|(Shanghai Daily/Illustration by Zhou Tao)|
Recently while taking a stroll along nearby Weihai Road near Yan'an Road, I found a number of fashionable shops were closed and being remodeled.
These shops come and go, and I would never have noticed them if they were not disappearing.
But surprisingly, the opposite Jing'an Book Club remained open.
It always puzzles me how any entity today can pretend not to care about turning a good profit.
If it were not for the shelves of books, the club might well pass for an exclusive lobby, complete with beige lounges, fancy stools, long ivory-colored tables, all tastefully arranged in an ornate setting.
No book reader can help being a bit flattered to be admitted - freely - into such a cultured milieu, at a time when brick-and-mortar bookstores are retreating or vanishing.
The flagship Jifeng Bookstore in Shanxi Road S. metro station announced early this month it would close and move to another location after 15 years of operation, even though the rentals for the bookstore were only 10 percent the normal rates, for the bookstore had been seen somewhat as part of Shanghai's cultural scene.
Often have I strolled into this classy book club, and rarely did I find many readers.
On the door was a notice to the effect that students can be admitted after 3pm by showing a pass issued by the club.
Of course, no one expects students to be readers. They are there doing their homework.
I usually gave my third grader son a pat on the shoulder if he successfully prevents his homework from invading his sleep hours.
One colleague of mine said that homework typically keeps his daughter busy until 10pm.
My son has shown early promise of being an avid reader, but he has little time for reading, being perennially busy cracking problems meant to, among other things, assess his Chinese vocabulary, comprehension, and analytical skills.
These ingeniously designed test items - cloze, multiple choice, summary - reduce to an ordeal a process that should be inspiring, exhilarating, and enchanting.
Uncontrolled reading that does not lend itself to assessment is generally viewed as a threat to good scores. A son of a friend of mine has been studying a elementary school composition guide since his second grade.
Although very few Chinese teachers today - as every other Chinese - have time for reading, they are competently acquainted with the technical requirements of a standard composition.
Those Xiaorenshu we read in childhood
Trip planner: four-day trip to S China
Wonderful snapshots of flying buzzards
Forever Shangri-la: China's heaven on earth
Top 10 ever-victorious generals in history
Dreamy log cabins among woods
Top 10 best airports in China 2012
Mysterious Zhongnanhai in Beijing
Top 10 Chinese 'Kung Fu Kings' in Minguo period