Te-Ping's stories convey the normalcy of humanity exceptionally well, most of all. Otherwise, they inspire little will to be exceptional, and gave me more of a creeping feeling that the individual differences between people are all relatively minute.

I've really enjoyed the writing; it feels very well-crafted and thoughtful, with hints of beauty shining through everywhere.

As with most short story collections I read, I've written down my thoughts at the beginning of every chapter in the book. I will reproduce those here.


A very touching story. It made me recall Sanderson's writing advice that you should always tell the story from the most interesting perspective. But this story doesn't do that, which makes it that more distant and sad, in a good way. The way Lulu's brother experiences his sister is maybe more telling than a story from Lulu's perspective.

It contains elements that I somehow expect to be there, with respect to glimpses of Chinese society.

Why do I have these expections? Is it partly Western media propaganda? Truly, yes, I guess. Because Te-Ping works as a journalist/correspondent in China for the Western media. If this type of story feeds into the Western expectations of China, publishers might also be more likely to pick up the manuscript and publish the book. Though I am sure that Te-Ping feels genuine in her experience and observations.

Hotline girl

When dreams don't really work out yet, but a beautify story about at least feeling reminded that you're growing as a person.

Even in mass-cube gray cities, one must exercise feeling content with the little things. Are these large cities in China void of life? I guess a big city doesn't automatically become like New York. But what does it take then? For particular groups with limited means, will life always seem more "boring"? When one must always keep one's head down to grind the money for a livelihood together, is there ever space to reflect on your own wishes without feeling hopelessness?

New fruit

Nice little story with an unusual point of view; the community. "We" feels like the collected experience of a small neighborhood in a large city. Almost as if we're reconstructing a story over time from gossips and rumors.

There is a certain tactical shallowness that works well in making it plausible.

The qiguo/peculiar fruit almost sounds like a euphemism for LSD: it can have this amazing insightful and hope-giving effect, or it can lead you to dig up trauma's to a degree that ends up crippling you emotionally.

Field notes on a marriage

It's a sad tale with no conclusive ending, but that only reminds me all the more faithfully of life's imperfection. Very good sketch of someone's life, though why does it all have to be so sad? Why do all these people sound so boring?

Is life always so boring from an onlooker's perspective? And is it only ever worth living your own life?

It's sketching a very ugly, bleak, and soulless image of China. Is this Te-Ping's interpretation?

Flying machine

A tender portrait of a simple man who has an innocent drive to prove himself and gain the respect of his neighbors in the village. There is misplaced adoration of authority; not really competenent inventions; but all of it is described as being seen as special by the villagers.

Being outstanding is a game of relativity.

On the street where you live

An elegantly slow build-up to a very creepy character. There's little story, and all that there is feels a bit weird; just exploring someone's life and obsession.

Most short stories have been painted with broad strokes; playing out over larger periods of time. Tends to feel slightly detached, but it is what I see the more "literature"-ish stories doing often.

Shanghai murmur

Such a tender exploration of the normal people that make up the large bulk of our urban world.

So many backstories, while there's so little room for true self expression.

The disadvantages of poor people having moved from countryside to big city. The gap in education is so large. The self-deprecating tendencies sadden me. This weight, influence, that rich people have over the perception of others. They dominate cultural and societal perception with their stories. But their ambitions shouldn't be lauded as general ambitions that the populace should strive towards. It stems from the capitalistic pillars of most human societies now.

Land of big numbers

The false sense of the make-ability of monetary wealth.

The stock market truly is a weird fiction. Poor people are seduced to believe in their chances of becoming rich themselves, while in truth there is very little probability of them moving out of their social economic status.

I imagine that this feeling was even stronger in upcoming cities in China over the past decades, because so much was changing at such a rapid pace. Think back to what a friend said about his time in Shanghai: that he wouldn't recognize the city after only five years away, because so much in its representation had changed.

Beautiful country

Tender resignation in a relationship. Is it enough to be together with a kind-hearted person? It feels like a very real and practical perspective on life; not encouring others or yourself to strive to some fairytale version of reality (because chances are that you won't ever attain such a life anyway). But instead, having healthy acceptance towards the things you cannot change anyway. Very Tao-like.

But this always makes me wonder, how do you truly know that something is outside of your capabilities?

Gubeikou spirit

Fascinating tale, with very clear rules in a bound-off world.

Stuck in a train station, with no "reasonable" way to get out because "it is policy that passengers must leave from a different station than the one they entered".

The group somehow establishes a community and starts living at the train station with indefinite intentions. There are some small revolts, but ultimately everyone resigns to their fate. Until new trains start appearing.

Imaginatively absurd tale.