Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in

Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in


Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China [KINDLE] ❄ Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China ❦ Tom Carter – Capitalsoftworks.co.uk Unsavory Elements is an unprecedented anthology of new, original, true stories from some of the most celebrated foreign writers that have lived in modern China Westerners are flocking to China in inc Unsavory Elements is Stories of PDF Å an unprecedented anthology ofnew, original, true stories from some of the most celebrated foreign writers that have lived in modern China Westerners are flocking to China in increasing numbers to chase their dreams Unsavory Elements: PDF/EPUB ² even as Chinese emigrants seek their own dreams abroad, and life as an outsider in China has many sides to it weird, fascinating and appalling Edited by Tom Carter, this anthology falls under the genre of travel Elements: Stories of PDF ↠ writing, yet travel is just the beginning of the adventure hereDIA REVIEWSGreat vignettes from world class writersa celebration of the outsider s experience in China, in all of its juiciness and fetid rancourTime Out ShanghaiExcellent Concise and truthfulSouth China Morning PostAlthough other anthologies have featured outstanding journalism about China by Western writers, Carter s collection is the first to focus on the wide ranging experiences of foreigners living in ChinaChina DailyThe authors, mostly experienced writers who have traveled widely in China, offer tales beyond those of the usual laowai experienceShanghai DailyThe majority of stories are individual gems and an enjoyably diverse range of issues are found in the bookTime Out Hong KongThe moral of this collection appears to be that though almost everything has changed, one basic thing the allure of China to a certain kind of Westerner remains curiously consistentTaipei TimesFunny, poignant, and wrythe outcome is a depth and variety about the expat experience and life in China that is almost unsurpassedAsian Review of booksFast moving romps through a rapidly changing changing societyCaixinAn eminently dip into able, informative and enjoyable collectionThat s ShanghaiOne might be tempted to classify it as a travel book of sorts what is being traversed and recollected throughout is not the lay of the land, but rather, the contours of confusion, excitement and isolation that every China expat has, at one point, had to clamber across and conquerThe BeijingerA surprisingly refreshing, instead of rehashing, collection of essays, written by professionals, instead of amateursat times hilarious, at times beautiful, but always relatableChinaOrgEditor Tom Carter has pulled together an impressive cast of writers, established and amateur alikeBeijing CreamIf there is an overarching message to take from the book, it is that holy China changes quicklyShanghaiistThe vignettes lead the reader through a variety of emotions some will tug at your heartstrings, others will leave you chuckling in understanding, and a few will really make you thinkShanghai City WeekendPresents a realistic ChinaLi Jihong for Shanghai Review of booksAs a Chinese writer with a certain cynicism, I did not expect to find anything truly surprising But surprised I was, and my own stereotypical presumptions stand correctedXujun Eberlein for Los Angeles Review of booksThe result is a highly readable, often humorous, and at times brilliant book that is unerringly direct the authors gathered together here do not shy away from troublesome issuesAsian CorrespondentThe title dis serves themthe range, humor and insights in this book place it among the best of its kindAsia Sentinel.


10 thoughts on “Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China

  1. Richard Burger Richard Burger says:

    I ve never met an expat in China who didn t have his or her own extraordinary stories to tell, stories that at times made them stop and ask themselves, What exactly am I doing here Every day one can experience an only in China moment, like waiting three hours to see a bank teller or seeing teenagers sleeping and snoring at an Internet cafe Having lived in Singapore and Taipei, I ve been struck by the cities huge differences with China in terms of daily life In the former two, there are r I ve never met an expat in China who didn t have his or her own extraordinary stories to tell, stories that at times made them stop and ask themselves, What exactly am I doing here Every day one can experience an only in China moment, like waiting three hours to see a bank teller or seeing teenagers sleeping and snoring at an Internet cafe Having lived in Singapore and Taipei, I ve been struck by the cities huge differences with China in terms of daily life In the former two, there are rarely any surprises at all They are great places to live, but they are also predictable You are rarely taken aback by what you see on the street China, as we all expats know, can be one surprise after another We all have a battery of stories that prove it.Which brings me to Tom Carter s superb book of short stories, Unsavory Elements Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China, written by some of the most prominent writers in or formerly in China, like journalist and author Jonathan Watts, Alan Paul author of Big in China , Deb Fallows a linguist, author and wife of James Fallows , novelist and Fulbright Scholar Kaitlin Solimise, and an epilogue by the great Simon Winchester, author of The River at the Center of the World And there are 23 others, most of them writers of incredible competence and backgrounds rich in China experience Somehow, Tom Carter, the photographer behind the acclaimed photo essay book China Portrait of a People, has achieved the impossible, tracking down 28 of the most brilliant China hands and inducing them to write first rate stories about some of their most exceptional experiences in China Carter somehow got them all to deliver their stories, edited them and whipped them into a book that is fast paced I read it in two or three sittings and, like China, full of surprises.It is impossible to write a thorough review of this book That would take 28 posts, one for each story trying to choose which ones to mention in this review is painful, because there is so much good in so many of them You really need to read the whole thing If you live in China or are curious about expat life there, this is required reading.Like any book with 28 authors, there is going to be some unevenness There was one story that I found disappointing, as I thought the author was puffing it up One or two were too long, a couple were inconclusive and begged forfinality But the remarkable thing is just how high the quality of nearly all the writing is and how remarkable the situations are, some of them downright bizarre.Michael Levy, author of a book I should have reviewed a long time ago, Kosher Chinese, kicks the book off with the kind of moral dilemma China is known for Michael, teaching at an English training school for rich Chinese kids, is offered a bribe to write the students admission letters so they can get into exclusive American boarding schools At 1,000 an essay, it s a tempting offer Levy takes us into the world of teaching in China and, coming back to the bribe, leaves us hanging in a surprise ending.One story that fascinated me for its sheer strangeness was by author Dominic Stevenson about his stay at a Shanghai prison for smuggling dope across the border When I ve read in the newspaper about foreigners being arrested in China and put in jail I ve always wondered what they go through and how they survive While this story isn t poetic, it paints a wonderful picture of life behind bars and the special privileges foreigners enjoy there Despite some of the relative comforts they enjoy, it s an experience I plan on never knowing first hand The most breathtaking story is told by Susie Gordon about her night out with a fabulously rich Chinese businessman who, with no second thought, plunks down 20,000 for a few bottles of wine in a single sitting Describing one wild night with Mr Zhou and his son and friends, Gordon transports us into the rarefied world of China s super rich, with all the luxuries, the trappings, the sins and temptations She describes the behavior of Zhou s son and his obscenely wealthy friends at a lavish karaoke bar operated by a friend, Yu Haiming The customary libation at KTV is whiskey mixed with green tea, or watery beer from tall green bottles, but Yu Haiming s place was unsurprisingly different He had two of the girls bring in a magnum of champagne, a little silver tray arrayed with slim white lines of powder that might have been coke but in all likelihood was ketamine, and pills nestled like candies in a brass bowl At one point, I remember looking around at the girls, the men, the drugs and the money, and wondering how long this utopia could last the Chinese dream in its second prodigal generation The entire story is a tour de force And there s muchDeb Fallows observations on all the things you re not allowed to do in China the story is appropriately titled Bu Keyi , and how she and her husband came face to face with the law while shooting photos of Tiananmen Square on the 20th anniversary of the June 4 incident Jonathan Watts making a visit to an environmentalist in the rain forests of Xishuangbanna Bruce Humes truly harrowing depiction of his brutal mugging and subsequent experience in a Shenzhen hospital The most poignant story is Kaitlin Solimine s gorgeous depiction of her second mother when she lived in China as an exchange student, who became a lifelong friend.Unsavory Elements is the title of editor Tom Carter s own story, a tale of his visit with two friends to a seedy Chinese brothel in the countryside on a lane called Teen Street The story has generated considerable controversy The story is hilarious one of the friends is a consummate loser and Carter s description of him caused me to laugh out loud It took a lot of chutzpah to write a story like this, and I give Carter credit for his daring to tell a story that many expat men experience but usually choose not to tell to the world I enjoyed reading this fast paced piece, but I have to say that I understand why it is so controversial The story is farce, and to shift gears and go the politically correct route and tell about the sorrows and tragedy of prostitution would have disrupted the tone I thought, however, that Carter could have woven at least something into this story that conveyed a bitempathy for the girls plight, without being preachy It s a hard thing to do, interjecting such a serious note into such a side splitting narrative, but I know Carter has the skill to do this Nevertheless the story stands out as one of the highlights of the book, another look behind the scenes of what most of us will never experience ourselves.Do yourselves a favor and read the book From high farce to heartbreaking poignancy, it s all here, and you get to peer into aspects of China you may never have known about otherwise like Dan Washburn s trip deep into the Guizhou countryside, or Kay Bratt s moving story of a girl in a Chinese orphanage One can only marvel at Carter s ability to get these stories written and then to draw them all together to form a unified whole I ve now read the book twice It is a labor of love, and I think you ll love it, too


  2. Emma Sea Emma Sea says:

    Great collection of essays which shed some light on a few of the cross cultural miscommunications I ve experienced The best of the bunch for me was a hockey fic, natch, Diplomacy on Ice by Rudy Kong, about a friendly ice hockey match in Manchuria I didn t realize until I d finished that the book was somewhat controversial Many other readers had the same negative response to Tom Carter s piece about visiting a small town brothel The complete lack of empathy or insight, and the horrible deva Great collection of essays which shed some light on a few of the cross cultural miscommunications I ve experienced The best of the bunch for me was a hockey fic, natch, Diplomacy on Ice by Rudy Kong, about a friendly ice hockey match in Manchuria I didn t realize until I d finished that the book was somewhat controversial Many other readers had the same negative response to Tom Carter s piece about visiting a small town brothel The complete lack of empathy or insight, and the horrible devaluing of human life according to a genetic potluck of cultural standards of beauty was very upsetting to me But I can t judge the whole book by this single piece Overall, a very interesting read


  3. Isham Cook Isham Cook says:

    Even before this book came to press it was already in the thick of polemic and controversy for all the wrong reasons Some advance copy reviews by feminist editors in the expat zines of Beijing and Shanghai have been withering, particularly of editor Tom Carter s own exploitative and juvenile contributing story on a brothel visit e.g It is actually one of the best pieces in the book, its slapstick style perfectly suited to the tawdry circumstanc Even before this book came to press it was already in the thick of polemic and controversy for all the wrong reasons Some advance copy reviews by feminist editors in the expat zines of Beijing and Shanghai have been withering, particularly of editor Tom Carter s own exploitative and juvenile contributing story on a brothel visit e.g It is actually one of the best pieces in the book, its slapstick style perfectly suited to the tawdry circumstances of a group of clumsy foreigners haggling in the shabbier variety of Chinese brothel It is the only story in the entire collection, in fact, that merits the book s title Before I came to the book, I was expecting and hoping for just that, something unsavory, stories of a refreshingly seedy and disreputable nature, peeling back a new layer of reality in Chinese society asandforeign pioneers venture deeper into the country Inevitably, someone would take it upon himself to dredge up a collection of lascivious or discomfiting encounters and slap it together as a book What we have here instead, alas, is a muchbanal take on unsavory elements the communist propaganda machine use of the phrase as Carter first recalled it to describe anyone of questionable, less than revolutionary morals Foreigners formerly foreign devils are by definition unsavory their mere presence in the Middle Kingdom unsavory It is not possible to be a foreigner in China and not simultaneously bumbling, gauche, vulgar and unsavory Thus any random collection of non fiction stories of foreign devils wandering around or working and living in China will do The 28 contributors represent quite a spread, scattered about the country in pretty much all walks of life, but what cannot be said about them with a few exceptions is that they are unsavory They are, on the contrary, painstakingly polite, respectful and normal They are strenuously family friendly nine of the stories those by Levy, Paul, Muller, Bratt, Arrington, Washburn, Solimine, Watts, and Conley concern actual families and children or the teaching of children The pieces are all good clean fun, worthy of inclusion in Reader s Digest or those bland, antiseptic Intensive Extensive Reading textbooks for freshmen English majors in Chinese universities Inevitably, the collection is uneven The pieces by Peter Hessler and Simon Winchester are predictably the most assuredly written, though they don t really tell us anything we can t get from their own books about China Meyer, Polly, Earnshaw, Spurrier, and Kitto are competent writers but fail to particularly stand out, unlike Watts piece on the German botanist and eccentric Josef Margraf, and Fuchs on Tibetan muleteers, which benefit from their intriguing subject matter Stevenson mars his intriguing subject matter of life in a Chinese prison with snideness here I direct readers instead to the extraordinary book Prisoner 13498 A True Story of Love, Drugs and Jail in Modern China by Robert H Davies of his experience in Chinese prisons Humes horrific account of being violently mugged suffers from his gratuitous histrionics while recovering in the hospital the tantalizing question and cliffhanger of how he was able to pay for the huge medical expenses without any cash or insurance is hinted at and then forgotten Some pieces lack contextualization, like Eikenburg s account of her daring courtship with a Chinese male, but what decade is she referring to, exactly Interracial relationships on the Mainland are farubiquitous and accepted now than two or three decades ago, when I imagine her relationship took place a reader unfamiliar with China might wrongly assume things are as stringent and racist today as ever.If I had been given the same anthology project with the same title and the same contributors to choose from, I would keep three I would start the book off with Winchester s piece as a prologue instead of its current slot as epilogue , then proceed with the spicy if rather innocuous account of KTV escorts among China s privileged by Susie Gordon, followed by Carter s aforementioned piece For the succeeding stories, I would have to find alternative,intrepid contributors willing to challenge bourgeois readerly expectations and really get down and rock n roll in China s seamy, truly unsavory underside After all, I would only be doing what China s own writers have already done, like Wang Shuo, Jia Pingwa and Zhu Wen back in the 1980s depicting life among hoodlums and lumpen elements at large or the graphic accounts of casual sex and drug use by Hong Ying, Wei Hui, Mian Mian and other female writers of the 1990s Until that happens, pass on the word of Tom Carter s enticing new collection at the local bake sale or church group back home when queried on a latest wholesome introduction to China to curl up at the fireplace with


  4. Susan Susan says:

    Unsavory Elements is a new anthology of western writers who have lived in China in recent years If you think of any author who has published a book about China over the last decade, it s very likely that you ll find him or her in Unsavory Elements.What surprised me wasn t that this book has such an all star line up, but that it contains work of writers I hadn t previously known.One of my favorite essays is Kaitlin Solimine s Water, for Li Ming, a tribute to her host mother from when she lived Unsavory Elements is a new anthology of western writers who have lived in China in recent years If you think of any author who has published a book about China over the last decade, it s very likely that you ll find him or her in Unsavory Elements.What surprised me wasn t that this book has such an all star line up, but that it contains work of writers I hadn t previously known.One of my favorite essays is Kaitlin Solimine s Water, for Li Ming, a tribute to her host mother from when she lived in Beijing on an exchange program at the tender age of 16 Her writing is fluid and reflective and I wanted to knowAs it turns out, Kaitlin is working on a novel based on her host family.Another new writer to me whose essay I just love is Susie Gordon In Empty from the Outside, she narrates a late night outing with rich and powerful Shanghai twentysomethings Susie is part business associate, part accessory as the only foreign woman in the group It s certainly a different look at Shanghai than most foreigners experience She is also the author of several guidebooks about China.And speaking of western women, Jocelyn Eikenburg whose work I already knew writes about dating her now husband and needing to hide the fact that they were living together If the university officials had found out he was living with a foreign woman, he would have been kicked out of his program Jocelyn is the doyenne of Western women Asian men relationships and blogs at www.speakingofchina.com She is also working on a memoir.Other contributors I ve read include Aminta Arrington, Kay Bratt, and Susan Conley, all of whom write essays about being a foreign mother in China That s something you don t read about often


  5. Jane Chu Jane Chu says:

    the quality is all over the place some decent pieces by old china hands, but way too many from the english teaching crowd at times i was quite peeved to have paid list price for a slew of typical oh chiiiiina stories that are a dime a dozen off any drunkard in Sanlitunr ultimately it was Jonathan Watts and Pete Spurrier that salvaged this collection oh and Tom Carter s is as bad as they say, not because it s about prostitution but because it s just try hard and horribly written.


  6. Ray Ray says:

    If you happen to be a China expat, no doubt you have a crazy story to tell I may feel like an old China hand myself at this point, but I came in 2008 just as the last of the real wildness was getting homogenized I have my own stories, but nothing like the best of these Somehow editor Tom Carter has captured the cream of the crazy China experiences, and what a read it is.Like any anthology, it can be hit or miss However, there are no great misses, only adequate stories lost among the truly me If you happen to be a China expat, no doubt you have a crazy story to tell I may feel like an old China hand myself at this point, but I came in 2008 just as the last of the real wildness was getting homogenized I have my own stories, but nothing like the best of these Somehow editor Tom Carter has captured the cream of the crazy China experiences, and what a read it is.Like any anthology, it can be hit or miss However, there are no great misses, only adequate stories lost among the truly memorable From famed Oracle Bones author Peter Hessler s story of refugee thieves at the North Korean border in View from the Bridge , to Michael Levy s opening Selling Hope about crooked English teachers a theme very familiar to anyone living here , every account is solid and interesting and the consistent quality is impressive But it seems to get darker as the book reaches its conclusion, and I for one appreciated that Charming expat family stories such as Aminta Arington s Communal Parenting and Susan Conley s Where There Are Crowds give way to tales of extremely illegal activity detailing the underbelly of Chinese society of which I will list my favorites below Thing about China though, is the dark underbelly is never that well hidden and we all knew it was there the entire timeMy personal favorites Stowaway by Pete Spurrier, about hardcore backpacking and sneaking through trains and living on the edge of running out of money and visas Diplomacy on Ice by Rudy Kong details the world of Northern hockey with a healthy does of extreme bloody violence You Buy Me Drink by Nury Vittachi details easily impressed gangsters and scammers One of the People by Bruce Humes might be the most terrifying of all, about being mugged and his time in a Shenzhen hospital almost getting his hand amputated, and yet horrifying though may be it s always written with lighthearted humor Thinking Reports by Dominic Stevenson is another downer, an excerpt from the hash smuggling author s time in a Shanghai prison writing propaganda reports, and as serious a situation as it is he never wants any pity only to tell his story and Empty from the Outside by Susie Gordon coversdrugs and call girls all while living the highlife.Finally, the namesake story Unsavory Elements by the infamous Tom Carter If you haven t heard, he goes to a brothel It s really not as offensive as I was expecting, it s one of the funniest pieces and gives an important yet irreverent insight into what s really goes on after late nights of partying in this country A unique book with a unique take on China, with none of the standard journalistic flair and dull economic theories This is about real life and a real window into the emerging soul of the rising Middle Kingdom There is something for everyone in the midst of all these talented storytellers While it was very entertaining to me as an expat, I would recommend this book most of all to people who have never even been to China The world should know, these are the real stories of this insanely fascinating land


  7. Jessica Thomas Jessica Thomas says:

    Interesting and enlightening collection of true stories focusing on foreigners relationships with the Chinese, their roles in Chinese society, and adapting to Chinese culture Contributors of all new, original essays include best selling authors Peter Hessler, Susan Conley, Simon Winchester and Michael Meyer.Some new names as well such as standouts Dan Washburn, Susie Gordon, Kaitlin Solimine and Tom Carter also the editor Essential reading for anyone planning on expatriating to the PRC.


  8. Beth Beth says:

    A collection of engrossing sketches from well known western writers on the frontlines of New China The true tales they tell are timely and address China during its most recent and dramatic period of change Topics such as fu er dai China s nouveau riche , forging college entrance essays for wealthy Chinese students, and ethnic clashes in Tibet give this book a contemporary edge lacking in dated memoirs like Peter Hessler s River Town Highly recommended for anyone taking the great leap into A collection of engrossing sketches from well known western writers on the frontlines of New China The true tales they tell are timely and address China during its most recent and dramatic period of change Topics such as fu er dai China s nouveau riche , forging college entrance essays for wealthy Chinese students, and ethnic clashes in Tibet give this book a contemporary edge lacking in dated memoirs like Peter Hessler s River Town Highly recommended for anyone taking the great leap into China


  9. Julia Julia says:

    A few of the stories were ok and have made me want to read further books by certain authors However other stories were superficial and at times irritating Maybe this was becuase they were short stories but I felt these accounts just touched the surface of a different culture and only demonstrated the non inclusivity of a few of the authors I found Chris Thrall s account of living in Hong Kong showed a deeper understanding and sensitivity towards the cultural differences between East and West A few of the stories were ok and have made me want to read further books by certain authors However other stories were superficial and at times irritating Maybe this was becuase they were short stories but I felt these accounts just touched the surface of a different culture and only demonstrated the non inclusivity of a few of the authors I found Chris Thrall s account of living in Hong Kong showed a deeper understanding and sensitivity towards the cultural differences between East and West


  10. Amy VanGundy Amy VanGundy says:

    Very interesting takes on foreigner life in China A good representation of how everyone has their own China life and they are far from the same However, all the stories, felt like teasers, too short, leaving me like I d eaten a puff pastry or something I d like longer stories and lesssensational Just my opinion.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

10 thoughts on “Unsavory Elements: Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China

  1. Richard Burger Richard Burger says:

    I ve never met an expat in China who didn t have his or her own extraordinary stories to tell, stories that at times made them stop and ask themselves, What exactly am I doing here Every day one can experience an only in China moment, like waiting three hours to see a bank teller or seeing teenagers sleeping and snoring at an Internet cafe Having lived in Singapore and Taipei, I ve been struck by the cities huge differences with China in terms of daily life In the former two, there are r I ve never met an expat in China who didn t have his or her own extraordinary stories to tell, stories that at times made them stop and ask themselves, What exactly am I doing here Every day one can experience an only in China moment, like waiting three hours to see a bank teller or seeing teenagers sleeping and snoring at an Internet cafe Having lived in Singapore and Taipei, I ve been struck by the cities huge differences with China in terms of daily life In the former two, there are rarely any surprises at all They are great places to live, but they are also predictable You are rarely taken aback by what you see on the street China, as we all expats know, can be one surprise after another We all have a battery of stories that prove it.Which brings me to Tom Carter s superb book of short stories, Unsavory Elements Stories of Foreigners on the Loose in China, written by some of the most prominent writers in or formerly in China, like journalist and author Jonathan Watts, Alan Paul author of Big in China , Deb Fallows a linguist, author and wife of James Fallows , novelist and Fulbright Scholar Kaitlin Solimise, and an epilogue by the great Simon Winchester, author of The River at the Center of the World And there are 23 others, most of them writers of incredible competence and backgrounds rich in China experience Somehow, Tom Carter, the photographer behind the acclaimed photo essay book China Portrait of a People, has achieved the impossible, tracking down 28 of the most brilliant China hands and inducing them to write first rate stories about some of their most exceptional experiences in China Carter somehow got them all to deliver their stories, edited them and whipped them into a book that is fast paced I read it in two or three sittings and, like China, full of surprises.It is impossible to write a thorough review of this book That would take 28 posts, one for each story trying to choose which ones to mention in this review is painful, because there is so much good in so many of them You really need to read the whole thing If you live in China or are curious about expat life there, this is required reading.Like any book with 28 authors, there is going to be some unevenness There was one story that I found disappointing, as I thought the author was puffing it up One or two were too long, a couple were inconclusive and begged forfinality But the remarkable thing is just how high the quality of nearly all the writing is and how remarkable the situations are, some of them downright bizarre.Michael Levy, author of a book I should have reviewed a long time ago, Kosher Chinese, kicks the book off with the kind of moral dilemma China is known for Michael, teaching at an English training school for rich Chinese kids, is offered a bribe to write the students admission letters so they can get into exclusive American boarding schools At 1,000 an essay, it s a tempting offer Levy takes us into the world of teaching in China and, coming back to the bribe, leaves us hanging in a surprise ending.One story that fascinated me for its sheer strangeness was by author Dominic Stevenson about his stay at a Shanghai prison for smuggling dope across the border When I ve read in the newspaper about foreigners being arrested in China and put in jail I ve always wondered what they go through and how they survive While this story isn t poetic, it paints a wonderful picture of life behind bars and the special privileges foreigners enjoy there Despite some of the relative comforts they enjoy, it s an experience I plan on never knowing first hand The most breathtaking story is told by Susie Gordon about her night out with a fabulously rich Chinese businessman who, with no second thought, plunks down 20,000 for a few bottles of wine in a single sitting Describing one wild night with Mr Zhou and his son and friends, Gordon transports us into the rarefied world of China s super rich, with all the luxuries, the trappings, the sins and temptations She describes the behavior of Zhou s son and his obscenely wealthy friends at a lavish karaoke bar operated by a friend, Yu Haiming The customary libation at KTV is whiskey mixed with green tea, or watery beer from tall green bottles, but Yu Haiming s place was unsurprisingly different He had two of the girls bring in a magnum of champagne, a little silver tray arrayed with slim white lines of powder that might have been coke but in all likelihood was ketamine, and pills nestled like candies in a brass bowl At one point, I remember looking around at the girls, the men, the drugs and the money, and wondering how long this utopia could last the Chinese dream in its second prodigal generation The entire story is a tour de force And there s muchDeb Fallows observations on all the things you re not allowed to do in China the story is appropriately titled Bu Keyi , and how she and her husband came face to face with the law while shooting photos of Tiananmen Square on the 20th anniversary of the June 4 incident Jonathan Watts making a visit to an environmentalist in the rain forests of Xishuangbanna Bruce Humes truly harrowing depiction of his brutal mugging and subsequent experience in a Shenzhen hospital The most poignant story is Kaitlin Solimine s gorgeous depiction of her second mother when she lived in China as an exchange student, who became a lifelong friend.Unsavory Elements is the title of editor Tom Carter s own story, a tale of his visit with two friends to a seedy Chinese brothel in the countryside on a lane called Teen Street The story has generated considerable controversy The story is hilarious one of the friends is a consummate loser and Carter s description of him caused me to laugh out loud It took a lot of chutzpah to write a story like this, and I give Carter credit for his daring to tell a story that many expat men experience but usually choose not to tell to the world I enjoyed reading this fast paced piece, but I have to say that I understand why it is so controversial The story is farce, and to shift gears and go the politically correct route and tell about the sorrows and tragedy of prostitution would have disrupted the tone I thought, however, that Carter could have woven at least something into this story that conveyed a bitempathy for the girls plight, without being preachy It s a hard thing to do, interjecting such a serious note into such a side splitting narrative, but I know Carter has the skill to do this Nevertheless the story stands out as one of the highlights of the book, another look behind the scenes of what most of us will never experience ourselves.Do yourselves a favor and read the book From high farce to heartbreaking poignancy, it s all here, and you get to peer into aspects of China you may never have known about otherwise like Dan Washburn s trip deep into the Guizhou countryside, or Kay Bratt s moving story of a girl in a Chinese orphanage One can only marvel at Carter s ability to get these stories written and then to draw them all together to form a unified whole I ve now read the book twice It is a labor of love, and I think you ll love it, too

  2. Emma Sea Emma Sea says:

    Great collection of essays which shed some light on a few of the cross cultural miscommunications I ve experienced The best of the bunch for me was a hockey fic, natch, Diplomacy on Ice by Rudy Kong, about a friendly ice hockey match in Manchuria I didn t realize until I d finished that the book was somewhat controversial Many other readers had the same negative response to Tom Carter s piece about visiting a small town brothel The complete lack of empathy or insight, and the horrible deva Great collection of essays which shed some light on a few of the cross cultural miscommunications I ve experienced The best of the bunch for me was a hockey fic, natch, Diplomacy on Ice by Rudy Kong, about a friendly ice hockey match in Manchuria I didn t realize until I d finished that the book was somewhat controversial Many other readers had the same negative response to Tom Carter s piece about visiting a small town brothel The complete lack of empathy or insight, and the horrible devaluing of human life according to a genetic potluck of cultural standards of beauty was very upsetting to me But I can t judge the whole book by this single piece Overall, a very interesting read

  3. Isham Cook Isham Cook says:

    Even before this book came to press it was already in the thick of polemic and controversy for all the wrong reasons Some advance copy reviews by feminist editors in the expat zines of Beijing and Shanghai have been withering, particularly of editor Tom Carter s own exploitative and juvenile contributing story on a brothel visit e.g It is actually one of the best pieces in the book, its slapstick style perfectly suited to the tawdry circumstanc Even before this book came to press it was already in the thick of polemic and controversy for all the wrong reasons Some advance copy reviews by feminist editors in the expat zines of Beijing and Shanghai have been withering, particularly of editor Tom Carter s own exploitative and juvenile contributing story on a brothel visit e.g It is actually one of the best pieces in the book, its slapstick style perfectly suited to the tawdry circumstances of a group of clumsy foreigners haggling in the shabbier variety of Chinese brothel It is the only story in the entire collection, in fact, that merits the book s title Before I came to the book, I was expecting and hoping for just that, something unsavory, stories of a refreshingly seedy and disreputable nature, peeling back a new layer of reality in Chinese society asandforeign pioneers venture deeper into the country Inevitably, someone would take it upon himself to dredge up a collection of lascivious or discomfiting encounters and slap it together as a book What we have here instead, alas, is a muchbanal take on unsavory elements the communist propaganda machine use of the phrase as Carter first recalled it to describe anyone of questionable, less than revolutionary morals Foreigners formerly foreign devils are by definition unsavory their mere presence in the Middle Kingdom unsavory It is not possible to be a foreigner in China and not simultaneously bumbling, gauche, vulgar and unsavory Thus any random collection of non fiction stories of foreign devils wandering around or working and living in China will do The 28 contributors represent quite a spread, scattered about the country in pretty much all walks of life, but what cannot be said about them with a few exceptions is that they are unsavory They are, on the contrary, painstakingly polite, respectful and normal They are strenuously family friendly nine of the stories those by Levy, Paul, Muller, Bratt, Arrington, Washburn, Solimine, Watts, and Conley concern actual families and children or the teaching of children The pieces are all good clean fun, worthy of inclusion in Reader s Digest or those bland, antiseptic Intensive Extensive Reading textbooks for freshmen English majors in Chinese universities Inevitably, the collection is uneven The pieces by Peter Hessler and Simon Winchester are predictably the most assuredly written, though they don t really tell us anything we can t get from their own books about China Meyer, Polly, Earnshaw, Spurrier, and Kitto are competent writers but fail to particularly stand out, unlike Watts piece on the German botanist and eccentric Josef Margraf, and Fuchs on Tibetan muleteers, which benefit from their intriguing subject matter Stevenson mars his intriguing subject matter of life in a Chinese prison with snideness here I direct readers instead to the extraordinary book Prisoner 13498 A True Story of Love, Drugs and Jail in Modern China by Robert H Davies of his experience in Chinese prisons Humes horrific account of being violently mugged suffers from his gratuitous histrionics while recovering in the hospital the tantalizing question and cliffhanger of how he was able to pay for the huge medical expenses without any cash or insurance is hinted at and then forgotten Some pieces lack contextualization, like Eikenburg s account of her daring courtship with a Chinese male, but what decade is she referring to, exactly Interracial relationships on the Mainland are farubiquitous and accepted now than two or three decades ago, when I imagine her relationship took place a reader unfamiliar with China might wrongly assume things are as stringent and racist today as ever.If I had been given the same anthology project with the same title and the same contributors to choose from, I would keep three I would start the book off with Winchester s piece as a prologue instead of its current slot as epilogue , then proceed with the spicy if rather innocuous account of KTV escorts among China s privileged by Susie Gordon, followed by Carter s aforementioned piece For the succeeding stories, I would have to find alternative,intrepid contributors willing to challenge bourgeois readerly expectations and really get down and rock n roll in China s seamy, truly unsavory underside After all, I would only be doing what China s own writers have already done, like Wang Shuo, Jia Pingwa and Zhu Wen back in the 1980s depicting life among hoodlums and lumpen elements at large or the graphic accounts of casual sex and drug use by Hong Ying, Wei Hui, Mian Mian and other female writers of the 1990s Until that happens, pass on the word of Tom Carter s enticing new collection at the local bake sale or church group back home when queried on a latest wholesome introduction to China to curl up at the fireplace with

  4. Susan Susan says:

    Unsavory Elements is a new anthology of western writers who have lived in China in recent years If you think of any author who has published a book about China over the last decade, it s very likely that you ll find him or her in Unsavory Elements.What surprised me wasn t that this book has such an all star line up, but that it contains work of writers I hadn t previously known.One of my favorite essays is Kaitlin Solimine s Water, for Li Ming, a tribute to her host mother from when she lived Unsavory Elements is a new anthology of western writers who have lived in China in recent years If you think of any author who has published a book about China over the last decade, it s very likely that you ll find him or her in Unsavory Elements.What surprised me wasn t that this book has such an all star line up, but that it contains work of writers I hadn t previously known.One of my favorite essays is Kaitlin Solimine s Water, for Li Ming, a tribute to her host mother from when she lived in Beijing on an exchange program at the tender age of 16 Her writing is fluid and reflective and I wanted to knowAs it turns out, Kaitlin is working on a novel based on her host family.Another new writer to me whose essay I just love is Susie Gordon In Empty from the Outside, she narrates a late night outing with rich and powerful Shanghai twentysomethings Susie is part business associate, part accessory as the only foreign woman in the group It s certainly a different look at Shanghai than most foreigners experience She is also the author of several guidebooks about China.And speaking of western women, Jocelyn Eikenburg whose work I already knew writes about dating her now husband and needing to hide the fact that they were living together If the university officials had found out he was living with a foreign woman, he would have been kicked out of his program Jocelyn is the doyenne of Western women Asian men relationships and blogs at www.speakingofchina.com She is also working on a memoir.Other contributors I ve read include Aminta Arrington, Kay Bratt, and Susan Conley, all of whom write essays about being a foreign mother in China That s something you don t read about often

  5. Jane Chu Jane Chu says:

    the quality is all over the place some decent pieces by old china hands, but way too many from the english teaching crowd at times i was quite peeved to have paid list price for a slew of typical oh chiiiiina stories that are a dime a dozen off any drunkard in Sanlitunr ultimately it was Jonathan Watts and Pete Spurrier that salvaged this collection oh and Tom Carter s is as bad as they say, not because it s about prostitution but because it s just try hard and horribly written.

  6. Ray Ray says:

    If you happen to be a China expat, no doubt you have a crazy story to tell I may feel like an old China hand myself at this point, but I came in 2008 just as the last of the real wildness was getting homogenized I have my own stories, but nothing like the best of these Somehow editor Tom Carter has captured the cream of the crazy China experiences, and what a read it is.Like any anthology, it can be hit or miss However, there are no great misses, only adequate stories lost among the truly me If you happen to be a China expat, no doubt you have a crazy story to tell I may feel like an old China hand myself at this point, but I came in 2008 just as the last of the real wildness was getting homogenized I have my own stories, but nothing like the best of these Somehow editor Tom Carter has captured the cream of the crazy China experiences, and what a read it is.Like any anthology, it can be hit or miss However, there are no great misses, only adequate stories lost among the truly memorable From famed Oracle Bones author Peter Hessler s story of refugee thieves at the North Korean border in View from the Bridge , to Michael Levy s opening Selling Hope about crooked English teachers a theme very familiar to anyone living here , every account is solid and interesting and the consistent quality is impressive But it seems to get darker as the book reaches its conclusion, and I for one appreciated that Charming expat family stories such as Aminta Arington s Communal Parenting and Susan Conley s Where There Are Crowds give way to tales of extremely illegal activity detailing the underbelly of Chinese society of which I will list my favorites below Thing about China though, is the dark underbelly is never that well hidden and we all knew it was there the entire timeMy personal favorites Stowaway by Pete Spurrier, about hardcore backpacking and sneaking through trains and living on the edge of running out of money and visas Diplomacy on Ice by Rudy Kong details the world of Northern hockey with a healthy does of extreme bloody violence You Buy Me Drink by Nury Vittachi details easily impressed gangsters and scammers One of the People by Bruce Humes might be the most terrifying of all, about being mugged and his time in a Shenzhen hospital almost getting his hand amputated, and yet horrifying though may be it s always written with lighthearted humor Thinking Reports by Dominic Stevenson is another downer, an excerpt from the hash smuggling author s time in a Shanghai prison writing propaganda reports, and as serious a situation as it is he never wants any pity only to tell his story and Empty from the Outside by Susie Gordon coversdrugs and call girls all while living the highlife.Finally, the namesake story Unsavory Elements by the infamous Tom Carter If you haven t heard, he goes to a brothel It s really not as offensive as I was expecting, it s one of the funniest pieces and gives an important yet irreverent insight into what s really goes on after late nights of partying in this country A unique book with a unique take on China, with none of the standard journalistic flair and dull economic theories This is about real life and a real window into the emerging soul of the rising Middle Kingdom There is something for everyone in the midst of all these talented storytellers While it was very entertaining to me as an expat, I would recommend this book most of all to people who have never even been to China The world should know, these are the real stories of this insanely fascinating land

  7. Jessica Thomas Jessica Thomas says:

    Interesting and enlightening collection of true stories focusing on foreigners relationships with the Chinese, their roles in Chinese society, and adapting to Chinese culture Contributors of all new, original essays include best selling authors Peter Hessler, Susan Conley, Simon Winchester and Michael Meyer.Some new names as well such as standouts Dan Washburn, Susie Gordon, Kaitlin Solimine and Tom Carter also the editor Essential reading for anyone planning on expatriating to the PRC.

  8. Beth Beth says:

    A collection of engrossing sketches from well known western writers on the frontlines of New China The true tales they tell are timely and address China during its most recent and dramatic period of change Topics such as fu er dai China s nouveau riche , forging college entrance essays for wealthy Chinese students, and ethnic clashes in Tibet give this book a contemporary edge lacking in dated memoirs like Peter Hessler s River Town Highly recommended for anyone taking the great leap into A collection of engrossing sketches from well known western writers on the frontlines of New China The true tales they tell are timely and address China during its most recent and dramatic period of change Topics such as fu er dai China s nouveau riche , forging college entrance essays for wealthy Chinese students, and ethnic clashes in Tibet give this book a contemporary edge lacking in dated memoirs like Peter Hessler s River Town Highly recommended for anyone taking the great leap into China

  9. Julia Julia says:

    A few of the stories were ok and have made me want to read further books by certain authors However other stories were superficial and at times irritating Maybe this was becuase they were short stories but I felt these accounts just touched the surface of a different culture and only demonstrated the non inclusivity of a few of the authors I found Chris Thrall s account of living in Hong Kong showed a deeper understanding and sensitivity towards the cultural differences between East and West A few of the stories were ok and have made me want to read further books by certain authors However other stories were superficial and at times irritating Maybe this was becuase they were short stories but I felt these accounts just touched the surface of a different culture and only demonstrated the non inclusivity of a few of the authors I found Chris Thrall s account of living in Hong Kong showed a deeper understanding and sensitivity towards the cultural differences between East and West

  10. Amy VanGundy Amy VanGundy says:

    Very interesting takes on foreigner life in China A good representation of how everyone has their own China life and they are far from the same However, all the stories, felt like teasers, too short, leaving me like I d eaten a puff pastry or something I d like longer stories and lesssensational Just my opinion.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *