On the Platform

A short story from Shanghai – by Michael Russam


He still caught himself getting lost, from time to time, in thoughts about the city that had been his home for a year now. About the way that Shanghai was so prettily decorated with its past and present and future but also, the more he thought about it, so muddied and polluted. Today wasn’t one of those days, though.


Poem: Hamburgers

A satirical poem by Arthur Meursault


Ed: This is a parody of Calvin Trillin’s poem about Chinese food Have They Run Out Of Provinces Yet?, which is also funny and worth reading. Arthur’s poem looks at it from the Chinese perspective …


Have they run out of hamburgers yet?

Or is it as endless as their debt?

McDonalds came with Big Macs and fries,

Soon even Zhengzhou had a franchise.

Next came along old Colonel Sanders,

Pushed new stores through Party back-handers.


Ashes for Ashes

A Chinese funeral – by Kim Willcocks


It was a shock to us all when Lao Lao, my Chinese grandmother-in-law, died. She was 88, which was, as we say in England, a good innings. But she had been so hale and hearty until the end that most of her family felt sure she would reach a hundred. My wife was very close to her as Lao Lao had basically brought her up while my wife’s busy parents worked.

Lao Lao’s life offers a glimpse at how much China has changed.


Bird Talk

A story of old Hong Kong – by Rosalyn Shih


Gor Tsai’s first words were the grumblings of a policeman’s walkie talkie.

Peggy’s husband brought him home in a bell-shaped bamboo cage he balanced on his knees for the minibus ride from Yuen Po Market, only three stops away. The bird’s name meant “little brother”, because the Cantonese name for his kind was baat gor or “brother eight”.

Setting his bounty on the dining room table, the husband solemnly shushed his parents and his wife, waiting for the bird to speak.


Whisky and Writers


The boozy highlight of the 10th Beijing Bookworm literary festival last month was an evening of drinking and storytelling called 'Whisky and Writers', where five writers read five stories, paired with five whiskies. This is the third such annual event, after Writers and Rum in 2014 and Scotch and Stories in 2015 (click through to listen to the audio from both). The first two were organised by the Anthill, but this time Anthony Tao at the Bookworm took over the franchise and invited me to read a story instead, from my chapter in our anthology book While We're Here.

The other readers were all writers in town for the festival, which means we got the cream of the literary crop and some terrific tales, including Hong Kong cartoonist Larry Feign on learning Chinese, and Mexican novelist Valeria Luiselli on, erm, morning glory. It was a delectable and drunken night – each story less articulate than the last as we got through our drinks – and now we're pleased to share the video of it for those who weren't there. - Alec Ash