Interview: 'No City for Slow Men' author Jason Ng

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Meredith McBride speaks with author Jason Ng about the humourous nuances of living in Hong Kong as his new novel, No City for Slow Men, hits the shelves

From Hong Kong’s escalator hogs to Beijing phobia to stereotypes of Chinese men, Jason Y Ng candidly speaks about many of Hong Kong’s ‘quirks and quandaries’ in his latest book, No City for Slow Men. Also the author of Hong Kong State of Mind, Ng shows his development as a writer as he speaks more openly and critically about the wonderful city we call home in his new tome.

After spending years in Canada, Europe and New York, Hong Kong-born Ng followed his roots back to our city. “As a kid, you look at Hong Kong in a very different light,” he reminisces. “It’s a very different city than what I saw when I was young.” Ng is a practising attorney and popular newspaper columnist in the city. He got the idea for his new book after repeated requests from his blog and avid readers of his column.

The book itself provides not only commentary on Hong Kong’s peculiarities but also on Cantonese culture. Although Ng’s primary audience is composed of tourists and expats, he often finds that Hongkongers enjoy viewing their society from a different standpoint. “Language actually drives a lot of how we think,” he says. “To read the same topics in English, I think, provides a different perspective, even for a local audience.”

No City for Slow Men sings the praises of Hong Kong. Some of Ng’s favourite aspects are the Octopus Card and countless hiking trails and country parks, which he describes as the ‘golf courses and country clubs for the masses’. He also pokes fun at the ‘loud talkers’ who invade malls and office lifts. Even worse, he claims, is a new breed of folk who prefer to play Candy Crush or listen to their soap operas sans headphones.

Lighted-hearted and good-humoured as it is, Ng’s book also features several chapters of a more serious nature. He’s unafraid to tackle issues such as racism, obsession with success and government irresponsibility. One chapter, titled Six Decades of Blood, Sweat and Tears, addresses issues in our northern big brother and fears that Beijing is meddling in the affairs of Hong Kong. “The Chinese model is to numb people with economic prosperity,” he says. “They take their attention away from the one party rule so people are so busy making money that they don’t pay any attention to what goes on in Beijing. They turn a blind eye to corruption.”

The most engrossing part of No City for Slow Men – and, indeed, Ng’s writing in general – is his sincerity, laying bare the best and worst of Hong Kong society, as well as his own struggles and insecurities. The book’s illustrator, Guangdong-born Ng Lee-po, is actually the author’s father, who supported his family in Hong Kong through freelance artistry before moving to Canada. Coming from a family that itself embodies that unlimited potential in Hong Kong, Ng proves to be the perfect source to write on Asia’s city that never sleeps. For
now, he happily calls Hong Kong home, with its perks, oddities and everything else that comes with it.

No City for Slow Men Published by Blacksmith Books, priced $128. For more on Ng check out asiseeithk.com.

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