Features

The New Generation of Readers

Harvest

I’M a writer who can’t read. When I plunge into a novel, I don’t stay submerged in the fictional world for long. After a few minutes some snag in the text will deliver me back to the present, and I’ll find myself staring at the page, confused. Sometimes I’ll feel a sudden need to check my email or send a text message, watch television. Reading makes me restless, thirsty for fresh stimulation.

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Wed and Buried

The Age (A2 section)

IT’S a Chinese tale to gong the heart: two young lovers, taken before their time, are married in the grave. But beneath this story’s romantic surface rots a putrid secret. The couple never knew each other in life. He was a bachelor who died alone. She was a peasant from a neighbouring province who was murdered and then sold to his family as a sacrificial bride.

This is the macabre plot of minghun, Chinese afterlife marriage. Grief-clobbered parents, desperate for their dead son to escape the shame of eternal singledom, arrange for a female corpse to be buried next to him. They then marry the couple post mortem. She becomes his wife in the spirit world, his ghost bride.

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Single-minded Obsession

Voiceworks

THE governors of the country with the largest population, longest wall, largest dam, biggest Buddha, longest sea-crossing bridge, highest railway, largest airport terminal and soon to be tallest tower (the Shanghai World Financial Centre) tend to take a single idea just a bit too far.

We’re all familiar with some of the schoolbook examples of Chinese single-mindedness. The Great Wall was a 2000-year-long obsession that cost millions of lives and made a better courier path than barricade. Then there was the Cultural Revolution from 1969 to 1976, when the entire population became possessed with the urge to modernise. Students tore about the country trashing temples, tearing up ancient texts and tormenting the elderly.

But few people know that this organised insanity also extends to the environment.

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