Sunday, November 10, 2013

Books on China

When I was wandering around Melbourne, I found a bookshop called The Book Grocer, which advertised books at $10 each.  I resisted, I really did, but in the end I walked out with a bag of books, and regretted it momentarily - especially as I had to carry them around with me and they were heavy.  Still, I reasoned with myself that I may not have found the shop again if I didn't buy then and there.

I came across a section in the bookshop on China - so three of the books were about China.  I have read one already and I am so pleased I did.

Er Tai Gao wrote a "Memoir of a Chinese Labor Camp" titled "In Search of My Homeland" which was published in 2009, by HarperCollins, New York.

I spent less than two years in China as an English teacher in 2008 and 2010, and have a deep fascination with Chinese culture.  It is such a complex ancient culture, and though we may have read bits and pieces abut life in China since the 1950's, it is such a vast country with many stories. 

Er Tai Gao (now living in the US) was a young art teacher, 22 years old in 1957 when he wrote something that offended the Chinese Communist authorities and was sent to a labor camp and lived under extra ordinary conditions until sometime in the 1990's when he was released and able to go to the US.

It is a horrific tale of abuse, and details some of the extra ordinary behaviour of those in power under Chairman Mao.  I found it very hard to read  - (only hard to read about what he and others experienced at that time.)  He certainly sounds to be an amazing man to endure all he had to suffer in the camp.

Anyone interested in Chinese history would find it very enlightening.


Friday, November 8, 2013

Movie - About Time

It is a while since I have seen a movie on the big screen, so after my day went from being organised, to being chaotic I farewelled my last "guest", jumped in the car and headed to Morayfield to see a movie.  I had not been to the theatre there in the huge Morayfield Shopping Complex, and arrived just in time.

Strangely there were only two others in the theatre for the whole movie - quite an odd feeling really.  The movie was About Time, which I had heard good reports on, though confess to not having read a review.

It was a story about a young man, who at 21 years of age, was told by his father that the men of their family had the ability to turn back time.  Though unbelieving when told, he went out and discovered he indeed did have this gift and used it to find a girlfriend, with quite hilarious results, and it did end up happily ever after!

I thought it was a long movie - it felt as it if it was dragging on at one point, though never, despite my fatigue did I feel like closing my eyes., and some I was annoyed by the shaking of the film, as if the camera man/woman had had a bad experience. Towards the end of the film there was quite a bit of shaky filming.

All up I'd give the moving 7/10 - marked down because of the over use of the dreaded "F" word.  I wonder how those who view films as some time in the future will regard this penchant for using this word so frequently.  It really annoys me to hear it so many time.

(There are, as always, some good movies coming up, so I plan to end the "drought" and see a movie more frequently.)


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Binding Chair

(Apologies for neglecting this site for a long time......)

I came by this book in a strange way.  I was staying at my daughter's place, and beside the bed in the guest room is a bookshelf full of books - many of which I had read, but one stood out.  Those who know me, know that I often read historical novels and biographies of Chinese people, and this one was clearly a Chinese story.

I read a few lines, then spoke with my daughter.  "Did she mind if I borrowed it?" 

Her response surprised me.  "I think it is YOURS"

I declared that I had never seen it - so to this day it is a mystery - where did it come from?  Her daughter (13 years of age) is an avid reader, and she mentioned that she thought A would like to read it.  I declared that I would return it as soon as I read it.

The author Kathryn Harrison was not known to me - I set about to read.....    I learned very early that I would probably not give it to a 13 year old to read - some of the sex scenes were a little too much for such youth and even me.  I had no idea that the toe of a woman who had had her feet bound would be such an interesting sex tool!!!

It did take me a while to read it - busy life, moving, etc all got in the way, but I persisted and eventually got to the last page.  Phew!!!  It was indeed very well written, and again, as I usually do,  I learned much more about Chinese culture.

I did find it very confusing as the story jumped about a fair bit - and there were numerous characters involved.  Perhaps if I had been able to read it all in a short time I would not have felt so disconnected with it - but I did finish it.  I do think it would make a good movie - though it is a looong story and a film would have to cut much of it out.

I found this article - in fact a Reading Guide for the book - here.    Anyone interested in Chinese history or culture would find The Binding Chair a fascinating read.

I will look for her other books at some time, but have a huge pile of books to wade through at the moment.

In Melbourne recently I discovered the Book Grocer in Melbourne where books are $10 each or less. I tried to resist but found it impossible so added weight to my luggage with a pile of books, and have almost completed one.

I note that one can buy online from them too.  How exciting.

Kathryn Harrison has written a number of books - visit her website here to read about her and her work.  Website.