The Hong Kong Book Fair Report
At the recent Hong Kong Book Fair, I bought 15.5 inches of books. This is an unusual quantitative metric, but this is more personally relevant because my back was hurting as I had to carry the books home in a back pack (note: I should have reported the weight instead but I don't own a weighing machine). But according to the traditional metric, I bought sixteen books. Since there is a cultural industry about my reading materials, here is the listing:
Some of these books are references; some are related to my personal histories (to wit, C.T. Hsia); and some are obviously related to the interests as shown on the blog (such as the glossary of political terms). For example, let me say about something about that last book on the list. The sub-title of the book is: A Study of the Phenomenon of 'Apple'-ification of the Hong Kong Newspaper Industry. So this is a book about Apple Daily (or, more generally, Next Media) and its impact on Hong Kong society (including and not exclusively limited to the newspaper industry).
Flipping through this book, I see that there are many details about the major events in the history of Apple Daily. My Hong Kong life really did not get re-started until I came back in 2003, so many of these historical episodes were barely familiar to me. Therefore, I am sure that I will find this book very useful when I get to read it carefully. This leads me to think about whether I can write anything like this while leveraging what I have from this blog. Say, for example, can I write the history of Apple Daily from 2003-2006? The answer is NO. So far, my blog is opportunistic -- every day, I check the news and pick a few things to translate or talk about. There is no systematic plan. If I wanted to write on a specific topic (such as the history of Apple Daily from today to 2010), I will need to read systematically with that thought in mind, and collect and document all relevant materials while knowing that the magnus opus will not appear until a few years later. At present, I do not have the will or desire to do that on any subject. My Internet China-related age is still very young, and I don't even know what I want to focus on.
This leads to a different thought. Some of the books here are collections of essays. For example, the two volumes by Mary Jean Reimer were based upon the newspaper columns that she writes. These two new books are Volumes 9 and 10 respectively from Cosmos Books. Now I can perfectly understand the practical realities of life. Newspaper columns published in the newspaper literary supplements (副刊) are quick and easy to do, and a good writer can probably write for multiple newspapers under different pen names and make a decent living. Every three months, there will probably be enough material accumulated to publish yet another collection of essays.
The drawback to this approach is that the mediascape will tend to be dominated by short essays that can only glimpse at reality. When the underlying phenomenon is sufficiently complex, then the panoramic vision will be missing. A case in point is the book Land and the Ruling Class in Hong Kong by Alice Poon.
What is this book about? In the author's introduction:
Apart from attempting to identify the underlying (or historical) causes for the property bubble formation, the book also tries to analyse the causes of Hong Kong's various maladies, which have been exarcebated by the boom-bust cycle. The maladies include grossly inequitable income distribution, a gaping divide between rich and poor which has led to the creation of a ruling class, economic incompetence, exploited and unprotected consumers and deep-seated social discontent. The causes are either land-related or competition-related or both. These include an inherently unfair land system, an uncompetitive property market structure, flawed land and housing policies, industrial and economic concentration, and the absence of a comprehensive competition policy and consumer protection policy and relevant laws.
Now I watch people march in the streets to protest government-business collusion. I am not convinced if this is merely the politics of resentment, or if the marchers have a comprehensive grasp of all these issues much less any intelligible plan of action. It also does not matter how much those Apple Daily columnists can crank out every day, because each column will be yet another partial glimpse of the beast out there. And when someone like Alice Poon does invest the time and effort to produce a comprehensive book, there is scant attention. Can you blame me for not wanting to undertake a large solo writing project?