Tuesday, October 27, 2009

An Area of Darkness

What an exquisitely written book! Nobel Prize winner, V.S. Naipaul's nonfiction account and his conjectures on traveling through India, the home of his grandparents is trenchant and compelling. It's beautifully written and though I've never been to India, I have dealt with third world life and can imagine he's described the bureaucracy and way of life with dead-on accuracy. He manages to do more than to scoff and complain, he does provide insights into the culture, his immigrant and culture hopping heritage and his own bad moods as well as those of the people who surround him.

Each page was a joy to read. I can't believe I had 20 pages left to go, that I decided to save for the train ride back home, and I left the book on the train to Beijing. It'll be the first book I get from the library when I get home.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Jan Wong's China

I usually wait till I finish a book before reviewing it, but who knows if I'll be able to get on to blogger then?

I'm currently on page 265 of Jan Wong's Chinaand really find it engrossing. The author of Red China Bluesreturns to the Middle Kingdom in the late 1990s to see how things have changed. (Seems it's time for another return trip for Ms. Wong.) She visits villages and friends she had when she left in the '70s and '80s. Some have grown rich and others bitter. Some are furious with her for Red China Blues, which they thought was all lies. (Those were Americans who came to help with the Revolution and are die hard in their allegiance to their adopted land.)

Since she speaks fluent Chinese she gets the scoop on AIDS in China, car ownership, corruption, gay rights, Tibet, and drug addiction. Her chapter on customer service is hilarious. It's filled with anecdotes. I thought passengers on US flights had it bad. Not too long ago the Chinese flight attendants would refuse to take people's food trays, spent most of the flight time lounging in Business Class and at least once were caught having taken all the meat from the meals and eating it themselves in the galley.

Though it's bound to be dated, Jan Wong's China presents an interesting snapshot of China circa 1999.

The book's got 321 pages so I should finish soon.