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The Beijing of Possibilities

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  60 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
Blending elements of the surreal with carefully observed details of life in present-day Beijing, Jonathan Tel’s short stories offer a rich and highly entertaining guide to the city and its many and varied inhabitants–from a modern-day Monkey King to an equally contemporary indentured servant, from a boy tasting his first cotton candy to a Ming Dynasty princess posting her ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published June 30th 2009 by Other Press (first published January 1st 2009)
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Anthony Tao
Oct 30, 2011 Anthony Tao rated it it was amazing
Shelves: china
Here's the thing: Beijing IS full of possibilities. It takes a writer of incredible perception and imagination to properly render that in fiction. Stray too far one way, and the story will seem rigid, synthetic, gimmicky; stray another way, and readers will become displaced (why, again, is it the BEIJING of Possibilities?); stray yet another way, and stories become hopelessly grounded in either the prosaic or the real itself -- after all, Beijing is the place where men and women dress in silver ...more
May 17, 2012 Alta added it
Jonathan Tel lives in both Beijing and New York, and, if one is to believe his bio note, he has worked as a quantum physicist and an opera librettist. I am a little skeptical simply because the tone and style of the book are those of someone who could make up his bio. On the other hand, Tel’s writing is so different than that of his American (MFA-ized) contemporaries that maybe he is telling the truth.

The Beijing of Possibilities is one of the wittiest books by an American writer I’ve read in a
Jul 16, 2013 Bridget rated it really liked it

With almost text-book precision, Jonathan Tel captures the essence of the perfect short story in this loosely woven collection of heartbreaks, secrets, humanities and mundanities, backdropped by the mysterious Beijing.

The story

The Beijing Of Possibilities is a collection of short stories, all centred in some capacity around the city of Beijing. From the mundane to the fantastic, each of the twelve stories is beautifully crafted and individual. While there are common threads through the entire bo

Jan 06, 2010 Saskia rated it liked it
This book consists of a collection of short, and very bizarre stories. The stories are centered around the city of Beijing, and mixes carefully the culture and tradition of China with the modernity of a big city. The book is dedicated to telling stories of everyday people, yet with interesting and unexpected lives. The characters in the book are all charming and unique people who remind the reader of the similarities between our world and theirs, despite the incredible differences. What i ...more
Jun 08, 2009 Liz rated it it was amazing
Jonathan Tel's latest collection of stories explores the clashes, conspiracies, and other conjunctions of old and new value systems in turn of the century China in a variety of situations that prove to be more mundane or bizarre than they appear. Everyone in these stories seems to be waking out of, or possibly into, a dream -- it isn't always clear which: A bike messenger in a gorilla suit finds himself hailed as a national hero; a yuppie couple find an equivocal treasure box from the communist ...more
Nov 30, 2009 Tyson rated it liked it
I enjoyed these short stories. I am draw to short stories, espaecially after the review on the jacket said these were carefully imagined stories and comparing hte wirting to Calvino's. It wasn't Calvino, but enjoyable all the same. i liked the way the stories inter-related by haveing characters causally appear on the periferies in other stories.
Jonathan Tel
Mar 23, 2009 Jonathan Tel rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
I'm the author. It's a collection of linked stories set in contemporary Beijing. It will be published in June. Meanwhile, stories from it can be read in the magazines, Zoetrope, Prospect, Open City, and online at I'd be interested to hear readers' opinions, as well as recommendations for other related books on China and literary fiction in general.
Mar 29, 2015 Sandee rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
A delightful collection of short stories set in Beijing, mostly set around the time of the 2008 Olympics. The Olympics brought change and modernization to the city, affecting how many Chinese saw themselves.

Jan 19, 2010 Ciaobella rated it liked it
This collection of short stories opens the day to day modern Beijing life across social settings. It also highlights the twists and turns on the road of life; how destiny, people and place determine the character of a life. The last story was worth the wait...
Apr 18, 2016 Cherie rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
A collection of short stories by English author Jonathan Tel (who has lived in China, I suspect); lots of cute little stories. My favorite is about the couple that finds the treasure box when remodeling their home.
May 21, 2011 Nafiza rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
The last story was brilliant. It pulled the seemingly random threads of the collection together for an amazing finish. I need to find more stuff by this guy.
Feb 16, 2010 Mandy marked it as started-not-finished
This book wasn't bad, I actually enjoyed the first two stories a lot. However it started to go down from there and then I just found more interesting things to read.
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Aug 26, 2010 Alex rated it really liked it
Shelves: china, fiction
The author couchsurfed with me in Kaifeng! How cool!
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Sep 07, 2014
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