Monday, January 03, 2005

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I got an awesome present for Christmas this year. Not that the sweater I got from my mom wasn't great, but the Christmas present I got from Asa is the bomb: Mianmian's newest book, Panda Sex (熊猫每年只做两次爱, literally "Pandas Only Make Love Twice Each Year"). The first time Asa told me about Mianmian, I nodded and smiled. I had read the first couple chapters of Shanghai Baby, the book that Mianmian's writing is most often compared to, and I thought it was awful. So I lumped her into the "Shanghai shock lit" category and promptly forgot about her.

A couple weeks ago I picked up a copy of That's Shanghai at the Ark after a Cold Fairyland show and found that the last-page article was written by Mianmian. After reading this article, my opinion of her changed completely: she sounded so jaded by Shanghai society, exactly the way I feel; bored by the expat scene, frustrated by the lack of support for the arts... it was all too familiar. Still, I wasn't sure how to follow up on this change of mind, so I just let it sit in a corner and fade away.

So I was very excited when Asa pulled this book out of his room and handed it to me. I finished Murakami's Kafka on the Shore a few weeks ago, and I've been speeding through Piper's Don't Waste Your Life. It'll be nice to have another Chinese novel to work my way through.

One cool thing about this book that has already piqued my interest after a couple of chapters is the subject matter, as described by a man and woman having a conversation in the first chapter: "listen to the people around you, write down what you see and hear" (a very rough paraphrase based on what I remember; the book is back at home right now). And since Mianmian is a Shanghai resident, she writes about Shanghai. The first chapter takes place at M On The Bund, a fancy restaurant down by the Bund that rich expats tend to frequent. So far, the book has been conversations between actual people that Mianmian knows from around town. And when she mentions actual people or things, there is a section of footnotes in the back of the book that gives addresses and contact info for them. That rocks. Like Chris said, it's like you are reading about yourself.

(To properly credit my mom, she also gave me a photo album of the family and a notebook of recipes, both awesome presents.)

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