Real Life in China at the Height of Empire: Revealed by the Ghosts of Ji Xiaolan

edited and translated by David E. Pollard9789629966010-500x730
The Chinese University Press, 2014

Toward the end of the eighteenth century Ji Xiaolan, widely regarded as the most eminent scholar and foremost wit of his age, published five collections of anecdotes and discourses centering on the interaction between the mundane and spirit worlds, and also including purely earthly life stories and happenings. Some items are Ji’s own thought and experiences, but the majority are those of others, with Ji acting as recorder. Settings range from the milieux of peasants, servants and merchants to those of governors and ministers, and extend to the far reaches of the Qing empire. Some contents dwell on comedy or tragedy, cruelty or kindness, corruption or integrity, erudition or ignorance, credulity or scepticism; and several items borrow ghost stories to satirize men and manners; some straightforwardly examine current beliefs and practices.

David E. Pollard, now retired, was formerly Professor of Chinese in the University of London and thereafter Professor of Translation in The Chinese University of Hong Kong. His principal fields of research and publication have been modern Chinese literature, classical Chinese prose and translation studies. Books published by The Chinese University Press have been The True Story of Lu Xun (2002) and Zhou Zuoren: Selected Essays (2006); his The Chinese Essay (1999) was published by the Research Centre for Translation, also CUHK. (adapted from publisher’s website)

Cafe Jause: A Story of Viennese Shanghai

Screen shot 2015-10-12 at 3.35.22 PMby Wena Poon
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014

Shanghai, 1936. On the eve of World War II, the Jewish, Chinese and Japanese customers of a famous Viennese café on Zhoushan Road get together for an international project: to bake the ‘king of the cakes’, the legendary German baumkuchen. Fully illustrated with modern and vintage photography. This edition includes a Chinese excerpt translated by the author and performed to Chinese audiences. (

Wena Poon is an American novelist of ten books of literary fiction. She is known for her work on diaspora culture, transnational identity, and gender roles. Since 2002, her cosmopolitan stories have been widely anthologized and translated in French, Italian, and Chinese. (adapted from author’s website)


Waterman: The Life and Times of Duke Kahanamoku

by David DavisProductImageHandler.ashx
University of Nebraska Press, 2015

Waterman is the first comprehensive biography of Duke Kahanamoku (1890–1968): swimmer, surfer, Olympic gold medalist, Hawaiian icon, waterman.

Kahanamoku emerged from the backwaters of Waikiki to become America’s first superstar Olympic swimmer. He topped the world rankings for more than a decade; his rivalry with Johnny Weissmuller transformed competitive swimming from an insignificant sideshow into a headliner event. Kahanamoku used his Olympic renown to introduce the sport of “surf-riding,” an activity unknown beyond the Hawaiian Islands, to the world: from Australia to the Hollywood crowd in California to New Jersey.Kahanamoku’s connection to his homeland was equally important. He was born when Hawaii was an independent kingdom; he served as the sheriff of Honolulu during Pearl Harbor and World War II and as a globetrotting “Ambassador of Aloha” afterward; he died not long after Hawaii attained statehood. As one sportswriter put it, Duke was “Babe Ruth and Jack Dempsey combined down here.”

Award-winning journalist David Davis is the author of three books on sports history. His work has appeared in three anthologies, including The Best American Sports Writing. (adapted from the publisher’s website)

Chutzpah!: New Voices from China

Screen shot 2015-10-08 at 4.45.07 PMedited by Ou Ning and Austin Woerner
University of Oklahoma Press, 2015
Volume 4 in the Chinese Literature Today Book Series

The stories in this collection take readers from the suburbs of Nanjing to the mountains of Xinjiang Province, from London’s Chinatown to a universe seemingly sprung from a video game. In these stories one may encounter a sweet, lonely fabric store owner or a lesbian house cleaner, a posse of shit-talking vo-tech students or a human hive-mind. A jeep-driving swordsman girds himself for battle by reading Borges and Nabokov. A Beijing-raised Kazakh boy hunts for his lost heritage. A teenager plots revenge on the bureaucrat responsible for demolishing his home. A starving child falls in love with a water spirit.

These stories, collected by Ou Ning and Austin Woerner, are drawn from the pages of Chutzpah!, one of China’s most innovative literary magazines, introduces readers to a new generation of Chinese fiction.

An artist, curator, and cultural activist based in rural Anhui Province, Ou Ning is author of New Sound of Beijing. He served as editor-in-chief of Chutzpah! magazine (2011–2014), from which this collection is drawn.

Austin Woerner is translator of Doubled Shadows: Selected Poetry of Ouyang Jianghe; he was the English editor for Chutzpah! (adapted from the publisher’s website)



adamantine072710by Shin Yu Pai
White Pine Press, 2010

Drawn from global news stories, the subjects of these poems range from the tallest man in the world, an Olympic medalist, and a burning monk to a family stranded in the Oregon wilderness. A suite of poems contemplates the work of Goya, Warhol, Rothko, Cornell, and Calder, as well as the work of artists and craftsmen from the Eastern traditions.

Shin Yu Pai, born in 1975, is a second-generation Taiwanese-American. She received her MFA from the Art Institute of Chicago, and is currently assistant curator for the Wittliff Collections. She has published eight books of poems and been anthologized in America Zen: A Gathering of Poets and The Wisdom Anthology of North American Buddhist Poetry. (adapted from the publisher’s website)

Mahabharata: A Modern Retelling

4ac656cc6cd94f862d478f7a03748991-w204@1xby Carole Satyamurti
W. W. Norton & Company, 2015

In her vibrant retelling of this set of tales from ancient India, British poet Satyamurti (Countdown) elegantly captures stories of family conflict, family rivalry, jealousy, pride, ambition, honor, defeat, and love woven through the long Sanskrit poem. Satyamurti works from other scholarly translations—using K.M. Ganguli’s unabridged 5,000-page English prose translation as her primary guide—to condense all 18 books of the poem into blank verse, remaining faithful to its structure and dramatic range. At the core of the work is the bitter ongoing conflict between two rival families for control and possession of the Bharata kingdom and its capital of Hastinapura, the “city of the elephant,” on the Ganges River in northern central India. (Publishers Weekly)

Carol Satyamurti is a poet, sociologist, and translator. The author of many books of poetry, she has taught regularly for the Arvon Foundation and for the Poetry Society (UK). She lives in London. (Publisher’s website)

Need I Say More?

by Stephen Kessler71wB8sn0eEL
El Leon Literary Arts, 2015

Following his first two books of essays, organized around themes of poetry and cultural criticism, in this third collection he gets more personal and political. Kessler’s keen eye, sharp wit and readable style—whether reflecting on Viagra, multilingualism, Miss America, fatherhood, Gertrude Stein, cooking, anarchism, education, Robinson Jeffers, Vivian Maier, the pleasures of gossip, a trip to Cuba, Steve Jobs, Charles Bukowski, shopping for a used car, or getting mugged in New York—keep his writings vividly alive. (Author’s website)

Stephen Kessler is a poet, translator, essayist and editor whose writings have appeared in books, anthologies, magazines and newspapers across the United States since the late 1960s. Born in Los Angeles in 1947, he has degrees in literature from Bard College and the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is the author of eight books and chapbooks of original poetry and more than a dozen books of poetry and fiction in translation, including Written in Water: The Prose Poems of Luis Cernuda, which received a 2004 Lambda Literary Award. He was a founding editor and publisher of Alcatraz, an international journal, and The Sun, a Santa Cruz weekly, among other periodicals and independent publishing ventures. He is a contributing editor of Poetry Flash and the editor of The Redwood Coast Review. (Publisher’s website)

Review in Good Times