Archive for October, 2012

Julia Leigh Returns to The Bookworm

Julia Leigh signing books at BLF 2011.

Julia Leigh is the award-winning author of The Hunter and Disquiet and the director of Sleeping Beauty. Named by The Observer as one of the twenty-one novelists to watch in the 21st century, Leigh writes beautifully sparse books that explore the complexities of human interactions with each other and with nature.

Leigh returns to The Bookworm this Sunday at 7:30pm to talk about her latest novel, Disquiet and her other work. Check here

for more information about the event and ticketing.

In honor of the event, we revisit an interview Leigh did with The Beijinger on her debut novel The Hunter during her time at BLF 2011:

I’m from Sydney, although I did visit Tasmania in order to do research for the book. Tasmania is an island of approx 68,000 square kilometres and it lies to the south of the Australian mainland. A lot of it is wilderness, and much of the action in The Hunter takes place on the water-logged central plateau, some of which is world heritage listed. It is not a dry landscape: instead, they say of Tasmania that it has “four seasons in one day”.

A man, known as M (he is working under a false name), has been sent by a multinational biotech to retrieve rare and exclusive genetic material which will be put to use in biowarfare. M does not know, does not want to know, how it will be used, which typifies his disinterest in being responsible for anyone or anything other than himself. So, M arrives at the last house at the end of the last road – where a small bluestone cottage will be his base camp. In the house lives a young woman grieving for her missing husband, and her two children – anarchic children who have the run of the house. Basically, we want to know if he will capture the tiger, and if he will soften towards the family.

Once upon a time the tiger did exist, but now it is believed to be extinct. That said, there are still to this day frequent sightings of the animal. So, in Australia, the creature has become iconic, it is fast passing into myth. I wanted M to be hunting an animal that was more than animal, that had a mythic, iconic edge.

I have never hunted. I was interested in hunting as an elemental drama. Hunting gave rise to the earliest human rituals: in a cave in Switzerland they found the bones of cave-bears ceremonially arranged – thigh bones pushed through eye sockets of skulls – and dating the cave, and the bones, it was discovered that the bones had been laid down by pre-homo sapiens. Hunting- the act of killing and knowing that you too will be killed – caused man to lift out of himself, to contemplate for the first time the ‘numinous’, something bigger than his own immediate needs.

I do think an alchemy occurs by spending time ‘out bush’; this is hard to describe. when I go out bush I do feel a change come over me; things are stripped to essentials. It is an almost meditative state.

A key part of the work is about loneliness, or being alone. Who isn’t alone? Sometimes I think it is miracle we can communicate with one another, but this is only on bad days.

By the time M returns to the cottage it is too late. Good intentions mean nothing; action counts. There is an interesting line in a short work by Dostoevsky, The Eternal Husband: “It was not your fault, Pavel Pavllovitch, it was not your fault; you are a monster, so everything about you is bound to be monstrous, even your hopes and your dreams.” You see, monsters too have monster dreams and monster hopes.

For more, check out this interview with ABC Radio National’s The Book Show.

Halloween Part II: Dress Like Your Favorite Author

Tonight, as Beijing’s ghouls hit the town in the standard witch, princess or superhero costume, may we suggest dressing up as an author? A few suggestions below.

Oscar Wilde: Velvet cape with fur collar, velvet smoking suit with matching velvet knee breeches (not pictured above), a paisley silk scarf tied in a carelessly floppy bow about the neck, silk stockings, velvet slippers with monogram, a walking stick with silver top, hair that would do a nineties boy band member proud, zinging wit.

Jonathan Franzen: A blue button up (other solid colors may be substituted), sports jacket, the ability to look boyish long after one has ceased to be a boy, thick framed black glasses (can be found at Yashow Market for 30 rmb). Bonus points for going as pair with literary bff David Foster Wallace.

David Foster Wallace: Long-ish wig. Bandana. Slightly too-small T-shirt. Cargo shorts. Shoes. I’ve yet to see a photo of DFW that shows his feet. What would he wear? Beat up Chucks? Teva sandals? Flip-flops from the local dime store? Tennis sneakers?

Jane Austen: Empire-waisted gown, fringed shawl, a maidenly cap, a cat, perhaps a feathered pen and scheming marriage-minded mother.

Herman Melville: Full Distinguished Facial Hair (caps intentional). A suitably sober suit with bow tie. Pipe and captain’s cap. Perhaps a harpoon?

Tom Wolfe: White three piece suit – jacket, double breasted  White socks. White faux-spats. Discreetly clashing shirt and tie. Silk pocket square and a single red carnation. Walking stick. Caution: You may be mistakened for Colonel Saunders.

Joan Didion: Bob wig (straight bangs optional). Oversized coat. Oversized glasses. Oversized everything. A cigarette. Flat Mary Janes and white stockings. A bottle of bourbon. Reporters notepad.

Zadie Smith: Bright scarf tied turban style about head. Vaguely vintage print dress. Obligatory literary darling glasses (see J. Franzen). Dot freckles over nose and cheeks using a brown eyeliner pen. Perfect bone structure and talent not included.


Halloween: Spooky Reads for All Hallow’s Read

A few years back, Neil Gaiman, author of such spooky reads as Coraline, The Sandman and The Graveyard Book, decided that the world had a problem: “There aren’t enough traditions that involve giving books.”

His solution:

“I propose that, on Hallowe’en or during the week of Hallowe’en, we give each other scary books. Give children scary books they’ll like and can handle. Give adults scary books they’ll enjoy.

I propose that stories by authors like John Bellairs and Stephen King and Arthur Machen and Ramsey Campbell and M R James and Lisa Tuttle and Peter Straub and Daphne Du Maurier and Clive Barker and a hundred hundred others change hands — new books or old or second-hand, beloved books or unknown. Give someone a scary book for Hallowe’en. Make their flesh creep…”
Sounds good. In honor of All Hallow’s Read (, a few Bookworms pick their favorite scary reads. Flashlight not included.
Kadi Hughes (Festival Director/ Marketing and Events Manager) The Road by Cormac McCarthy, because what’s scarier than the end of the world as we know it and roving bands of cannibals…
Anthropomorphic insects for some (my pick): James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl…
Or killer clowns (Heather Wright, BLF 2012 Migrant School Program Manager): It by Stephen King.

Speaking of spooky reads, join us this Sunday for a conversation with Julia Leigh. Leigh is the author if the darkly disturbing novels The Hunter and Disquiet and the writer/director behind Sleeping Beauty (not the Disney version).

Share your scariest reads on our Facebook page: Beijing Bookworm.
Bonus: For two more days, Gaiman is pairing up with to raise money for Booktrust and Donors Choose. Gaiman has made an audio recording of an as-yet-unpublished short story (scary, of course) avaialable free on For every download of the sotry, will make a contribution to the charities. Visit Gaiman’s blog for more info.


The Poem That Started It. Omar.

Omar high fiving a newly minted poet-in-training at The Bookworm

Tonight, Omar Musa takes poetry to a next level. Come experience the former Australia National Slam Champion in person at The Bookworm (8pm). Bring your friends, family, coworkers. Bring complete strangers you see on the street. He’s that good.
Have you ever wondered what makes a person love poetry? What makes them decide that instead of pursuing fame on the big screen or fortune on the trading floor, they are going to  spend their lives hustling for the love of something as ephemeral (though powerful) as the spoken word?
Here Omar shares the poem that started it all:
Impossible to say which poem made me love poetry, but “Porphyria’s Lover” influenced me a lot when I was younger. I was about 16 when I first read it. In both hip hop and poetry, I have always been drawn to storytelling done in a way that was deceptively simple (“Today Was a Good Day” by Ice Cube is what got me into hip hop), especially that which deals with the darker side of man’s nature. “Porphyria’s Lover” taught me that not all poetry has to be a confessional diary entry – I realised you could inhabit characters and become an entirely different person. It also attracted me because of the startling imagery, the vision of a man gone mad and the absolute shock of the moment the persona murders his lover. It was exhilarating to realise that words could make a reader shudder in that way. Accessible but crafted language is since something I’ve always aspired to.
“Porphyria’s Lover” by Robert Browning
The rain set early in to-night,  
  The sullen wind was soon awake,  
It tore the elm-tops down for spite,  
  And did its worst to vex the lake:  
  I listen’d with heart fit to break.          5
When glided in Porphyria; straight  
  She shut the cold out and the storm,  
And kneel’d and made the cheerless grate  
  Blaze up, and all the cottage warm;  
  Which done, she rose, and from her form   10
Withdrew the dripping cloak and shawl,  
  And laid her soil’d gloves by, untied  
Her hat and let the damp hair fall,  
  And, last, she sat down by my side  
  And call’d me. When no voice replied,   15
She put my arm about her waist,  
  And made her smooth white shoulder bare,  
And all her yellow hair displaced,  
  And, stooping, made my cheek lie there,  
  And spread, o’er all, her yellow hair,   20
Murmuring how she loved me—she  
  Too weak, for all her heart’s endeavour,  
To set its struggling passion free  
  From pride, and vainer ties dissever,  
  And give herself to me for ever.   25
But passion sometimes would prevail,  
  Nor could to-night’s gay feast restrain  
A sudden thought of one so pale  
  For love of her, and all in vain:  
  So, she was come through wind and rain.   30
Be sure I look’d up at her eyes  
  Happy and proud; at last I knew  
Porphyria worshipp’d me; surprise  
  Made my heart swell, and still it grew  
  While I debated what to do.   35
That moment she was mine, mine, fair,  
  Perfectly pure and good: I found  
A thing to do, and all her hair  
  In one long yellow string I wound  
  Three times her little throat around,   40
And strangled her. No pain felt she;  
  I am quite sure she felt no pain.  
As a shut bud that holds a bee,  
  I warily oped her lids: again  
  Laugh’d the blue eyes without a stain.   45
And I untighten’d next the tress  
  About her neck; her cheek once more  
Blush’d bright beneath my burning kiss:  
  I propp’d her head up as before,  
  Only, this time my shoulder bore   50
Her head, which droops upon it still:  
  The smiling rosy little head,  
So glad it has its utmost will,  
  That all it scorn’d at once is fled,  
  And I, its love, am gain’d instead!   55
Porphyria’s love: she guess’d not how  
  Her darling one wish would be heard.  
And thus we sit together now,  
  And all night long we have not stirr’d,  
  And yet God has not said a word!   60

Martin Parr

“Magnum photographers were meant to go out as a crusade … to places like famine and war and … I went out and went round the corner to the local supermarket because this to me is the front line.” (Martin Parr)

Martin Parr is a photographer, editor, curator and a member of the Magnum co-operative. He has published over 60 books of his own work and edited another 25.

His unique, vibrant imagery that has gained him recognition around the world.  In 2002, his work was the subject of a major career retrospective organized by the Barbican Art Gallery and the National Media Museum, which subsequently toured extensively throughout Europe.

Parr is in Beijing for the opening of his solo exhibition at Pékin Fine Arts Gallery. This exhibition includes work from multiple projects – particularly his “Life’s a Beach” series and his series on “Luxury.” The images explore mass tourism, leisure, consumption and communication – themes Parr’s work returns to again and again.

Parr will speak at The Bookworm on  Tuesday, November 6 about his photography and his current project a “History of Chinese Photo Books,” a collaboration with the Beijing-based Dutch photographer Ruben Lundgren that will follow photography from its arrival in China in the mid 19th century through to the present day. Join us as this renown photographer shares his works and the stories behind them.

This talk is co-sponsored by the Pékin Fine Arts Gallery.


Photo Gallery – Interschool Poetry Extravaganza!

On Friday, YCIS and ISB wordsmiths displayed their poetry chops at The Poetry Project’s Interschool Poetry Slam. They were, in a word, amazing.

Mo Yan Wins 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature

And the winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature is…

Mo Yan!

The BLF 2009 alum Mo Yan, author of Red Sorghum and Big Breasts and Wide Hips, beat out early favorite Haruki Murakami to take home the field’s top honor. Announcing the decision, The Nobel Committee cited Mo’s use of “hallucinatory realism” to merge “folk tales, history and the contemporary.”

Peter Englund, head of the Swedish Academy, says of Mo’s work:

“He writes about the peasantry, about life in the countryside, about people struggling to survive, struggling for their dignity, sometimes winning but most of the time losing. The basis for his books was laid when as a child he listened to folktales. The description magical realism has been used about him, but I think that is belittling him – this isn’t something he’s picked up from Gabriel García Márquez, but something which is very much his own. With the supernatural going in to the ordinary, he’s an extremely original narrator.”

Mo Yan in conversation with Howard Goldblatt at BLF 2009

BLF & JUE Showcase

BLF and JUE are teaming up for a very riotious and raucous night of spoken word, hip-hop, dance pop and live visual installations. Luka Lesson, Omar Musa and Bohdan Piasecki join forces with Beijing’s own cool kids, Residence A. Plus, Electric Shadows provide a visual installation evoking different poetic personalities. Join us for this genre defying night of the best of Beijing.

Saturday, October 20 9pm

2 Kolegas

Tickets: 100 rmb

This event is brought to you by BLF and JUE, and co-sponsored by The Beijinger and Electric Shadows.


The Poetry Project

The Bookworm’s Poetry Project is a celebration of the art of contemporary spoken word. From school workshops and an inter-school battle, to public performances at The Bookworm and genre-defying showcases at venues around Beijing, The Poetry Project is a two-week immersion into performance poetry for all ages.


The following events are at The Bookworm. Tickets are 50rmb.

Tuesday, October 23 8pm

Word Rain

Bodhan Piasecki

Bodhan Piasecki is a poet from Poland currently based in the UK. He has featured at some of the country’s most exciting spoken word nights and festivals and has completed several international poetry tours. Piasecki is Poland’s first Slam poet and launched the first Poetry Slams in the Cultural Palace in Warsaw. Piasecki writes and performs in English and Polish. Piasecki’s performances deliver a mix of languages, cultures, rhythms and mediums. Don’t miss his ‘multilingual circus show of poetry.”

Wednesday, October 24 8pm

Danger, Danger

Omar Musa

Malaysian-Australia rapper and poet Omar Musa is on a mission is to “introduce a new level of poetry to Australian hip- hop”. Musa has won numerous awards for poetry and music, including the Australian Poetry Slam and the Indian Ocean Poetry Slam. He has released a book of poetry and three hip-hop albums recorded in the USA and has toured throughout Asia, Europe and Australia, for writers festivals and hip-hop shows, including tour support for Gil Scott-Heron. Join us to as Musa delivers a trademark powerful performance, tackling social issues with depth, compassion, humor and swagger.


Friday, October 26 8pm

Amber Lights/ Please Resist Me

Luka Lesson

An Australian writer whose work blends hip-hop, poetry and music, Luka Lesson brings his dynamic and powerful spoken word performance to our stage. Blending roof-raising hip-hop bravado with social consciousness, Lesson creates an unforgettable experience for every audience. The winner of the 2011 Australian National Slam Championship, Lesson is the cofounder and co-director of The Centre for Poetics and Justice, an organization that uses poetry for community engagement and development. He has spent years conducting hip-hop or poetry workshops with Indigenous, Islander, African and other marginalized communities in Australia. Don’t miss this exciting performance of new poems from his latest work Amber Lights.

The Poetry Project is brought to in part by the Australian Embassy and the Polish Embassy.

The Bookworm Download Map

Building 4, Nan Sanlitun Road,

Chaoyang District, Beijing

100027, P.R China

Tel: (010) 6586 9507

Email: [email protected]