As part of the Book Festivals ‘Focus On China’ theme, I went to meet authors who have written books on China and/or their experiences of living there:
Harry G Gelber spoke about his new book The Dragon and the Foreign Devils. A “history for the general reader to tell the story of China from the outside as well as from the inside.” Sounded very interesting, especially his comments on China’s increasing problems with its population and water shortage and its possible repercussions.
Mark Leonard, who is supposedly “one of the most brilliant young analysts of the age” talked about his new book What Does China Think?. The book is about the debates raging within China – from democracy to the idea of a ‘peaceful rise’. Again it sounded very interesting, and I plan to read it once its published.
Oliver August spoke about Inside the Red Mansion – an account of his time on the trail of China’s most wanted man, Lai Changxing. An illiterate peasant from the coastal city of Xiamen, Lai created his own shipping empire from nothing before vanishing abruptly when the Communist Party accused him of corruption and fraud. Once the richest man in the country, Lai was now public enemy number one because his immense wealth became a threat to Beijing’s power. The book investigates the tycoon’s meteoric rise, his catastrophic demise and the mystery that surrounds his disappearance. Click here to watch a 15 minute video on the book.
The last author I saw was Guy Delisle – a funny Canadian/French guy who created the graphic novel Shenzhen: A Travelogue From China. It is a graphic novel of his visit to Shenzhen, the cold, urban city in Southern China. Click here to view a PDF preview of the book.
Other shows I went to included the free comedy show ‘Mob Logic’ by Mark Allen. The show was quite funny – all about what makes humans behave differently in crowds. Having a mild interest in psychology, it was interesting to hear his jokes/thoughts on psychology & anthropology. He mentioned a few theories and authors that I’ve heard about before – Desmond Morris and Robin Dunbar’s number theory – “which is 150, represents a theoretical maximum number of individuals with whom a set of people can maintain a social relationship, the kind of relationship that goes with knowing who each person is and how each person relates socially to every other person. Group sizes larger than this generally require more restricted rules, laws, and enforced policies and regulations to maintain a stable cohesion.” Not what you would normally expect to be hearing at a comedy show, but it was entertaining.
Last year I saw the Korean show ‘Jump’, and this year the same crew were back in Edinburgh with a new show – ‘Breakout’. The group bring together a fusion of martial arts, slapstick comedy and break dancing.
‘Breakout’ consisted almost solely of hip hop, break dancing and voiceover, the show is a cops and robbers type of comedy, following a group of prisoners on the run. I didn’t find the comedy element that good, but the break dancing and acrobatics was very impressive. Top break dancers / b-boys are not something I expected Korea to produce, but it seems that they now have some of the best in the world.
The best show I saw was Lawrence Leung Learns To Breakdance. A hilarious account by the Australian comedian, describing his attempts to become “cool”.