Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Two Recommended Reviews of Books About China

Two reviews in the Los Angeles Review of Books recently caught my attention because they were thought provoking and touched on China-related themes I have previously discussed here. I could write an in-depth review of the reviews, but that might only inspire a review of my review of the reviews. So instead, without providing any further context I will simply share a revealing excerpt from each review, and I recommend reading them in full.

Helen Gao reviewed Han Han's This Generation: Dispatches from China’s Most Popular Literary Star (and Race Car Driver), translated by Allan Barr:
In his book, Han characterizes my generation as a “disconnected” one. Communist ideals, together with its unifying power, waned in the 1980s and never took root in our hearts; new barriers such as widening income inequality and stalled social mobility further erode the generational cohesion. Better education, unprecedented access to the outside world and increasing domestic transparency facilitated by social media have enabled us to identify the issues discussed in Han’s writing, but many have chosen to focus on the narrow path immediately ahead. Bogged down by the pressure of living, denied a free channel of speech, and thus locked in our individual worries, what to do but to, say, calculate how long it might take before you can save enough for a down payment on your first apartment?

Han’s writing won us over for so vividly capturing the thin layer of commonalities shared by my generation and the mood born out of this social environment: a dash of irony, a sprinkle of resignation, and a pinch of self-loathing.
And Mei Fong reviewed the collection of pieces My First Visit to China, edited by Kin-ming Liu:
At times dispiriting, these accounts of initial ignorance and then dawning awareness are nonetheless the book’s chief strength. To these Sinologists, linguists, ethnic Chinese returnees, that first visit to China represented humility, the recognition that their years of study or cultural heritage were, in the end, inadequate preparation for understanding modern China. Those initial trips were for many the spark that led to years of distinguished work interpreting and explaining China to the world.

“Our first encounters with China […] are rarely as grand as we hope,” writes Pulitzer-prize-winning contributor Ian Johnson. “That is the nature of exploring foreign countries; all we can hope for is that our first steps are sturdy enough to carry us forward.”
Of course, the two reviews need not be the end of the story. If you choose to read them, enjoy the books as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment