Danwei Model Workers

A guide to book reviews in China

The Danwei Model Worker Award is granted by Danwei editors to blogs that we feel are especially worth reading. See the full list for more fascinating material.

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Duxieren 读写人

Duxieren is an aggregator of book reviews and literary criticism. Launched in October 2008, it collects essays from China's major newspaper book supplements (The Beijing News, Southern Metropolis Daily, and Oriental Morning Post) as well as posts by a range of lit bloggers, from Huang Jiwei to Sun Zhongxu to Berlin Fang.

Although Duxieren is a decent source of criticism on Chinese literature, posts on foreign literature seem to make up a majority of the content the site aggregates. Book supplements tend to have a cosmopolitan outlook, and a number of the book bloggers are translators themselves, so the site is a convenient way to get a sense of how international literature and culture is being received in urban China.

Duxieren is maintained by Bimuyu (比目鱼), whose own blog features book reviews, calligraphy, and short fiction.

Particularly amusing is a series of fictional reviews written in 2007 and 2008. The non-existent books up for review poke fun at trends in subject matter and cover design within the publishing industry, and the reviews are entertaining commentaries on the medium itself as well as various issues in contemporary society.

For a taste, here's the conclusion of a review of The Art of Road Crossing (subtitled: "How Not to be a Laowai in China"):

After finishing The Art of Road Crossing, I could not help but gasp in admiration: a laowai who has observed so subtly and accurately the philosophy of life and rules of behavior of the Chinese people is nothing short of amazing. Reading this book may benefit the Chinese reader as well: who can say that they themselves have a complete command of "the art of road crossing?"

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From 2008
Books on China
The Eurasian Face : Blacksmith Books, a publishing house in Hong Kong, is behind The Eurasian Face, a collection of photographs by Kirsteen Zimmern. Below is an excerpt from the series:
Big in China: An adapted excerpt from Big In China: My Unlikely Adventures Raising A Family, Playing The Blues and Becoming A Star in China, just published this month. Author Alan Paul tells the story of arriving in Beijing as a trailing spouse, starting a blues band, raising kids and trying to make sense of China.
Pallavi Aiyar's Chinese Whiskers: Pallavi Aiyar's first novel, Chinese Whiskers, a modern fable set in contemporary Beijing, will be published in January 2011. Aiyar currently lives in Brussels where she writes about Europe for the Business Standard. Below she gives permissions for an excerpt.
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+ Korean history doesn't fly on Chinese TV screens (2007.09): SARFT puts the kibbosh on Korean historical dramas.
+ Religion and government in an uneasy mix (2008.03): Phoenix Weekly (凤凰周刊) article from October, 2007, on government influence on religious practice in Tibet.
+ David Moser on Mao impersonators (2004.10): I first became aware of this phenomenon in 1992 when I turned on a Beijing TV variety show and was jolted by the sight of "Mao Zedong" and "Zhou Enlai" playing a game of ping pong. They both gave short, rousing speeches, and then were reverently interviewed by the emcee, who thanked them profusely for taking time off from their governmental duties to appear on the show.
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