Hong Kong on the Brain

Christopher Rea reviews Hon Lai-chu’s The Kite Family

‘Spoiled Brains,’ the first story in Hong Lai-chu’s collection The Kite Family, expertly translated by Andrea Lingenfelter, reminds me of Wong Kar-wai’s 1994 film, Chungking Express. When I taught a course on the history of Chinese cinema in Vancouver last spring, students voted Chungking Express their favorite film. In one of its iconic sequences, a cop commemorates his lost love by buying and consuming tins of pineapple stamped with a date that has already passed. He hopes that she’ll return before his 25th birthday, but she doesn’t, and he gorges on rancid fruit, only to throw it up again. “When,” he muses in a voiceover, “did everything start having an expiration date?”