Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China by Tom Carter Download (read online) free eBook .pdf.epub.kindle

Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China

Unsavory Elements is an unprecedented anthology of 28 new, original, true stories from some of the most celebrated foreign writers that have lived in modern China. Westerners are flocking to China in increasing numbers to chase their dreams even as Chinese emigrants seek their own dreams abroad, and life as an outsider in China has many sides to it – weird, fascinating and
Emma Sea

Dec 25, 2013

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Shelves:
cultural-studies

Great collection of essays which shed some light on a few of the cross-cultural miscommunications I’ve experienced. The best of the bunch for me was a hockey fic, natch, Diplomacy on Ice by Rudy Kong, about a “friendly” ice hockey match in Manchuria.

I didn’t realize until I’d finished that the book was somewhat controversial. Many other readers had the same negative response to Tom Carter’s piece about visiting a small town brothel. The complete lack of empathy or insight, and the horrible deva

I didn’t realize until I’d finished that the book was somewhat controversial. Many other readers had the same negative response to Tom Carter’s piece about visiting a small town brothel. The complete lack of empathy or insight, and the horrible devaluing of human life according to a genetic potluck of cultural standards of beauty was very upsetting to me.

But I can’t judge the whole book by this single piece. Overall, a very interesting read.
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Isham Cook

Jun 26, 2013

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Even before this book came to press it was already in the thick of polemic and controversy – for all the wrong reasons. Some advance-copy reviews by feminist editors in the expat zines of Beijing and Shanghai have been withering, particularly of editor Tom Carter’s own “exploitative” and “juvenile” contributing story on a brothel visit (e.g. http://www.timeoutshanghai.com/featur…). It is actually one of the best pieces in the book, its slapstick style perfectly suited to the tawdry circumstanc

Inevitably, the collection is uneven. The pieces by Peter Hessler and Simon Winchester are predictably the most assuredly written, though they don’t really tell us anything we can’t get from their own books about China. Meyer, Polly, Earnshaw, Spurrier, and Kitto are competent writers but fail to particularly stand out, unlike Watts’ piece on the German botanist and eccentric Josef Margraf, and Fuchs on Tibetan muleteers, which benefit from their intriguing subject matter. Stevenson mars his intriguing subject matter of life in a Chinese prison with snideness (here I direct readers instead to the extraordinary book Prisoner 13498: A True Story of Love, Drugs and Jail in Modern China by Robert H. Davies of his experience in Chinese prisons). Humes’ horrific account of being violently mugged suffers from his gratuitous histrionics while recovering in the hospital; the tantalizing question and cliffhanger of how he was able to pay for the huge medical expenses (without any cash or insurance) is hinted at and then forgotten. Some pieces lack contextualization, like Eikenburg’s account of her daring courtship with a Chinese male, but what decade is she referring to, exactly? Interracial relationships on the Mainland are far more ubiquitous and accepted now than two or three decades ago, when I imagine her relationship took place; a reader unfamiliar with China might wrongly assume things are as stringent and racist today as ever.

If I had been given the same anthology project with the same title and the same contributors to choose from, I would keep three. I would start the book off with Winchester’s piece as a prologue (instead of its current slot as epilogue), then proceed with the spicy if rather innocuous account of KTV escorts among China’s privileged by Susie Gordon, followed by Carter’s aforementioned piece. For the succeeding stories, I would have to find alternative, more intrepid contributors willing to challenge bourgeois readerly expectations and really get down and rock ‘n’ roll in China’s seamy, truly unsavory underside. After all, I would only be doing what China’s own writers have already done, like Wang Shuo, Jia Pingwa and Zhu Wen back in the 1980s depicting life among hoodlums and lumpen elements at large or the graphic accounts of casual sex and drug use by Hong Ying, Wei Hui, Mian Mian and other female writers of the 1990s. Until that happens, pass on the word of Tom Carter’s enticing new collection at the local bake sale or church group back home when queried on a latest wholesome introduction to China to curl up at the fireplace with.
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