Qiu Xiaolong’s China Beat

As the fourth installment of Xiaolong’s Inspector Chen series hits stores, he talks with Newsweek’s Barbara Koh about modern China, comfort food and the fruits of his most recent Shanghai visit:

*What struck you most during your latest Shanghai visit?*

more and more new housing. I don’t know whether this is good or bad. At

the same time, the gap between rich and poor is getting worse and

worse. Some new apartments now are more than 20,000 yuan [$2,500] a

square meter. I don’t know how ordinary Shanghai people can afford

that. Also, it was so hot. I’ve never had such a hot summer in

[Shanghai]. Maybe it’s the pollution. And the traffic is worse.

What about the culture?
used to think that with more freedom people should write better books.
But nowadays a lot of books are so poorly done, just for the sake of
money. Books about how to make money, how to enjoy life. You hardly
find any serious literature or philosophy. I used to have so many
friends that were writers, but more than half are now doing business or
something else. They’ve lost their dreams about literature, about
poetry. I’m not trying to judge them, but to me that’s a pity.
Sometimes they’ll say, “Wow, you live in the U.S., why don’t you do
business? What’s the point of writing books? You don’t make much money
writing books.” What can I say?

But even though Xiaolong’s worried about "the spiritual, about values and idealism," all the change gives him that much more to write about.