Keeping an eye on China's "hooligan" artists

One probably inevitable takeaway from my recent trip to China is the desire to know how artists there deal with censorship. Keeping tabs on that could become a full time job. I'm sure there are many, many others doing a much better job at it than I ever could. But as a casual observer with a newly calibrated radar when it comes to China, I'm fascinated by two stories. One ongoing, one recently brought to my attention. Both showed up in the NYTimes yesterday. The ongoing and quite famous one is the struggle of Ai Weiwei - the larger than life multiform artist who's bearing the brunt of the Chinese government's crackdown on expression that runs afoul of their official interests. Weiwei's been jailed, his studios have been raided, and now he's facing a massive tax penalty meant to scare him. Or much worse. The latest update for Weiwei showed how the public is stepping up - often anonymously - to help him pay the $2.4M tax bill that was plopped on him after being released from a murky, intimidating stint in jail. New developments seem to come every day with regard to Weiwei's plight. Reporting on him is a cottage industry for journalists and activists world wide. But the other piece on yesterday's front page really peeled back the layers on what writers confront when they try to write original work in China. If you're even slightly interested in the massive expansion of publishing in China, this piece is an introduction with more context than I've seen on this subject. The writer Murong Xuecun sounds like a old school Beat writer with huge, ultra-modern exposure. He's swimming against a current that we can't even imagine here. Utterly amazing reporting. A must read for anyone who ever hopes to sell a single copy of any book in China. Myself included.