Impersonating Trump in China, and Other News


On the Shelf

In China, Tang Xinhua, a retired music professor, is preparing for a new career as a Trump impersonator. Photo: Zou Dangrong, via the New York Times.

  • You know times are hard when you find yourself looking forward to reading the nominees for the Bad Sex in Fiction Award. Maybe their heinousness will be the ultimate distraction from Trump—in the same way that you can divert your attention from a headache by punching yourself in the arm repeatedly, forcefully. Here’s some bad sex from Tom Connolly’s Men Like Air: “The walkway to the terminal was all carpet, no oxygen. Dilly bundled Finn into the first restroom on offer, locked the cubicle door and pulled at his leather belt. ‘You’re beautiful,’ she told him, going down on to her haunches and unzipping him. He watched her passport rise gradually out of the back pocket of her jeans in time with the rhythmic bobbing of her buttocks as she sucked him. He arched over her back and took hold of the passport before it landed on the pimpled floor. Despite the immediate circumstances, human nature obliged him to take a look at her passport photo.”
  • Impersonation is a hot ticket in China—with practice, chutzpah, and a little bit of luck, you can make a good living pretending to be a famous politician. (And they say America is the land of opportunity.) So now a national search is on for an ersatz Donald Trump, a swaggering caricature who can really channel that bigoted je ne sais quoi. Zou Dangrong, who runs an agency of impersonators in Beijing, believes he’s found the perfect ringer: a retired music professor named Tang Xinhua. But can they get his skin to look orange enough? “The goal is to get Mr. Tang looking enough like Mr. Trump that he can impersonate the president-elect and entertain at lucrative company debuts, shopping mall openings and New Year’s galas … It is all good, clean fun with high artistic standards, [Mr. Zou] said … ‘The hair color can easily be changed with dye jobs—temporary color, not permanent, keeping it in for an hour or two,’ [Mr. Zou] said. ‘We’ve asked tailors to make the same clothes that Trump wore in his campaign, though maybe from less expensive material.’ ” 

  • Here in America, Charles Simic is just trying to rake his leaves. But there’s no domestic solitude to be found, not at a time like this: “The Ship of State is sinking and a rooster is chasing a hen in a neighbor’s yard. How can that be? A woman is hanging her husband’s underwear on the laundry line and singing to herself. The dead leaves are dancing on the ground while a few jump high in the air as if trying to get back on a branch they fell from. A strange dog in my driveway is looking off into the distance and wagging his tail. Don’t any of them have patriotic feelings? The Ship of State, festooned with Trump/Pence election signs, is sinking. Shouldn’t we all fall silent in awe? The bare trees look spooked though it’s past Halloween. The president-elect with a spyglass and his orange pompadour shouts from the crow’s nest that he can see thousands of Muslims on rooftops in New Jersey still celebrating the collapse of the Twin Towers—unless I’m hallucinating, but who nowadays can be sure their eyes and ears work? If he is bonkers, as he surely is, many of us are too, like that woman hanging laundry to dry on a day cold enough to snow.”