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Shenzhen

Life in a Special Zone

The Shenzhen Central Library

November 16, 2004

On Saturday the 13th, I visited the Central Library with some friends.  Here's the scoop.

To find the Foreign Language section (mostly English, but a smattering of other languages), enter the main door and immediately turn right.  Go down a little hallway that looks like you're headed into a staff area; turn left at the end of the hallway, and watch the signs over the doors on the left.  It's before you reach the "Fashion Collection" on the right, a room full of beautiful women reading up on the latest designs; stick your head in the door to that room and you may find a 50ish bald guy "browsing."

The magazine selection is surprisingly good.  Most issues of weeklies were less than two weeks old, and monthlies mainly up-to-date.  I don't know if back issues are readily available, but at least you can keep up with what's (fairly) current.  Here is a random list of titles I found interesting:

National Geographic and National Geographic Traveler; Current Biography; Travel & Leisure; Atlantic; Harper's; Time; U.S. News and World Report; Newsweek; Der Spiegel (German); China Quarterly; Science; Scientific American; Rolling Stone; Popular Photography; Sports Illustrated; Premiere; Boy's Life; The New Yorker; The New England Journal of Medicine; Nature; Discover; Wired

Magazine least likely to get you excited: The Hong Kong Accountant.

The book collection seems in some ways to have been assembled from some really good yard sales.  Novels from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (and I mean like The Call of the Drum, circa "MCMVII," by Horace Wyndham "Author of the King's Scarlet etc."--not Austen or Bronte) sit on shelves with John Grisham, Stephen King, and Anne Rice.  A sample of other authors noticed:

Jonathan Kellerman, Isabelle Allende, H. Rider Haggard, G.K. Chesterton, Bellow, Barth, Hillerman, Hemingway, Haley, Irving, Kate Chopin, Jim Harrison, Cormac McCarthy, Doctorow, Michener, John D. McDonald (Travis McGee!), Pynchon, Steinbeck, Tolkien

Also noted: 1934's The Texas Rider,  by Buck Billings, "Author of Six Gun Vengeance, etc.";  The Encyclopedia of the American Constitution (!), The Encyclopaedia Britannica, The Great Books of the Western World (nearly complete), Proust's Selected Letters.

There's also a pretty odd religion/psychology section.  I saw Karl Kerenyi's Hermes and Carlos Castaneda. 

And how could I have lived without Jean Hugard's Modern Magic Manual (n.d.)?

And now for the bad news: You can't take 'em home.  It seems a new library is being built downtown, and for some reason, no new library cards will be issued until the new building opens "around the middle of next year."  But the English-speaking girl at the counter was sweet and apologetic, and said "You'll just have to come see us often."

I think I will.

 

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