Hong Kong Hangover

‘The novel does an excellent job of taking us from the apolitical centre of this city of commerce, into its highly politicised underworld.’ Nice review of Hong Kong Rocks in The Manchester Review of Books, 17/07/20.

Peter Humphreys – Hong Kong Rocks (Proverse Hong Kong, 2019)

Strange times in the vertical city. Reality continues to leapfrog literature.

Peter Humphreys’ Hong Kong Rocks is set in an alternative version of that troubled city where, rather than the massive crackdown currently being pushed by Beijing, the CCP are instead being more subtle, and only targeting expats.

The novel follows a rag-tag group of deadbeat Brits. Four middle aged men living on booze and regret. The four are shepherded along by their long-suffering pub landlord, Jeanie, who is a pro-democracy activist.

The narrative begins with a picture of expat life on HK. Paul tries to teach English to stroppy kids. Nick is bullied by bankers in his running club, “Pure Hash”. While Fenton, relic of Empire, has holed up in his compound, waiting for one last showdown with the commies.

Our expats receive their expulsion orders and a death…

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69. Zizzle – a literary magazine for young minds (Issue #1)

Zizzle 1_mag and bookmarksThis gorgeous hardback magazine is infused with generosity – not only do the creators of Zizzle compensate authors for their time and effort (unlike too many other publications) but their readers are treated to lush, varicoloured pages boasting dream-like images amongst 10 stories for youngsters, and those tasked with reading to or with them.

If some of the language in the more advanced stories could potentially flummox work-ragged adults, then this is representative of a calculated risk taken by Hong Kong publisher Yuetting Cindy Lam and Lesley Dahl, the magazine’s North American editor. In their introduction they emphasise the importance of a good story over any attempt to tailor it to a precise age group. This seems both brave and sensible. Many of us advanced quickly through middle-grade fiction and beyond, ignoring any advice on age range offered on covers. Others will have dwelt longer on books designed for readers younger than their years. No big deal.

And yet, to an editor of school textbooks, used to a more formalised approach to language introduction, I did have some concerns when bumping into words and expressions like ‘diminuendo’ and ‘vein-riddled’ in George Salis’ atmospheric ‘The Lightning Conductor’ (which memorably describes goosebumps as ‘skin braille’). Never fear – help is at hard. Zizzle may blur the line between child and adult reading, but it’s not looking to lose anyone along the way. A bookmark can be peeled from the front cover to mark the particular progress of each reading team; the stories are short, and all are helpfully categorised into three difficulty levels – ‘Easy’, ‘Less Easy’ and ‘Not Easy’.

In my role as uncle, I would happily dip into the magazine with my niece and nephews, and suspect each would get something different from it. While I might savour the delicious satire in Ryan Thorpe’s ‘The Border Crossing’, a tale in which a mouse ‘trying to look casual’ heads a line of animals attempting to navigate a border point, my older nephew may prefer to wallow in its more comedic elements. I don’t think the message would be lost either way.

Myth, magic and mystery – as you might expect – bag conspicuous roles in the Zizzle cavalcade. ‘One Wish’ by Jennifer Moore offers a new take on the perils of unchecked desire, while ‘How the Moon Scared the Giant’ by Lenore Weiss casts its light on lonely despotism. Other stories, such as ‘The Road to Valhalla’ by Blake Johnson and ‘Ruby Vidalia’ by Karen Rigby tell of lifelong love affairs with books.

Personally, I like the way these more recognisable narratives are complemented by several abstract visions contemplating loss, or offering similarly melancholy glimpses into adult life – and how you might temporarily escape it. ‘Scarves’ by Cheryl Pappas is especially striking, as a young girl leaves a smiling picnic to create a shrine of discarded animal bones.
Zizzle 2_Andy Wai Kit illustrationAndy Wai Kit, a Malaysian-born animator in the games industry, provides the sweeping visuals that are a highlight of Zizzle’s debut – certainly his work contains more whimsy and humanity than I recall in the computer games I played as a kid, which, despite the momentary relapse offered by Zizzle, I have to concede was a while ago now.

Promishore have produced an exceptionally high-quality product with this first edition of Zizzle; so much so that the international price of US$21 does not seem overly steep. This isn’t a magazine destined to end up in the recycling; it’s a publication to treasure or share, depending on how generous you’re feeling.

我的工作狂老公 – my workaholic husband

My Hong Kong Husband

I was thinking a lot before should I write this post. I know my (unwanted) unemployment due to previous visa-related issues had an impact on this whole situation. I feel guilty and I feel like an ass that I still complain.image (17)

I don’t usually talk about our problems, there’s pretty much no point in making them public, they are pretty boring and can be solved just between us. Unless it goes to ‘If you can’t clean the litter box how could you possibly change a diaper‘ – I will probably have to take him to those Maury-type shows and make people force him to do that. But the problem we’re having is with us for the past two years and I don’t think me on my own can change anything.

And I have no idea if it’s only our problem or other (not only) AMWF couples…

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