The Book Club Digest

Book Club Digest #5

What are the three things all Chinese high schoolers fear? Wenyanwen 文言文 (classical Chinese), zuowen 作文 (writing essays), and Zhou Shuren 周树人, better known by his pen name, Lu Xun.

This January, breaking our usual ban against “required reading,” we dipped into the short stories of this early twentieth century master, a staple of Chinese textbooks but virtually unknown to readers in the West.

This meeting’s champion, Lin Haitong, helped those of us who didn’t grow up in China fill in some gaps in our cultural reference points:

Runtu 润土, the narrator’s childhood friend from “My Old Home” 《故乡》as pictured in a well-known illustration from Chinese elementary school textbooks:


The “bloody bun” from “Medicine,” 《药》— symbol of betrayal and exploitation, here humorously re-imagined by us:


Someone drew a parallel with “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson, another exploration of the dark underside of human nature that few Americans make it through high school English class without reading: