Sunday, October 14, 2007

In The Vancouver Review: Looking For Mr Bing

. . . It was then that I noticed something rising up out of the strangely familiar, half-conjured, half-drowned landscape. I could just make it out through the rain, on some high ground in the distance. It was a diaolou.

A diaolou is a kind of watchtower, an architectural anomaly found only in a few small counties in this part of Guangdong. Diaolous borrow from a variety of Occidental and Oriental styles. There are about 1,800 of them in Guangdong. No two are the same.

Although people here were building them at least five centuries ago, and were still building them well into the 1900s, there's not a lot of literature about them. The authorities in Beijing, for much of the 20th century, preferred not to know they existed. Accounts of the older ones tend to be found only in the deepest memory of local folktales, so they're mysterious things.

Down through the years, diaolous served as places of refuge from floods, warlord armies and roving bandits, but right around the time farmers from Guangdong were breaking the rich estuarine loam of The Flats for their first farms, the peculiar fortresses started taking on a different meaning. Emigrants had begun saving every dollar they could scrape together to send back home to Guangdong, to build diaolous.

It was all bound up in the duty of remembrance and gratitude.

Which brings me to Mr. Bing. . .

That's from my cover piece in the latest Vancouver Review. It's about my search for a man in a greatcoat and a Homburg hat who showed a great kindness to my family a long time ago. It's about a lot more than that, too, and it took me all the way to Guangdong, in the Pearl River Delta.

You can't get VR on-line. You actually have to go out and buy it and bring it home and curl up on the couch and read it. You can buy it in these fine establisments. Or you can subscribe.

Editor Gudrun Will worked her magic with my piece, as she always does, and Mark Mushet did wonders (as always) with the layout and graphic presentation.

In this issue there's also a tremendous piece of short fiction from my pal Oliver Kellhammer, a hilarious essay from Lyle Neff, another chum, about his adventure at an "anti-war" rally, a Caroline Harvey review of the late Bruce Serafin's Stardust, and much more.

2 Comments:

Blogger IceClass said...

Aw, crap!
I read the piece all the way to the end only to find out I have to buy the Mag??!!
How the hell am I supposed to get it at the local Northern store?
Subscribe?? Don't make me laugh. I can't get a single issue of The Walrus, Snowgoer or the Juicy Mams monthly to arrive in my mail box without it having been mangled or shredded into illegibility by CanPost.
:(

Drat! It looked like another interesting read.

12:33 PM  
Blogger Transmontanus said...

Surely there must be a Coles, Chapters, Overwaitea or London Drugs within a day's dogsled-team drive from your digs, Iceclass.

4:15 PM  

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