The Shanghai Literary Festival is now a cherished institution in Shanghai. It has been running for over ten years now. Started by M on the Bund owner Michelle Garnaut, this event brings authors from around the world to Shanghai to promote their new books. The venue, M on the Bund's Glamour Bar or the Crystal Room above, provides a fun stage for book talks and for shmoozing with Shanghai's literati.
Fortunately, my office is located just down the road. On Wednesday I was invited to attend the opening event for this year's SLF. It featured a talk by the Israeli writer, Etgar Keret, who told stories and read passages from his books. The child of Holocaust survivors, he won the audience over with his self-deprecating humor and his philosophical approach to life.
After the talk, I enjoyed catching up with a number of people whom I hadn't seen or talked with in years, including some of the other "Old Shanghai hands" in town.
The following day, I attended Spencer Dodington's book talk. Spencer, another long-timer in Shanghai (originally from Texas) was launching a book about the life and career of the architect Paul Veysseyre, whose company built dozens of Shanghai's art deco masterpieces--hence the title of his new book, Shanghai's Art Deco Master. The talk was in the form of a literary lunch, and was a very pleasant and civilized experience. The usual suspects were in attendance, including Old Shanghai maven, Tess Johnston, who had been influential in the genesis of the book and who wrote a foreword for it.
I was invited to give a literary lunch-style book talk next Wednesday, so this was also an opportunity to see how the event was organized and be ready for it next week.
One nice thing about the SLF is that it comes in March, just as the city is thawing out from a long, hard winter (I exaggerate slightly--Shanghai winters are mild by New England standards). It is the harbinger of spring and always rekindles my love for this city and the fascinating people who inhabit it.