Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Recent book haul from Hong Kong and Taiwan

Have waited 10 long years for this haul.

And this is only a small part of the overall haul of books I got in Hong Kong and Taiwan while I was on holidays there most recently. (The Hong Kong book fair was to blame for the majority of my purchases, though it must be said that my Taipei trip involving the much-lauded Eslite* bookstore as well as the network of "underground book streets" didn't help). The two English titles on the far left are the books that I brought with me from Ireland to read on the plane - and while Virginia Woolf's essays served me very well (I always enjoy a good polemic, but a decently-written one that is infused not only with the author's passion but also with impeccable logic on the topic of feminism is as rare as dodo birds); I didn't get to start on Anthony Burgess's classic at all.

The books stacked up in a pile on the right hand side (excluding those illustrated novella at the top by Jimmy Liao, which I got from the HK Book Fair) were posted via the book delivery service at the original 24-hour Eslite bookstore in Taipei (unfortunately I could only spend half an hour there pursuing my quarry as my friend and I were in a hurry to pick up another purchase of mine elsewhere... but I still managed to locate 12 books in half an hour - averaging 2.5 minutes per book for decision-making before lugging the lot to the cashier).

Tribute must be paid to the very helpful Eslite staff who kindly assisted me with all the packing and posting in spite of my broken mandarin. It was testament to Eslite's customer service orientation that they included the book delivery service at their store, charging only the Taipei post office rates and providing packaging material and packing and handling service absolutely free of charge, and all done right in front of the customer. Amazing that the package was delivered within a fortnight to my apartment this morning!

My Taiwanese friend (who recently returned to her homeland after 6 years' sojourn in Dublin) however remarked that local Taiwanese no longer visit "Shing Bin" anymore, as they don't offer discounts to locals, only to foreign customers. To my delight, this turned out to be true: as I prepared to pay for my mini book haul (12 books aren't that much really for an almost once-in-a-lifetime visit), the cashier helpfully asked if I had any proof of my overseas status, after he realised that I was about to pay with a non-Taiwanese credit card. Thankfully I did have a photocopy of my passport photo page that I kept in my handbag, and he promptly offered me 10% off my purchases.

During that precious half an hour at Eslite, I managed to find the last published work of Eileen Chang ("Little Reunion"), a book that I missed out on earlier as it was sold out in the last day of the Hong Kong book fair (the only day that I could go). I also located another Chang - S.K. Chang, of the famed "Five Jade Plates" sci-fi novel. I didn't realise he wrote essays and short commentary pieces also, which he collected in two volumes titled "What men want?" and "What women want?" I was a bit wary about picking these two up at first, but after scanning the first article in which Chang discussed, with deft humour, the concept of tautology and how it's affecting everyday Taiwanese speech, I was hooked. I was also very fortunate to be able to pick up his seminal "Galactic Symphony", a book I borrowed from the library when I was still a kid in Hong Kong.

The other book choices, especially those in the left pile (part of my HK Book Fair loot) rather indicates how desparate I am to get up to speed on classical and contemporary Chinese literature. To wit: books about classical Chinese authors, books by contemporary Hong Kong female authors like Wong Bik Won (am really loving her "Postcolonial Notes" at the moment) and Chung Hill Yeung, and a couple of titles by Eileen Chang to help round out my existing collection of her works.

My concession to popular literature in Hong Kong is evident in the top left pile: a collection of short stories by the renowned lyricist Lam Chik (or Lin Xie as I think is the preferred Mandarin transliteration of his name?), a manga novella by an apparently hot-selling Japanese author (I saw some girls loading up on all of her titles at the Book Fair and felt strangely compelled to follow suit), and some nicely photographed Hong Kong themed coffee-table books, chronicling the old and new Hong Kong with the kind of retro vibes that are so fashionable these days.

These were, as I said earlier, only a small part of my once-in-a-decade book loot from Hong Kong and Taiwan (with thanks to my parents who helped bring these heavy tomes to Ireland as part of their more generous luggage allowance). More are to come via surface mail from the Hong Kong post office as well as the Taipei post office (with thanks to my dear Taiwanese friend who well understood the psychological value of a good Chinese book in Ireland).

I can't wait!

And, oh yes, the word on the lens caps oh-so-nonchalantly left on the coffee table says, "Nikon". Yes, I finally got my first ever DSLR!!!!!!!!!! Yay me :D

*By the way, "Eslite" always read to me as if it's being misspelt and was meant to have been "Elites" all along...

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At Wed Aug 19, 02:05:00 a.m. IST, Blogger laichungleung said...

I am sorry to pollute your blog again. I am very excited and happy for you. I didn't get the chance to visit the book fair in hong kong nor do I know foreigners can enjoy some discount from Taiwan's Eslite. Well, I didn't buy much AT ALL. I am too ashamed to tell you a number, I can count them in one hand....Even w/out discounts it's already much cheaper than getting any Chinese books in NYC.

Great to "hear" from you.

At Wed Aug 19, 08:06:00 p.m. IST, Blogger Snowdrops said...

Thanks LCL, it's great to hear from you too. No worries about "polluting" my blog - I've decided that my blog is way beyond help anyway so I may as well carry on as I did before.

Yes am very excited about both the books that I have and those that are still to come. Prices in DUB/NY simply can't compare with those in HK/TW. I spent a measly 50 euros in Eslite for those 12 books, when normally I will at best be able to buy 5 books for the same amount of dough in Dublin (and for Chinese books, I'd have to go to London!)

There are still lots of things I'd like to blog about. Can't believe the blogging addiction is as strong as ever once I get back into it again!

At Mon Aug 24, 05:28:00 a.m. IST, Blogger seechuen said...

wow, what an excitement to get so many good books in a trip... (you seem to have a voracious appetite for them!)

I don't know I can have discount from Eslite! I usually pay by cash and have never been asked... thx for sharing the good news


At Tue Aug 25, 01:12:00 p.m. IST, Blogger Snowdrops said...

Thanks Seechuen, I didn't realise that not many people know about the Eslite discount (my friend and I thought lots of HK people go there because of the discount as well as the book variety). Glad to be of service :)

As for my voracious appetite for books, I'm really sad that I'm missing out on the book exchange that you're organising. Oh well, perhaps next time.

At Tue Sep 01, 10:14:00 a.m. IST, Blogger lu said...

ah.. you have indeed taken a trip back! :)

really happy to see that you've brought back so many books. going to eslite is never a leisurely event because schedule is always too tight!

At Tue Sep 01, 09:39:00 p.m. IST, Blogger Snowdrops said...

Yes I have! It was one fabulous trip, all my fears and trepidation beforehand about meeting family and friends again after all these years turned out to be ill-founded in the end.

Eslite is indeed one big treasure trove, it's such a pity I could only spend so little time there. Another thing that really impressed me about them is the fact that they had separate shelves to differentiate English from IRISH literature! I was mightily impressed.

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