This has been a busy month. In addition to all of my responsibilities with Hult, I've been launching my new book on Mu Shiying, and at the same time I'm putting the finishing touches on our Shanghai Nightscapes book project with Dr. James Farrer.
Two weekends ago I took the train up to Beijing for the Bookworm Festival talk. They put me up at the Opposite Hotel in Sanlitun, which was quite nice. The talk went well and folks enjoyed the reading of Mu's "Shanghai Fox-trot." I was happy to see some friends in the audience including my old pal Jeff Brown, who is launching his own book, and his wife Florence. Neil Smidt did a great job moderating, and Alan Babbington Smith was there to represent the RAS.
I was able to use my time on the train and in the hotel to work on our book manuscript and got some editing done on a few early chapters. After the tiring weekend of training back and forth, I caught a bad cold, which has also been making the rounds of office and school. Nevertheless I was back on my feet for my Wednesday "literary lunch" book talk at the Glamour Bar. Thanks go out to Michele and Tina and the RAS folks in Shanghai for supporting this talk. James Carter, my colleague at St. Joseph's college, moderated the talk. James (or Jay as he likes to be called) is working on a book of history based on a day at the Shanghai race course in 1941. As usual, I was peppered with interesting questions by the audience. I realized that people take these book talks seriously and felt that I was back at an academic conference defending a paper!
Jay and I had lunch the following day and caught up on our respective book projects. It's great to have comrades in the field who are also looking to build a wider audience than the tight little circles of academia.
That evening I attended one of Lisa Movius's infamous martini parties. It was largely a male affair. James Farrer came with me, and later Jeff Wasserstrom showed up as well. Spencer Dodington was there and was happy to share some of his insights on Shanghai nightlife as we go into the final phase of our book.
On Friday night, I led a tour for the Shanghai Community Center of the Bund, focusing on the jazz theme. We started at the Astor House, where I gave a talk about the history of jazz and ballroom dancing in the 1920s-30s, and then we visited the Peace Hotel and finally the Waldorf Astoria, before disappearing into the House of Blues and Jazz for the night. HBJ was jam packed with people and Carlton J. Smith was holding court with his usual antics of bringing men and women onto the stage from the audience to sing and dance with him. How can anybody not have a good time when Carlton is in the house?
On Saturday I caught up with some old friends for brunch and dinner. We then toured a couple of clubs including La Cava, a Spanish hangout featuring Latin salsa music and dancing. In between, James and I worked on polishing our bars chapter for the book.
Then on Sunday, James came over and we worked on that chapter some more (it is really coming together now), and after lunch I took off in my Chevy Blazer for Suzhou. It's about a two hour journey depending on traffic. I got there just in time for my book talk at the cozy Suzhou Bookworm. Jackson, the manager, was there to greet me and we got started with an audience of around 20 people. It was a great audience and they asked many interesting and surprising questions. One woman, who is a psychiatrist, even asked me how I had grown through the experience of writing this book. I ended up talking about my stint as a bartender in Sapporo and how that experience had been the spark that led to my interest in Asian nightlife spaces (it's all in my "about" page on this website). Other ladies in the audience were curious about the exchanges between women and men in the nightlife demimonde, both then and now. Still other audience members focused on the politics of writing and the question of why Mu joined the "dark side" of collaboration with Japan. Donald, the moderator, did an excellent job of keeping me on schedule for my readings of his stories. Then after a nice conversation with some young recent college grads from the UK who are teaching English in Suzhou, I headed back to Shanghai, blasting an album from Nick Spitzer's New Orleans CD and then switching to Rubber Soul, which I sang to at the top of my lungs to keep me awake for the long ride home.