinking–Chinese food is overrated.

Continue reading

Four Posts (I Did Not Write)

There are numerous articles I had intended to write during the last 10 months of radio silence which never got written. Here are just a few:

A Countryside Drama

Down in Moganshan, a place I have visited regularly for the last 4 years, a controversy has erupted centering around land-use rights, or I guess more accurately water use rights. One villager in Houwu–which is at the foot of the mountain and is a place where there is lots of tourism activity of late–has erected a fence around a small reservoir which is a favorite swimming spot. He has put up a sign advertising rental of mats and coolers. The only thing is, these rentals don’t seem to be optional. Nor does he seem to own the reservoir. He has also placed his elderly mother as sentinel at the gate cut in this fence and she is a hideous shrew. It has thrown into relief the challenges of local development. Who will be the haves and who will be the have-not-as-much?

Continue reading