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I don’t care how much you hate your family; there are certain things that you just don’t do, and you certainly don’t do them during the goddamned Mid-Autumn Festival—the one time of the year where you’re all supposed to pretend to love each other.
Number one, you don’t lie to your family. If you don’t want to say something that you know will upset them, just don’t say anything. As a general rule, eat more, say less.
Number two, show gratefulness for the things your family does for you. Even if it doesn’t help you all that much, when, say, your cousin tries to give you advice about your music career, say thank you and try to do something nice in return, like leaving halfway-decent clues about your whereabouts when you run away with your gangster boyfriend.
Speaking of which, number three, don’t run away with your gangster boyfriend, especially when you’re only sixteen and your father—my uncle—is one of the most powerful figures in the underworld of central Taiwan. He’ll come after you hard.
I’m a twenty-five-year-old man, so I know these things full well. I was raised properly and I am humble at my core. My little cousin Mei-ling, however, is of the younger generation of Taiwanese. She’s stubborn and ready to fight for what she believes in. She is also very cute. These are all qualities that a future singing star needs in order to make it, but they can also hurt your family, put your life in danger, and kill the people who fall in love with you.
And the Mid-Autumn Festival is supposed to be about living, not dying.
I will remember this particular holiday because it was the first time I celebrated it with my girlfriend, Nancy—a solidifying moment in our relationship. It was also the first time in a long time that I reconnected with my uncle, who last I heard had been in self-imposed exile. It was also the first and possibly last time I would see my darling little cousin Mei-ling, unless she pops up in tabloid news.
I will sometimes wonder if I would have been better off not getting back in touch with my uncle and living the rest of my life thinking that I had no family left.
When the full moon rises, I’ll put on one of Mei-ling’s songs. I’ll think about her, feel wistfully sad and then deeply ashamed that I couldn’t do more for her. I have to believe that she is in a better place.
If you want to get hustled good and proper in Taipei, try to buy some freshly cut fruit at the Shilin Night Market.
The vendors are fluent in several languages when they’re giving you the hard sell, poking at your face with toothpicked samples of creamy cherimoya and pretty-but-bland-tasting star fruit, but once you agree to buy something, they start filling up your bag with every fruit in stock and suddenly don’t understand when you say “stop.” Ask for half a kilogram of some bell-shaped wax apples and they’ll cut up a whole kilogram, bag it, and then grab two dragon fruit, dice them up and drop them in as well. After giving the bag a token sweep on a tipsy scale, showing a weight of more than four kilograms, you’ll be asked to pay 400 New Taiwan dollars for a bundle of stuff you mostly didn’t want.
In the scheme of things, you, being a tourist, may not think that thirteen American dollars is a lot to pay for a fairly heavy bag of exotic fruit. As you stab into a sticky cube with your bamboo skewer and pop it into your mouth, maybe it will taste sweet. Maybe the dragon fruit hasn’t been sprayed with saccharin. Maybe the wax apple hasn’t been dipped in formaldehyde to preserve its pale flesh. But even if your lychee were lopped from a tree this morning and trucked in from a farm this afternoon, the wholesale price of fruit is less than a fifth of what they charge tourists—and that’s when they’re honest.
A few years back a group of Singaporeans sued Taiwan’s tourism bureau after one stand charged them three times the normal price for atemoya, a grenade-shaped hybrid of the sugar apple and the cherimoya whose flavor explodes in the mouth with the taste of a slightly tart piña colada. The Singaporeans weren’t aware they’d been overcharged until one of them just had to have another and went to the one honest fruit seller in Shilin Market. When the tourist saw how much cheaper it was, the atemoya hit the fan.
Now all the fruit stands have posted prices and digital scales. It’s a new level of transparency that is nonetheless still subject to some old tricks—for example, the piling on of extra fruit you didn’t order, or the concealed thumb under the bag on the scale.
I’d let a pickpocket get closer to me than a fruit vendor. Which is why I kept my eyes peeled and my hand on my wallet as I saw one of the latter making her way toward us.
Nancy and I were hemmed in by the rest of the crowd, so that offered a measure of protection. All of us were gathered in an open area to watch an eating contest, and Nancy and I were here in particular to see our friend Dwayne destroy the competition. A Taiwan crowd is respectful of personal space, so there was enough room for the big American cameras to maneuver through the spectators.
Unfortunately, that also left enough room for the fruit vendor to wend her way over to us. Nancy and I happened to be standing next to a film crew that was shooting “B-roll,” footage that would run beneath stats and sponsor logos, as they explained to us. It was the Americans the fruit vendor was after, not us. I could practically hear the woman panting as she drew closer.
I shifted my feet so that my body shielded Nancy from the inevitable fruit pitches.
“Fresh, fresh!” she yelled in English at the Americans. She was dressed in traditional farmer garb, a brightly colored short-sleeved blouse over a long-sleeved one of a different pattern. The outfit lent an aura of authenticity and nearly compensated for the craftiness in her eyes as she sized up the men. Who to hit up first? The white man dressed like a biker wearing a fisherman’s vest and brandishing the boom mic? The balding black man who had just finished laying down the steel track for the camera dolly?
“Perfect for Moon Festival! Perfect for Mid-Autumn Festival!” the tiny woman declared in English, articulating both names for the same holiday. Her pronunciation was good but the rising tone through the sentences made her sound like a liar.
She stepped between the big Americans and menaced them with her toothpicked samples.
“Sweet sweet, fresh fresh!” she yelled up at the men, meeting their tight smiles.
“Don’t bother them,” I told her in Taiwanese. “They get their food free, as much as they want and better than what you have.”
The woman violently turned her head to the right, cracking her neck. “These Americans,” she hissed. “They never want to pay for anything! So cheap!”
“They’re cheap because they don’t want to be ripped off by you!” “They’re ripping me off! They’re blocking customers from coming in with all this!” She pointed at the lighting rigs.
“How am I supposed to do business?”
I put my hands on my hips and cocked my head at her. “Nobody’s blocking you, and I already saw you selling plenty tonight. You’re only upset because you haven’t been able to gouge the Americans working on the TV special. Go back to flimflamming the everyday tourists.”
She pointed a finger accusingly at my nose. This is an extremely rude thing to do in Taiwan. “Chen Jing-nan,” she said, using my full name, “just because you spent some time in America doesn’t make you one of them, okay? I’ve been working here at the night market longer than you’ve been alive! You have to respect me!” She slammed the fruit samples to the ground in disgust.
I turned my back to her. This is an extremely rude thing to do pretty much anywhere.
Her stand hasn’t been here that long, so that was a lie. But it was true that I had gone to UCLA and that I had once aspired to be one of them—an American, that is. I dropped out of college and returned to Taiwan because my father was diagnosed with a late-stage cancer. My mother was killed in a car accident on her way to the airport to pick me up.
To this day, whenever I hear people being paged over an intercom, I think they’re going to be told that their mother is dead.
I had no idea when I left UCLA that I would never be going back, but how could I leave Taiwan after that? I was a soon-to-be orphan who would inherit a huge family debt and my parents’ business—a food stand with two faithful employees who would be jobless if I didn’t keep it running.
During the grief-stricken weeks that followed my mother’s sudden death, my father and I only talked about what we were going to eat next, never about his inevitable departure. He told me again and again that a person in food service should have integrity.
“You’re giving people something that will become a part of their bodies and their memories,” my father had said. “They should be able to trust that your food is good, your kitchen is clean, and that you’ve done your best.”
Those have been my guiding principles in carrying on the family business, a skewer and stew stand here in the Shilin Night Market. It’s a little joint with only a few tables but I have big dreams and a modest international following. I’m sort of a local hero, honestly.
This evening the sounds of the market were amplified by the pre-Mid-Autumn Festival crowds and the excitement surrounding an American television station’s taping of a stinky tofu-eating contest. I watched families walking by, wives and husbands and kids with gangly fawn legs, gawking at the American crew and their cameras. They pointed and laughed together. It looked like so much fun to be them.
I didn’t have a family anymore. I sucked in the inside of my left cheek and clamped my teeth on it.
“Hey,” said Nancy as she touched my arm. “Jing-nan, don’t let that fruit seller get you down. She’s just mean.”
I looked at Nancy and I had to smile. I wasn’t alone in the world as long as I was with her. I was an adult orphan and she was a twenty-two-year-old grad student who didn’t talk to her single mom. The two of us weren’t part of Taiwanese society’s accepted narrative, that of families of two and three generations living in one house, or at the very least gathering together on a regular basis. It made sense that Nancy and I had found each other.
We’d met at Bauhaus, a CD store, when she was working there. It had the best import and bootleg sections. The store mysteriously shut down recently. I don’t know if it was due to legal action or illegal action; the place had been run by a criminal with exceptionally good taste in music. Some underworld figures run scams selling fake slots in columbaria. Others sell pirated copies of limited-edition pressings of Joy Division songs that would otherwise only be in the hands of a few collectors. Surely the latter was an honorable thing to do, if illegal. And if Bauhaus hadn’t existed, I might have never met the woman that I love.
I patted Nancy’s hand. “The holidays get so annoying,” I said. “Even without this TV special.”
“I know that Johnny would never let anything get to him,” Nancy teased. Johnny was the name of the persona I put on to sell food—a happy-go-lucky guy who ropes in tourists with his fluent English. He’s not a bad guy but he’s too mainstream. For example, Johnny would be willing to take money from someone wearing a Justin Bieber shirt, even pose in a pic with him. Meanwhile the inner Jing-nan would be screaming, “No, no, no! We don’t need his business!” One of Johnny’s best qualities, though, is his unabashed love of the band Joy Division. Extra points for that. I’m lucky that I have access to that persona when I’m behind the cash register. I’m also lucky that I have the two best workers in the world, Frankie the Cat and Dwayne.
In fact, both Nancy and I were here tonight at the stinky tofu-eating contest to support Dwayne, who didn’t have a goddamn prayer against either the Japanese champ, Sadao, or the American contestant, Chompin’ Charlie. Either Sadao or Charlie had won nearly every eating contest in recent years, most notably the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest in New York City that happens every July Fourth. Sadao and Charlie are always the top two and the championship has flipped between them like a shuttlecock. Things get heated there, as American pride is on the line. Some idiot in the crowd was arrested at the last one because he had brought a samurai sword and vowed to use it to chop off Sadao’s head.
Nancy and I pushed our way through the crowd on Jihe Road, which was shut down for the program. The rumor was that a producer at the American-owned Realtime Sports, which normally would never have been interested in something as obscure as stinky tofu, greenlit the eating contest because he had a Taiwanese wife. It was probably a lie but the story still ran on the cover of the Daily Pineapple, Taiwan’s most unethical newspaper, which is saying a lot. Stinky tofu was the wife’s favorite dish, the story alleged, and after she had eaten her fill of it during the preproduction, the producer refused to sleep in the same bed with her.
There are many ways of preparing stinky tofu, but all result in a wet or dry fermented product with a foul, lingering smell not unlike that of a trash chute in a diaper-testing facility. If you could get past the smell, you’d find that the tofu itself tasted like a blue cheese and has the consistency of whitefish. But asking most people to ignore the smell of their food is like asking them to ignore crawling maggots.
Even Andrew Zimmern, the fat, bald American guy who bounced around the world eating roasted bugs and testicles of all animals, drew the line at stinky tofu. I didn’t think that anything that went into that mouth had any hope of escape until I saw the Taiwanese news program’s slow-mo clip of Zimmern regurgitating. The half-chewed stinky-tofu bite was named “Jonah” while Zimmern was bestowed with the title “The Whale.”
The frivolity of today’s event was nearly done in by the weather, however. The stinky-tofu-eating contest had to be held outdoors as no indoor venue would tolerate such a permeating stink. In the predawn, a low-lying cloud slid down from the mountains and formed three coils in the evaporated lake basin that now cradles Taipei. The morning cable shows claimed that the form of a dragon could be seen in the mists, and that didn’t bode well for Taiwan’s crazily superstitious people.
Praise for Incensed
"Ed Lin’s Incensed is a stylish, smart thriller for the mind, heart, and gut. Sex, music, history, politics, food, humor, and just a touch of violence and death—you get it all. And when you're done, you’ll beg for more."
—Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of The Sympathizer
“Ed Lin's Incensed is his best book ever—and this is the guy who wrote Ghost Month. Its world is so vivid and alive that when you're finished you'll remember it as though you spent a month there.”
—Timothy Hallinan, author of King Maybe
"Lin’s comic tonality makes this reading experience one that brings forth both intrigue and laughter."
—Asian American Lit Fans
"The second entry in Lin’s “Taipei Night Market” series is an exciting mystery with an intriguing hero and cast of characters who will appeal to readers who like international settings in their crime fiction. Mystery fans enchanted by the Asian night markets visited on numerous Travel Channel shows will enjoy a peek behind the curtain, as Taiwan’s history and culture are lightly explored in this story that moves fluidly along to its conclusion."
“A richly detailed insider's tour of contemporary Taiwan.”
"Readers will be as caught up in Lin’s rich descriptions of Taiwan’s sights, sounds, and mouthwatering foods as they are in his intriguing characters."
Praise for Ghost Month
“A unique blend of tension, charm, tragedy and optimism, with characters you’ll love, and a setting so real you’ll think you’ve been there. Highly recommended.”
“A sidewalk noodle shop in Taipei’s Shilin Night Market during summer’s Ghost Month is the vivid backdrop for Ed Lin’s Ghost Month . . . The plot twists come fast and furious as the story reaches its climax. Come for the exotic food and fascinating setting; stay for the characters.”
—The Boston Globe
“Covers Taiwan’s complicated political identity and relationship with mainland China, all during one of the most remarkable times of the year: Ghost Month.”
—To the Best of Our Knowledge
“This is pure and perfect suspense and a book that is almost impossible to put down.”
Description du livre Paperback. Etat : New. Reprint. Language: English. Brand new Book. Ed Lin's Incensed is a stylish, smart thriller for the mind, heart, and gut. Sex, music, history, politics, food, humor, and just a touch of violence and death--you get it all. And when you're done, you'll beg for more. --Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer Family secrets come to light in this dark, comedic crime caper set in Taipei during the annual Mid-Autumn Festival. In Taiwan, the Mid-Autumn Festival is a time for prioritizing family. When 25-year-old Jing-nan's gangster uncle, Big Eye, asks a favor, Jing-nan can't exactly say no, especially because two goons are going to follow him around to make sure he gets it done right. The favor is this: Big Eye's 16-year-old daughter, Mei-ling, has a biker boyfriend from the wrong side of the tracks--in Big Eye's gangster opinion--and Big Eye wants Jing-nan to bring her to Taipei, away from the bad influences, and straighten her out. It doesn't take Jing-nan long to discover Mei-ling is even more trouble than the average bratty, rebellious teenager. She's been spoiled rotten and doesn't know how to take no for an answer. She has her father's thugs wrapped around her finger and quickly becomes the miniature dictator of Jing-nan's life. But Mei-ling is also hiding a secret--one that puts her in harm's way. If Jing-nan wants to save his cousin from her own demons, he has to figure out the truth, even if it tears his family apart--again. N° de réf. du vendeur AAT9781616958329
Description du livre Soft Cover. Etat : new. N° de réf. du vendeur 9781616958329
Description du livre Paperback. Etat : New. N° de réf. du vendeur 6959-TRD-9781616958329
Description du livre Etat : New. Brand New. N° de réf. du vendeur 1616958324
Description du livre Paperback. Etat : New. Reprint. Language: English. Brand new Book. Ed Lin's Incensed is a stylish, smart thriller for the mind, heart, and gut. Sex, music, history, politics, food, humor, and just a touch of violence and death--you get it all. And when you're done, you'll beg for more. --Viet Thanh Nguyen, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sympathizer Family secrets come to light in this dark, comedic crime caper set in Taipei during the annual Mid-Autumn Festival. In Taiwan, the Mid-Autumn Festival is a time for prioritizing family. When 25-year-old Jing-nan's gangster uncle, Big Eye, asks a favor, Jing-nan can't exactly say no, especially because two goons are going to follow him around to make sure he gets it done right. The favor is this: Big Eye's 16-year-old daughter, Mei-ling, has a biker boyfriend from the wrong side of the tracks--in Big Eye's gangster opinion--and Big Eye wants Jing-nan to bring her to Taipei, away from the bad influences, and straighten her out. It doesn't take Jing-nan long to discover Mei-ling is even more trouble than the average bratty, rebellious teenager. She's been spoiled rotten and doesn't know how to take no for an answer. She has her father's thugs wrapped around her finger and quickly becomes the miniature dictator of Jing-nan's life. But Mei-ling is also hiding a secret--one that puts her in harm's way. If Jing-nan wants to save his cousin from her own demons, he has to figure out the truth, even if it tears his family apart--again. N° de réf. du vendeur BZE9781616958329
Description du livre paperback. Etat : New. Language: ENG. N° de réf. du vendeur 9781616958329
Description du livre Etat : New. . N° de réf. du vendeur 52YZZZ014RHH_ns
Description du livre Paperback. Etat : New. . N° de réf. du vendeur IR-BN-Q-9781616958329
Description du livre Paperback. Etat : New. . N° de réf. du vendeur 52ZZZZ00DTZK_ns
Description du livre Paperback. Etat : New. . N° de réf. du vendeur 532ZZZ00DU9V_ns