Trends and Buzz
Posted by Joel Martinsen on Saturday, April 1, 2006 at 2:10 PM
A (delayed) treat for rankings junkies this week - in addition to the aggregate rankings from The Beijing News, we bring you the top ten lists from a number of individual bookstores across China as reported in the Saturday China Books, Newspapers, and Periodicals Reader supplement to China Post News (in light of the potential boredom of those of you who are not rankings junkies, we've left the rankings until the bottom of this post).
Comparing the lists tends to reinforce the general impression one gets from the various bookstores (in Beijing, at least). The Xinhua bookstore at Wangfujing takes aim at general readers; it's top-ten list isn't too different from the aggregate lists this month. The only outlier, the soccer memoir A Cut to the Left, A Cut to the Right (左一刀，右一刀) by "Flying Dagger" Li Chengpeng, is explained by a book-signing session held last week by the author. Sanlian's list runs more toward the humanities; Fengrusong, at the south gate of Peking University, is more academic. Comparing Beijing's stores to outlets in other cities reveals that Beijing consumers, for better or for worse, seem to be less concerned about etiquette than those elsewhere.
Although it seems that Chinese media has been treating the book as a new biography of a "stylish" Lei Feng, who wore an expensive watch, drove his era's BMW, and flirted with an older woman, Lei Feng Spirit (general NF #3) is really the biography of "Lei Feng" the icon - it could easily have been called "Manufacturing the Lei Feng Spirit." It doesn't stray from the orthodox history, however, but rather explains how that orthodox history arose. That heralded trove of photographs is presented in many cases as a behind-the-scenes look how the famous imagess were staged - seven shots of Lei Feng polishing a truck, for example, are accompanied by text that explains how Lei Feng's own Soviet truck was swapped for a domestic Jiefang.
The notes are often gently tongue-in-cheek, as in a caption to one photo reading, "The creator is unknown, but it probably was created later for propaganda use, combining Lei Feng's head image with the Young Pioneers logo, since Lei Feng at that time was probably not so precocious as to be able to take such a photo himself."
Even further afield is the book's final chapter, "Post-popular Lei Feng," brings together Xue Cun, Game Boy decals, and online gaming, and reproduces in its entirety an online essay, "1962: Lei Feng vs. Marilyn Monroe." Lei Feng Spirit concludes with an appendix comparing the Fengster, John Lennon, and Bruce Lee, all of whom were born in 1940 and died prematurely.
The chart pictured here displays trends in Lei Feng propaganda, based on the proportion of People's Daily articles given over to Lei Feng-related topics on 5 March in each year from 1963 through 1999. Green is the raw figure, yellow is weighted for article length, and purple is weighted for both length and page space.
The book has probably benefited from (and perhaps contributed to) the current storm of media attention surrounding the crosstalk performer Guo Degang, who up until a few months ago was merely a "non-famous actor in the Chinese crosstalk world." Duku 0601 features an article on Guo and his career, an interview with the man, and the text of one of his routines.
The general non-fiction bestseller list for the week of 03/17--03/23:
The overall bestseller list for the week of 03/17--03/23:
The China Post News top ten lists from a number of urban bookstores throughout China.
Xinhua Bookstore, Wangfujing
Bestseller rankings are taken from the Friday Book Review section in The Beijing News, which compiles its data from the city's major online and brick & mortar bookstores.
Links and Sources
Jobs in China
Henry on The Eurasian Face
Caroline W on Big in China
Michael on Julia Lovell on translating Lu Xun's complete fiction: "His is an angry, searing vision of China"
Brandon K. on Clueless academic takes on popular fantasy novels
China Media Timeline
Major media events over the last three decades
Danwei Model Workers
The latest recommended blogs and new media
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.
Front Page of the Day
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From the Vault
Classic Danwei posts
+ 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.