#996 Straight white guys and Tsingtao

You Are Eating An Orange. You Are Naked
by Sheung-King (Aaron Tang)

Toronto: Book*hug Press, 2020
$20.00 / 9781771666411

Reviewed by Jessica Poon

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On January 6, 2021, Sheung-King’s You Are Eating An Orange. You Are Naked was announced as one of fifteen books long-listed for Canada Reads, an annual book competition organized by CBC Radio. The panellists and the books they choose to promote will be revealed on Jan. 14, 2021, and the debates will take place March 8-11, 2021 — Ed.

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It’s not everyday that a novel inspires me to drink a certain brand of beer, but I’ve been drinking Tsingtao regularly since I first read this debut novel from Sheung-King. Despite its Chinese-sounding name, it is a beer “founded by 1903 by Anglo-German settlers of Hong Kong” (p. 102), which I learned from one of several charming food and drink-centric footnotes scattered throughout the novel. I knew immediately from the two full stops featured in the title that this book was going to be at least slightly atypical and I was not disappointed. And here’s my PSA: if you like pigs, read this book.

There are, essentially, two kinds of novels: the first features a protagonist who is, while deeply observant and not uninteresting, revolves around a more obviously dynamic, charismatic person. The protagonist functions as the more dynamic person’s transcriber and interpreter, insofar that everything, almost, is an interpretation of someone else and how that relates to the protagonist: think the spurned lover, the best friend, the bereaved spouse, the sidekick, the classic introvert, the writer. If the protagonist finds the dynamic person inexplicable, so, too, might the reader, which, while ripe in delicious ambivalence, can be frustrating. The dynamic person may seem like less of a person and more of an extremely detailed idea of a person whose point of view is elusive and must be inferred. This limitation, however, is one acutely found in real life.

The second type of novel features the aforementioned dynamic person as its protagonist; however, this type of novel is, for whatever reason, not as common. Another way to think about this provisionally convenient binary is as thus: few people write about other people; even fewer people get written about. If we accept the conceit of this overly simplistic binary, why is the former much more prevalent in novels? Is it because writing about interesting lives comes at the expense of an interesting life, or is observing an interesting life sufficient proxy for the observer to also become interesting?

Sheung-King

Sheung-King’s debut novel, You Are Eating an Orange. You Are Naked., is a novel of the first kind. Several times, the unnamed protagonist describes himself as boring — he isn’t, but the fact that he is certain of his boringness is in itself, interesting. The protagonist, who bears many similarities to the author — a Vancouverite, Torontonian, and Hong Konger, a translator with an MFA in creative writing from the University of Guelph — is clearly enamoured with his girlfriend, who is called “you,” invoking the second-person, which is initially jolting due to the tyrannically widespread dictum to avoid second-person unless one is writing a choose-your-own-adventure book. This neat subversion, however, is fortunately easy to habituate to and takes a backseat to the story. Being that the protagonist is a translator, his ability (or inability) to interpret his girlfriend is especially noteworthy. This novel is plentifully awash with book and film references, including a tremendously incisive criticism of Lost in Translation. Vignettes are choicely titled, e.g. Do You Like Pineapples?

In the protagonist’s own words, You Are Eating an Orange. You Are Naked. is: “ . . . a series of events. The events also have no centre — no fulcrum, no singular meaning. In the centre of an event is just another chain of events with no centre” (p. 114). I’m irresistibly reminded of Yeats’s poem (the only one of his I can stomach), “The Second Coming” —

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.

This novel is more contiguous than continuous, although I’d argue that the centre of events is the protagonist’s unshakeable love for his lover, who I will refer to in this review as M to avoid referring to her as “you,” or worse, as the protagonist’s girlfriend. (I have a feeling M, or “you” — the one in the book — wouldn’t like that. In the acknowledgments section of the book, Sheung-King writes: “And finally, a very special thank-you to M, whose intelligence, curiosity, and love of good food inspired the character “You.”) M is the protagonist’s centre, but she’s centrifugal and prone to saying things like “I got bored of you, okay? What’s the point of travelling if you’re not having any fun?” (p. 37), and “What we do doesn’t matter much at all. Isn’t that great?” (p. 79). Believing in entropy, conveniently, is a good scapegoat for what often appears to be plain inconsiderateness.

M is the definition of dynamic — she’s a sporadic dick flicker; a decisive, quick interpreter of literature; a smoker; a clotheshorse; prone to unassailable rudeness (e.g. “You’re stupid”) that would probably be considered objectionable if she were a man; and the kind of woman whose beauty throws the protagonist’s own “okay” looks in sharp relief. In other words, M is a woman who is coveted by other men, and often. In her own words, “I got so many free drinks before I met you” (p. 174). She offers her opinions with confidence and says things like “Here’s why metaphors are sexier than ideas. . . . Metaphors are sexy because they can give birth to love” (p. 104). She compares learning how to play the cello as a child to the predictability of an Asian woman with a white man, presenting unorthodox, seemingly fully formed ideas in mere seconds. I positively yearned to hear her opinions, even when I disagreed with them. As much as I enjoyed the protagonist’s interpretation of M, I wanted to hear about M from her point of view.

There is an ephemerality implicit in their relationship from the onset — not because of her beauty, at least not directly, but because of her impulsivity. When she gives the protagonist a real crumb of affection — comparing him to a cucumber sandwich or saying he looks nice in white shirts — I felt a certain dread in knowing the outsized significance her compliments would have. It’s not that M doesn’t love him; it is that she loves him insufficiently, even intermittently. One wonders if what M wants is not a boyfriend in the traditional sense, but an admiring audience for her luminous, witty brilliance, someone who will neither dilute nor overshadow her, but will absorb her without being proprietary.

The following passage is a pretty good example of how M is the centre of the protagonist’s life, while also demonstrating King’s partiality for simple sentences and the protagonist’s Werther-esque desultory listlessness:

I open the fridge again.
I stare into the fridge.
I stare into the fridge —
I hear you exit the washroom.
I ask if you’d like some coffee and you say that you would like tea instead.
“You look nice,” I say. You’ve put on contact lenses and a touch of makeup (p. 124).

M makes a demonstrable effort with her appearance, which the protagonist observes in a reportial manner. Considering that M is able to elicit reactions like the following passage, I was surprised to learn that M is probably near-sighted, i.e. usually wearing glasses.

“Oh my God! She’s beautiful!” the Uber driver in Toronto said, as he helped us take our luggage from his trunk. You were walking away from the car to get us a trolley.
“I didn’t notice it through the rear-view mirror, but she is something else,” he continued. “I don’t usually find Asian girls attractive, other than in movies, but she is a beauty! You’re a lucky man! What do you do, man?” (p. 115).

My surprise was nothing short of visceral. If we accept that it is possible for an attractive woman to be Asian — not a stretch for the average imagination — it is considerably less common to assume the default attractive woman, Asian or not, is wearing glasses; in fact, there’s a name for it: a librarian fetish. Like whiteness, having perfect vision is the default. Myopia and hyperopia, at least in literature and Hollywood alike, are not default; they represent intelligence, or at least, having read enough to warrant vision correction (challenge: name five characters with glasses that are asinine and write back to me). I was so intrigued by this outlier of beauty standards embodied by M that I contacted the author to ask for further details. Perhaps sensing an excess of curiosity and a dearth of sanity on my part, the author declined to respond; that, or my inquiry was lost into the ether. In essence? The hot girl in this book wears glasses. I can’t get over it.

Breasts and Eggs (2008)

The book is a bit of a fuck-you to Eurocentric books, which is mostly delightful. Mieko Kawakami’s Breasts and Eggs and Jonathan Franzen’s Purity are both in M’s purse at one point, in a literary version of what’s-in-your-handbag. Presumably, these books are meant to be a juxtaposition of sorts, with Kawakami — glowingly praised by Haruki Murakami, an author whose output could inspire a deathly drinking game based on his numerous instances of invoking a woman’s breasts — representing an underappreciated point of view that is unapologetically feminine right down to its blatant, fertility-loaded title, and Franzen representing literature at its most traditional and disproportionately vaunted, i.e. masculine and white. As I have read both Kawakami and Franzen and enjoyed them, I felt I was reasonably well-positioned to see if I agreed with M’s vituperative take-down of Franzen:

“A guy who used to be in my creative writing class gave it to me, saying that I remind him of the main character. Isn’t that gross?”
I nod.
“I don’t think I’ll be talking to him ever again. What kind of douche gives people books like this? It’s misogynistic, and everything he writes is about white people. But you know what? I was reading this at the salon while my hair was falling on the page and I realized that if I thought he was dead, I’d probably be able to finish reading it” (p. 58).

Purity (2015)

The first time I read this passage denigrating Franzen, I chuckled — pithy and insulting, exactly my appetite for white people cultural commentary. The second time I read it, I thought: is that even true? It sounded plausible enough, but warranted investigation. I reread Purity by Jonathan Franzen in entirety, partly just to see if M’s assessment held any water and then because Purity was invigoratingly good — far better than I remembered—with complex men and women; in particular, Franzen has crafted an extraordinarily well-written Lebanese journalist character who tends both her marriage to her paraplegic husband she will not formally divorce, and her relationship with a journalist boyfriend, a man who has never gotten over his torrential first love and ex-wife, a contentious feminist and failed artist.

Franzen’s debut novel, The Twenty-Seventh City, has an Indian woman as a protagonist, Jammu; in Freedom, there is another Indian woman character named Lalitha, a fervent anti-natalist with a credulity-stretching adoration (think: any of George Costanza’s girlfriends, ever) for a relatively nondescript-looking older man overflowing with aggressive sanctimony and superficial niceness. While Lalitha is probably Franzen’s worst character — outlandishly abysmal, really, in stunning contrast to his other more drawn out characters — to date in terms of believability, Lalitha is anomalous. Franzen does write predominantly about white people, but not exclusively by any means and in any case, there is good reason to believe he, like Sheung-King, writes what he knows. Franzen’s dialogue is second to none. As a lifelong bookworm, trust me when I say this: I know it’s practically a faux pas to be a successful white male, but Franzen deserves the accolades he receives. M’s assessment does not hold water, but I see where she’s coming from. At least it’s a good plug for Kawakami. M is correct, though, that a dead author’s books are easier to read; death commands at the very least, begrudging respect.

Meanwhile, M’s classmate’s comparison of her to Purity’s main character, Purity — who goes by the palindromic, Dickensian Pip — is also baseless. Pip, like M, does speak her mind, but she’s also $130, 000 in debt and living in a squatter house, while M has a Céline bag and thinks nothing of buying a ticket to Hong Kong on a whim. If anything, M bears more resemblance — though not much — to Pip’s mother, Anabel Laird, a resemblance which is most apparent in this laugh-out-loud funny scene of misplaced feminism:

“Each time I hear another car with a roaring engine, I’ll slap you in the face.”
“Why?”
“Because you’re a man.”
“So?”
“I’ve realized that it is the fault of men that there are so many loud cars on the street.”
A loud car passes by. You slap me in the face and continue walking. I know this is actually going to continue until we get home. I call an Uber (p. 111).

Among the plenitude of stories within this story include celestial foxes, a butcher who cuts out his own heart, a shy boy who compliments a girl’s ears to avoid entering overfamiliar compliments — a story so on the nose that it isn’t even allegorical — an evocative poop story, and a man in a Hawaiian shirt casually walking a pig (it’s not the only pig story, either); truly, there’s no shortage of stories within the story, most of which are absurdly delightful. There’s no dearth of literary analysis, either. M is skilled in navigating Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, though surprisingly, she never suggests Kundera is a misogynist (I am not saying Kundera is a misogynist; I am saying I am surprised M doesn’t accuse him of being one). She seems to find the world to be an inherently entropic place and accuses the protagonist of trying to find a moral when there isn’t one. She admits that she would find marriage palatable only if it were for a practical reason, like paying fewer taxes. M is a pleasure to read; she is a vociferous, necessary disruption to stereotypes of East Asian women as submissive, unartistic robots. Her conviction that Vivaldi’s music is “like a teenage boy masturbating” (p. 128) is indelible; I can’t unhear it now.

Natsume Sōseki, 1906. Photo courtesy National Diet Library via Wikipedia

In David Foster Wallace’s short story, “Little Expressionless Animals” — incidentally, I would love to hear M excoriate or praise Wallace; even in disagreeing with M’s voluble opinions, I delight in reading them — Julie and Faye, the two main characters, are most forthright with each other when claiming their lover’s autobiography for themselves in a strange, personal game that seems more honest than when they actually speak about themselves. The stories and linguistic tidbits that the protagonist and M regale each other with — for instance, asking if the moon is beautiful as an indirect way to say I love you — has the same salutary effect as Julie and Faye’s private exchange of autobiography. On a selenophile note, it was “Natsume Sōseki . . . [who] believed that feelings should be expressed indirectly rather than directly. And to him, that question — the moon is beautiful, isn’t it? — perfectly captured the state of affection known as love” (p. 63).

I’m reminded of the loveable Razumikhin of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment and the ostensible carelessness in his translations of German to Russian: “ . . . my German’s diabolical. I’m making up more and more as I go along and my only consolation is that it comes out better this way. Who knows, though? Perhaps it comes out worse . . . ” (p. 106, Oliver Ready’s translation). Translation is not a matter of impeccable objectivity; it is more similar to producing fiction than one might initially believe. What differentiates making things up, and actual translation? In Sōseki’s instance, it would appear that he understood just fine, but felt he knew better, thus usurping the original text and the author. Indisputably, being a translator is different from being a writer, but the magnitude with which a translator’s opinions affects the text, is fascinating.

Sheung-King. Photo courtesy 49th shelf

Meanwhile, our contemporary translator protagonist tends to downplay any potential grandiose notions of his job by explaining that he translates ordinary, mundane objects like shampoo bottles, texts that don’t necessarily register as texts, “things people sometimes read but don’t really remember reading” (p. 153). Sōseki’s beliefs directly affected his translation of Japanese to English in a manner that seems downright compositional; original, even. It’s a far cry from the protagonist translating for a Chinese couple only pretending to be ESL. In other words, the protagonist’s translations are functionally meaningless, which the protagonist conflates with being utterly devoid of meaning. Although he accepts the large sum of money, the protagonist finds the task unsavoury, such that he inexplicably gives the money earned to M, who by all accounts, has no need for money.

Did I mention the protagonist is wildly incorrect in firmly believing his own self-myth of being a boring person? It’s a refreshing alternative to ever prevalent special snowflake syndrome; that, or it’s a case of protesting too much and meaning the opposite; I’m not certain, but the inferiority complex the protagonist has provides more evidence of the former, though I’m not close-minded to the possibility that one can simultaneously consider one’s self as dull as one’s luggage choice, a “generic black Samsonite” (p. 151), but also believe one’s self to be amazingly idiosyncratic. The protagonist is not boring, but for a man who translates, reads, and writes (the protagonist is writing a book about M. Yes, it’s meta), he doesn’t seem to be very good at being alone. He orbits around M, but that can be a lonely-making enterprise forcing him to be the one who waits; his longing is acute. The protagonist often asks questions to M, who often doesn’t answer; she chooses to disengage with seemingly no warning. She is the one who prefers to ask questions and becomes bored easily; it’s no wonder the protagonist is afraid to lose her.

Periodically, the protagonist speaks of feeling “transparent,” which strikes me as related to his conviction that he is a boring person. Although it takes little to make him feel transparent, it’s worth noting that the reactions he elicits in others do not corroborate his transparency so much as his corporeal uniquity. Frequently, other characters inform the protagonist that he sounds “weird” or “funny.” After a driver suggests that the protagonist’s Mandarin lacks conviction, the protagonist confesses that “Maybe I really did not believe in the language I was using. From then on, I started feeling like I was lying whenever I spoke in Mandarin” (p. 120). In this sense, other people’s perceptions are veritable translations that often provoke the very act of changing the person being “translated,” i.e. interpreted. The very act of being observed, famously, changes the observed phenomena; in this case, it’s language. It’s also worth noting that feeling transparent may simply be a metaphorical job hazard of a translator, sharing the same prefix of migration, or statelessness. However fantastically different one’s translation is from the original, you are modifying something that already exists; indeed, doing your best to reproduce it with no small amount of subjectivity.

Late in the book, the protagonist gets a foil in the form of Harold Li, ostentatiously decked in designer clothing. It’s small, petty relief that the protagonist is slightly taller, an observation he wishes he didn’t have to begin with. When the protagonist shares to M that he was once hired because of his height — taller than a stereotypical Chinese man, tall in general — she asks him what it was like to be objectified and says, “You’re weak. You need to get used to being objectified if you want to succeed” (p. 130). She adds: “Hearing myself say that makes me want to smoke” (p. 130). Judith Butler is judiciously quoted early on in the book, revealing its erudite yet accessible credentials without becoming over-saltedly pretentious.

Near the end of the novel, King flips the script and now the person referred to as “you” is not M but the protagonist, which effectively allows the reader to connect more with the protagonist. In a surprisingly normative line of inquiry, M asks the protagonist whether he has any ambitions.

You’ve never told anyone this, because this idea just came to you when Harold Li was attributing the success of The Vegetarian to Han Kang, the author, “playing her cards right.” “When a minority writer becomes successful,” you say, “critics in the West often call them ‘a new voice’ or whatever. There is a writing tradition behind her choice of form and style; simply calling it ‘new’ is undermining that. I think I want to design syllabi. I don’t know if I want to teach but I think I’d like to do research and design courses for schools. High school, universities — it doesn’t matter. Maybe one day I can create a syllabus with only writers of colour.”
“I think you’d need to have at least one token straight white guy though. He doesn’t have to be good either.”
“Who do you recommend?” you ask.
“Who’s that guy that Hitler liked reading? The Norwegian guy who won the Nobel Prize?”
“Hamsun?”
“Yes! The token white guy in your syllabus should be Hitler’s favourite writer. You can spend the class explaining to your students why Hitler liked him so much.”
You consider her proposal for a moment. You imagine a class where the syllabus consists of only a white man: a Norwegian Nazi. “I think that’s too much,” you say. “Maybe he should be someone more recent and a little less obviously problematic.”
“Do you have anyone in mind?”
“Kazuo Ishiguro,” you say. “My favourite straight white guy” (pp. 172-173).

Straight white guy? Kazuo Ishiguro, 2017. Photo by Richard Pohle

Ishiguro is fabulously successful beyond even the purported success of model minorities. In Cathy Park Hong’s words, “We are [perceived as] math-crunching middle managers who keep the corporate wheels greased but who never get promoted since we don’t have the right “face” for leadership” (p. 9) As the winner of four Man Booker prizes, Ishiguro’s success is ostensibly white-adjacent, far exceeding that of Franzen’s. I cannot help but think of Hong writing “Why are you pissed! You’re next in line to be white! As if we’re iPads queued up in an assembly line” (p. 19). Therein lies the crux of the racism Asians are faced with — if we’re so close to being privileged, how dare we complain. Sheung-King writes exceedingly well about “the hole,” i.e. racism towards East Asians and the self-doubt accompanying an ambivalently racist encounter.

It’s the second time Ishiguro is mentioned unfavourably in the novel. The humour, of course, derives from the fact that Ishiguro is not a straight white guy, but an extremely successful, well-respected Japanese author in the UK, perhaps best known for The Remains of Day, an almost obscenely boring, if admirably introspective and tender book from a butler’s point of view. There is, of course, also humour in a phrase like “token straight white guy.” It’s rather as if society cannot improve, exactly; it can only suffer through hypercorrection that parallels its egregious past with more egregiousness. The possibility of obliterating tokenism in all its forms is unfathomable; the recipient of the tokenism merely changes. It’s hard to imagine the protagonist’s joke would work if Ishiguro were a gay black author; it almost certainly wouldn’t. It’s also curious that the protagonist perceives creating course syllabi as being more ambitious than his current job as a translator; the latter is, indeed, perceived as a job lacking ambition somehow by M. I can only speculate that if the translator were more like Sōseki, he would be less self-diminishing about his occupation.

Harold Li’s damning assessment of the marketplace for authors of colour is indubitably cynical; however, they sound like words from, well, a token straight white guy (there isn’t one of any significance in the novel — I am more than fine with that).

“Huh, so that’s the kind of stuff that sells these days,” is Harold Li’s response.
“What do you mean by ‘kind of stuff’?” you ask.
“Weird, surreal, feminist stories that make a mockery of the ignorance of men. Trendy stuff.” He sips his champagne.
“I think there’s more to it than—”
. . . “You said this book is narrated by the husband, right?”
“Yes.”
“And he’s irritated by his wife acting strangely?”
“He is.”
“Brilliant! Men who are frustrated by feminists would buy the book as well! People think these books are transgressive and whatnot, but in reality, it’s just about appealing to the ideologies that are fashionable at the time. If you play your cards right, you profit. That’s how the world works. She’s a Korean writer from a small city that no one’s ever heard of, and now, her books are being sold in Prague! You see how far you can get by knowing how to play the cards?” (pp. 170-171).

The Vegetarian (2007)

Harold Li isn’t as dynamic as M, but he’s a fantastic foil and like M, he reaches his conclusions with impressive speed. It’s true that his opinions sound simultaneously retrograde and modern, or rather, retrograde politics given a modern twist; they are politically rancorous, but they are coming from not a straight white man, but an upper middle-class Asian man, a veritable Ishiguro. Harold Li, of course, has not read The Vegetarian; indeed, if he had, and reached the same conclusion, that might have been more profound.

David Chang, a Korean American chef, writes in his memoir Eat a Peach that, “as an Asian chef, I tend to get away with … more than I would if I were a white guy explaining why his Nashville hot chicken doughnut is actually an homage to black cooks. Yellow privilege, baby! It’s one of the few perks of being Asian that makes up for, you know, your skin color being referred to as “yellow” (p. 79). If we accept the very much arguable premise that Harold Li exhibits aforementioned yellow privilege when he praises Han Kang for otherizing herself for profit with The Vegetarian (another Man Booker winner), does that prevent him from having potential insight into the literary marketplace? Could Harold be right, and if he is, what does that say about literature and its audience?

Harold comes from a wealthier upbringing than the protagonist (who is by no means poor and has never had a full-time job, while Harold has never even had a part-time job) and they have, in the protagonist’s words, “both followed the path of least resistance” (p. 167), which, in Harold’s case, means working for a trading company, a profession that is easy to equate with soullessness. The protagonist feels inferior, but also certain that Harold isn’t M’s type (i.e. not a cucumber sandwich). Harold perceives the protagonist as “the kind of guy who doesn’t care what’s expected of you” (p. 168). Of course, even a sincere, complimentary observation is another nugget of neuroticism for the protagonist, who writes “This ability of his, to speak between the lines of sincerity and mockery, makes you jealous” (p. 168). Sheung-King isn’t afraid to make his protagonist nakedly insecure and the book is made weightier because of the protagonist’s insecurities.

Maybe it’s a result of my having read too many books about white couples in New York, but You Are Eating an Orange. You Are Naked. seems like a heavily reworked adaptation of a familiar plot with a vibrantly variant setting with an almost entirely Asian cast. The characters are financially comfortable and culturally knowledgeable; romance or the lack thereof is of paramount focus; the dialogue is snappy and clever; gender roles are reversed, if not truly subverted; it is thoroughly contemporary, while evincing an unabashed admiration for classics like Roland Barthes.

This novel is a perennial reminder that even a genuinely unconventional book — and by unconventional, I mean the actual structure and style of the novel, not the fact that the book has Asian characters in non-supporting roles, sadly still a relatively shocking occurrence in contemporary fiction — will be, in parts, familiar; after all, there is a finite number of stories in the world, but they, like M, are dynamic and prone to flux.

This novel will probably be the best argument for autofiction you will encounter this year. In terms of calibre, it’s up there with Alexandra Chang, Sheila Heti, and Claire Louise-Bennett. Although the novel is meta enough to be aware that such a jargonistic-sounding category with a veneer of in-built pretentiousness is polarizing, just think of autofiction as being inspired — not replicated — from real life; remember, it is not factual truths that autofiction chiefly possesses, but rather, emotional truths that resonate, like all fiction. But do yourself a favour: get a six-pack of Tsingtao and start reading this book; prepare to reread when you realize with dismay that it’s just too damn short.

Tsingtao with Sheung-King. Photo by Jessica Poon

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Jessica Poon

Jessica Poon is a writer, line cook, and pianist in Vancouver. She recently completed her bachelor’s degree in English literature at the University of British Columbia. Visit her website here. Editor’s note: Jessica Poon has also reviewed books by Eve Lazarus, Annabel LyonMonika HibbsGrant Hayter-Menzies, and Wayson Choy for The Ormsby Review.

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7 comments on “#996 Straight white guys and Tsingtao

  1. Thanks Ms. Poon for an utterly fabulous review! It was deliciously diacritical, marvellously metacritical — serious stuff that was leavened and livened with zingers. Most of all your energetic review was just plain, literate fun.

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