"Post-pat colonist" literature: Living, traveling & writing China (explicit)

Travel | by David Perry
Posted: July 20th, 2010 | Updated: July 25th, 2012 | Comments
Xiong Wenyun, from Ten Years of Moving Rainbow There are more China blogs than we can count (trust us—we're assembling our own massive China Blog Roll to end all China Blog Rolls in advance of officially launching this wonderfully redundant essential China blog some time in the next few weeks, following our super-secret soft launch to which you, Dear Reader, are now privy). Anyway, all those China blogs means there are a whole lot of folks making the same old observations in the same old ways, and generally doing so in some pretty low-grade prose. We can't complain, really—after all, the internet's all about participation (right, Net Nanny?), everyone's got a story to tell, what's old hat to you might be new and fresh to someone else, and there's often worthwhile new information buried in even the most generic of posts.... But... we're becoming big fans of a site that takes the raw material of living in and traveling China and seeks to turn it into real live literature. Like, good writing. Kinda cheeky in the Age of Twitter? Too 20th century? Maybe, but we think it's also totally necessary. Everything "China" is coming on so fast and furious that we need writing that will slow things down for us, get us to pay attention, and do so in language that's worth returning to for the sheer pleasure of it. But also do it quickly, stylishly and, of course online... but also in print now and then, too. Enter H.A.L., a Shanghai-based collective that's not only putting some innovative new writing up online at a good clip, but also publishes books (the first of which, party like it’s 1984:  short stories from the peoples’ republic of, a collection of short stories, is due out this summer, which would be, um... about now). And as for the  "post-pat colonist" puzzler of a tagline, we take it to mean people who are kind of insider-outsiders--folks who aren't just in China for mere career reasons or just passing through, but rather who've settled because they like it and would just as soon live in Shanghai as, say, in Berlin, Buenos Aires, New York, or Haifa. P0st-commie, post-religious, post-Cold War, post-colonialist, post-yadda-yadda-yadda rootless cosmopolitans... or something like that. (We're probably just taking the bait on a post-theory English major joke by actually analyzing the whole "post-pat" thing, but whatevs--we're post-English major ourselves and really can't help it). Anyway, enough idle chatter. Let's get to the good stuff. The post that prompted this little mash note to H.A.L. is by one Katrina Hamlin, entitled simply "a dialog." We like it. (Oh, and yes, the "explicit" bit... well, they do use naughty words on their site, so go there and be titillated/outraged/amused/bored or whatever floats your container ship).
A woman slaps dung on an earthen wall. It will bake hard in the sun. The heat makes her sweat as she works. A tomcat limps by. Dogs dance a ballet in the dust, or spin and skip in play fight. Turkeys fan their feathers, arch scragged necks, and scream to crescendo. A donkey is tethered at a wooden post. Empty panniers lie on the ground, ready for a new load. This road is built into the mountain. Across the valley, goats pick through scrub. The woman stops her work. She glares at the stranger as he walks on the road. He does not meet her gaze. The stranger is tired of attention, and speaks only with his guide, Baimaoba. Baimaoba waves towards the dung. "We burn this. We cook tea, also noodle and momo." "What is that?" "Like dumpling, but must is better." The road turns by another house. Here, all houses are made of earth, and surrounded by high walls. The stranger thinks he hears a familiar song from within the walls. "I can back walk," says Baimaoba. "Look." He twists his body to face the stranger, stepping backwards and keeping pace. He slips into a perfect moonwalk. Sliding through the dirt in fluid rhythm, he stares into the middle distance. "Billy Jean is not my lover," he tells the stranger. read the rest on H.A.L.
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