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The Bloggerati

How do you alienate a room full of about a hundred bloggers? Start off by saying ‘Actually, I never read any blogs except my own’. Smart. Polite laughter. 


So began the opening night event of the Shanghai International Literary Festival with a panel discussion titled ‘The Bloggerati’, featuring three prominent bloggers: Jeffrey Wasserstrom of  The China Beat , a writer and professor of history; Anne Summers of The Looking Glass,well-known to Australian readers as a feminist, but not a blogger, (she does have a Facebook page though, as she kept reminding us all); and thirdly American journalist Adam Minter, whose blog about China, Shanghaiscrap, is both interesting and accessible.

Adam Minter
As someone pointed out to Minter a few days after he published his first post back in 2007, they thought his blog’s title was  ‘Shanghai is crap’, leaving him wishing that the title was a deliberate cleverness on his part, but sadly wasn’t. He talks a lot about recycling, and he’s running a great series in The Atlantic about the international recycling business. It’s fascinating, and well worth a look. 


Minter also had an interesting take on ‘the death of blogging’, which he thought was no more than a vicious rumour, with millions more blogs now than ever before, and people spending more hours reading online than ever before. 


I’m afraid I found Summers and Wasserstrom less interesting panelists than Minter with nothing new to say about blogging, and in particular about blogging in China. But I needn’t worry about offending them with my comments, because by their own admission, they won’t be reading them.


The 9th annual Shanghai International Literary Festival, known as SILF to literary types, began yesterday and runs until March 20 at M on the Bund. Here are some events I thought looked interesting, if you’re in Shanghai over the next two weeks and feel like being highbrow. Tickets are 65 yuan per session, including a drink. (Full programme here)

  • Michiel Hulsholf and Daan Roggeveen: China’s World Cities of Tomorrow. Roggeveen, an architect, and Hulsholf, a journalist, are the founders of the Go West Project, an interdisciplinary research lab tracking the development of emerging mega-cities in the heart of China. During the two years of research for their upcoming book they experimented on crossing roads in Xi’an, visited car markets in Kashgar, and discovered enormous brand-spanking new cities that no-one seems to live in. An intriguing look at the social cost of massive urbanisation. Sunday March 6, 11am.

  • Thomas van Gulik  talks about his fascinating father Robert van Gulik,  a diplomat, orientalist, gibbon expert, eroticist and author of the famed Judge Dee detective stories set in Tang-dynasty China. Thursday March 10, 12pm.
  • Barbara Demmick : Prying Open the Hermit Kingdom. Demmick spent years traveling to North Korea to interview residents about their lives and her subsequent book, Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea gives us an insider’s view of this secretive land. Saturday March 12, 1pm
  • This guy sounds intriguing. Tommy Nohilly, former US marine, bartender and bouncer turned playwright, began writing plays while doing the graveyard shift as a security guard. He presents  Blood from a Stone on Saturday March 12, 3pm.
  • Peter Hessler lived in China for eight years, and has written three extraordinary books about China: River Town, Oracle Bones, and Country Driving. His books offer an insightful look at the lives of ordinary Chinese people living outside major cities, through whose eyes we see the rapid changes occurring in China right now. Sunday March 13, 7pm
  • Deborah Fallows, author of Dreaming in Chinese, will be the guest speaker at a literary lunch (ticket and lunch 188 yuan) on Friday March 18 at 12pm. Fallows, holding a PhD in linguistics and with six languages under her belt when she and her family relocated to China, chronicles the unique challenges of living here and learning the language.
  • Lesley Chang wrote Factory Girls to tell the story of those female factory workers who labor countless hours to provide us with the material goods we take for granted. Chang followed the lives of two young women over the course of three years to gain an insight into their difficult lives. Saturday March 19, 5pm.