Chelsea Szendi's Reviews > Oracle Bones: A Journey Between China's Past and Present

Oracle Bones by Peter Hessler
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's review
Dec 09, 2010

liked it
bookshelves: east-asia, current-events

I don't think Hessler knows what "Marxism" is, but he does seem to know "China." Like any good piece of narrative nonfiction, the best thing about this book is the access it gives the reader to people and places they would otherwise never have the time and energy and fortune to meet. It's also very well written (I expect nothing less from a correspondent for The New Yorker), and yet some of the flattening inherent to the journalist's craft (also, I expect nothing less from The New Yorker). For example, the passage about Marxism that appeared in the context of China's early drive to modernize in the beginning of the twentieth century: "It was a painful, clumsy process; inevitably they clutched at some of the worst Western ideas (such as Marxism)." This assumption that a critique of surplus value leads directly to the gulag is alive and well, and very mainstream still.

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