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Tony’s review of River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze
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Dec 26, 2010 10:16AM
Interesting... I am in the middle of his most recent book, which doesn't seem to generalize as much, or at least not in the same way.
Dec 26, 2010 10:50AM
Conclusions based on empirical data are not necessarily wrong. Still, I just get skeptical when I read that
Jews are smarter than other people. It's fascinating and believable; but then I realize this is just one American in one Chinese city talking to maybe four people.
Apr 15, 2013 03:57AM
I am not sure what you mean by romanticizes the rats or pollution. My take was that he hated both.
Apr 15, 2013 05:14AM
Of course he hated both. The sense I had is that he wanted to make his Peace Corps experience -- which was teaching an English Literature class -- more dangerous, more heroic, and consequently more meaningful. Otherwise, why write (or read) the damn thing. I know that's a cynical reading. But it's the one I had.
Apr 15, 2013 05:18AM
I had mixed views on this too. Similar to another travel book I read called Beer and Bagles from Breakfast about life on a kibbutz in Israel (the name of the author escapes me) which was less something that many might want to read about and a little bit too indulgent to be a true travel book with wide appeal. On the other hand, Hesslers book did make me want to visit China.
Apr 15, 2013 05:24AM
I have a different perspective, perhaps because I am living in China now, and I have lived in several other countries. I find it challenging to understand people from other cultures, and I appreciate Peter's attempts to understand those around him. Rather than "it was so dangerous," I hear him imply that "this is how some people are living, and I didn't like it. But I could leave." And that leads to another question that I heard underneath his words--why do some people put up with rats? And pollution? And others leave it? --Just my thoughts.
(last edited Apr 15, 2013 07:02PM)
Apr 15, 2013 06:59PM
I believe Hessler is now living in Egypt. He and his wife (who also wrote about China) lived in Colorado for several years.
I read his books because I am interested in China and I think I learned a lot from him about daily life there. But the small, isolated city that he lived in during this book changed rapidly in just a matter of years as China shot into the 20th century. So this book is recent and dated but is about humans in a specific time and space that will never be that way again, for good or for ill.
He has a new book that will be out in May.
Strange Stones: Dispatches from East and West
is a collection of stories based on his experience living in a variety of cultures.
I have added it to my never ending TBR shelf. I am a Hessler fan.
Jan 16, 2015 09:57AM
It seems like lots of the negative reviews are assuming a lot about the attitude behind Hessler's writing. Why should we assume that him remarking on the difficult/gross stuff he had to deal with is meant to make himself seem "more heroic"? Is it not possible that he was just in some really awful places and, naturally, included them in his book about his personal experiences abroad? It's such a bizarre criticism.
Mar 17, 2016 08:40AM
Unfortunately, this is a book fueled by an odd form of petulance that detracts from its intended message. However, I would suggest that the authorial arrogance you cite in the review is not based on Hessler's role as a Peace Corps volunteer but rather is due to something much more internal.
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