The View

A short story from Shanghai by Josh Stenberg


Jason called out of the blue. He was staying at a fancy hotel in Pudong; I should come over. The view was amazing, he said. Had I ever been? So, come.

I was startled and almost stumbled in the street. I agreed instinctively, out of confusion. Once I put down the phone, a prick of self-loathing. I wasn’t going anywhere special, so I bought a pair of new shoes in self-parody. Leather is also a kind of substance abuse.

Despite the shoes, the day was suddenly empty and smelled perilous. There was too much time before I was to go meet him and I knew that at home I would only mull and stew. So I just kept walking. The streets were cradled in that brief spring when the temperature is still comfortable but the threat of summer has already made the rounds. Things begin to sweat, especially things like us, who don’t belong, who prickle and rash. The climate is trying to excrete us.

This thought proved I hadn’t slept enough, so I repressed the desire for a cigarette and groped about in my mind for some duty or escape. I followed a sign, as if it held some kind of authority, like it might fulfil a perverse need to foil expectation. I turned into the Sun Yatsen residence.




We all know the legend of the 300 Spartan stories who fended off the godking Xerxes of Bad Prose. Clad in clean grammatical sandals and minimal adjectival leather, armed with the sharp blades of apt metaphor, they stymied the advance of the slave empire of RSS, and died martyrs to narrative in a news-obsessed world. And they had sexy abvs.

So forget 70 years after the defeat of Japan, even if in Beijing we're loving the blue skies fabricated for the occasion. Today we're celebrating 300 posts on the Anthill, since we launched in China just shy of three years ago. (Other anniversaries include ten years in China for fiction editor Tom Pellman, and seven years to the day since I first moved to Beijing.)

Week after next there will be a military parade on Tiananmen square in honour of our achievement. But until then here are six brave warriors from among the 300, which you might have missed before. They and others will also be collected in our anthology book, coming out at the end of the year from Earnshaw Books and with a big bash at the Beijing bookworm.

Lots of good new stuff in the pipeline in the coming months, including nonfiction by David Moser, Jeremiah Jenne, Jonathan Kos-Read and RFH, plus photography, fiction, poetry and translation. Sign up to the weekly email digest to not miss a beat, and share our Twitter and Facebook. Thanks for reading us!


Poem: Names

A sense of where you belong – by Yuan Yang


When I was four and went to school

in Manchester, the kids would ask:

“What’s your name? Where you from?”

and I would say, “Ni shuo shen me?”

Which is Mandarin for the kind

of bewilderment you have as a kid

from inner-mountain-basin China

who has just come through Heathrow.



A photo essay by Yang Zhazha


Ed: We're delighted to present a selection of photography by Yang Zhazha, from his series "Youth!". Zhazha is post 80s artistic youth sort himself (fond of tweed flat caps), a talented street photographer, and a personal friend. We'll follow up with another photo essay from him in the autumn, but for now we think these images from a Chinese childhood speak louder than words.



Bedtime texts – short fiction by Kevin McGeary


Fantasising about Minnie was the best way to ignore his sister’s snoring. On the top bunk, where he could still smell shoes and discarded instant noodle packets, he saw Minnie the way she appeared last week on Lianhua, a breeze blowing black hair over her eyes.

It was there, under the watchful statue of Deng Xiaoping, that everything had gone wrong. His imagination wasn’t strong enough to alter what had happened. He saw himself whip out his English grammar textbook and three pages of hardcore Japanese porn fall on the grass. Minnie gave that absent gap-toothed smile that appeared to have nothing to do with happiness or amusement. The magazines weren’t his; they were courtesy of his prankster roommate, the spotty police chief’s son who went by the name of Angelababy.

As he felt the train slow down, sliding into another dark town, he focused on Minnie’s buttock cleavage and the way it rose above her dropped waist jeans.

“I need to borrow your phone,” his Sister Yezi called from below after being woken by the alighting passengers. He wiped the phone on his blanket before handing it down.