Tuesday, July 05, 2016


So Bronwyn and I are off to Shanghai next week to attend the 14th International Conference on the Short Story in English (July 13-16) at East China Normal University (ECNU). The title of this year's gathering is "Influence and Confluence in the Short Story: East and West." Pretty exciting, huh?

If you're at all curious (why would you be?) about the bewildering variety of workshops and panels we're supposed to be taking part in, you can check them out here. The short version, though, is that each of us is giving a reading, is taking part in one of the plenary panels, and is chairing a couple of sessions. I'm also giving an Academic paper on "Settler & Speculative Fiction in the NZ Short Story" (sounds fascinating, no?), and Bronwyn and I are both in a panel discussing Voice in the NZ short story, chaired by our good friend Tracey Slaughter.

The conference will be fun, I'm sure. The prospect of exploring Shanghai a bit is almost equally alluring, though. Pretty much all I know about the city comes from watching (and reading) J. G. Ballard's autobiographical Empire of the Sun, but I can't help feeling that it might have changed a bit since then.

Here's the location of the conference:

Peter Potrowl: East China Normal University (2010)

And here's our hotel:

Looks pretty lux, eh? Too good for the likes of us, you'll be thinking, and I guess you're right. We're going to try to make the best of it, though. It's going to be hot (temperatures in the 30s at this time of year, I'm told) ...


Richard said...

Re short stories I liked your one in the latest Brief Jack with the brother - brother (conflict?) and the accusatory ghost making an appearance. Were there Chinese writers who had written in English? I read somewhere or possess a magazine of a Japanese society writing about English literature. Of these nations have huge populations. So one assumes a wide range of resources. But how many of us learn Japanese or Chinese and then study Chinese literature. Bryony Jagger's ex husband became an expert in Chinese history and I think he lived there. Hamish and Michael managed to gain some knowledge of Chinese. I have to rely on translations for everything. I cannot really pronounce any languages apart from English very well. Some French words totally defeat me. It is interesting that Ken's novel has him passing through China trying to negotiate the languages. One character knows Chinese and French etc well but the other doesn't. The point of the novel still evades me but there are some brilliant usages of language: for example when a fly enters Yehune(?)'s ear. Also everywhere they go the travelers are confronted with strange languages. Yehune cant understand much or any of it....
When I had some money I went to NY. I decided to stay in central Manhatten in pretty good motel. Expensive and good and handy to things but not luxurious. I wanted to feel reasonably secure especially as it was the first place I had ever been to (apart from Fiji many years previously). It was interesting. A lot of chess players I know piggy back on their status as players or arbiters to get into teams to play overseas but for me even if I qualified it would spoil it, so I am wondering if you had a busman's holiday!! Altho I suppose Scott Hamilton et al at least have a focus when they go to Tonga. My son went to Samoa and my doctor was there just relaxing in the pools and imbibing a bit. I think he had no intention of driving around. Nice fellow, but he was, well, the opposite of Scott who wants, wherever he goes, to uncover some new injustice of mystery...Mind you these travels by you and others reported on Blogs means I can travel vicariously!
I had a feeling of being overwhelmed in NY (it was hot when I went) and I think one mistake I made was not to focus. I did get a lot from the MOMA and Guggenheim, and wandering around Times Square etc and went to a few readings...one which was a reading of Koch's "When the Sun tries to Go Down" organised by (forget but he has since become a relatively 'known' writer. It was in a small park on the East side and anyone could take part so I read part of it...it was great. Also the Nuyorican. I was pretty boozed most of the night time. But the 'mistake' was going into the huge Metropolitan museum...It was so vast, and there were so many huge paintings I started freaking out. Also I was suffering during the day from panic attacks and I simply couldn't concentrate on that place. I needed to focus on certain places. And study some of the paintings, and do it in sections. But I wasn't interested in any conferences, in those days all I wanted to do was read my own poetry and to be listened to. I did like around the Brooklyn Bridge (I had re-read Hart Crane's book - actually Bob Orr mentioned that before I went). The story of that bridge is sometimes cut off, having the father and son building it and both dying during it's construction, but in fact, before her husband died, the wife of the son who was also an engineer finishing the bridge, when he was incapacitated, studied engineering and related matters herself, and she was instrumental in finishing that bridge. I walked over it a few times.
But I think that if people on the wrong side of thirty travel they need comfort and security (and hopefully cleanliness) as base so that (large looking, impressive) hotel looks as though it was (you went there?) the ticket, albeit a costly one.

Dr Jack Ross said...

Not as glam as it looks in the photo, that hotel, Richard. The rooms were very nice, but with little flaws here and there: a human dimension of desuetude which was not unattractive.

But yes, you're right, I fear that I'm no longer a backpacker. Shanghai was unexpectedly beautiful, though: trees lining the streets, and some lovely old temples.