[lit-ideas] Sunday Twofer

  • From: David Ritchie <profdritchie@xxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 15 Jul 2012 11:00:49 -0700

I'd say we were fresh in town but in fact we were newly arrived; after fifteen 
hours on a plane even First Class persons are past their sell-by date.  Kowloon 
was hot and humid.  We asked where locals eat and were directed to one of those 
places where you can point to pictures of the food, a curry shop.  No room 
downstairs, but upstairs we got window seats.  We ordered a couple of things, 
hoping for, if not the best, as least a notch or two above the worst, and some 
sort of soft drink, sour not sweet.  On the street below Africans gathered to 
drink beer and to discuss their day.  One of them was selling water, but not 
the kinds of masks and trinkets some sell in the West and no fake Rolexes 
(they're round the corner, on Nathan Road).  The food came.  At the next table 
one small man, thin as a bamboo garden stake, ordered two soups and two full 
plates.  He ate the lot.  The scene reminded me of Orwell on hunger and 
imperialism.  Right here we were in "one country, two systems."  The Africans 
left.  Back at our hotel, feeling very much the foreigner, I asked whether we 
should be drinking the water expecting the response, "But of course; this is 
not the Third World now is it?"  They said "no."

John Le Carrés latest has Russians as bad guys--no surprise there.  Martin Cruz 
Smith too.  And now here's Ian Rankin also writing about Russian oligarchs.  
Come on.  Some novelty please.  Where are the bad apples of Tasmania, the 
devious Finns, bastards of Benin, car strippers from Tibet?  

David Ritchie,
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