Gypsy Lady's Reviews > River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze

River Town by Peter Hessler
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Jul 22, 2011

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Read in July, 2011

399 page hard cover

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Page 39
It was, as Orwell would say, a case in which words and meaning had parted company. All that mattered was that students used the correct termininology and the correct political framework as they viewed the world around them.

Page 45
For the first time I came to understand why literataure so often slides away toward politics. I had struggled with this before; at Princeton I had majored in English, and after graduation I had spent two years studying English language and literature at Oxford. My original plan had been to become a professor of literature, but over time I became less enamored of what I saw in English departments, especially in America. Part of it was simply aesthetics -- I found that I couldn't read literary criticism, because its academic stiffness was so far removed from the grace of good writing. And I could make very little sense of most criticism, which seemd a hopeless mess of awkward words: Deconstructionism, Post-Modernism, New Historicism. None of it could be explained simple and clearly-- just as my Fuling students stumbled when asked to define Historical Materialism aor Socialism with Chinese Characteristics.

Page 170
Chinese writer Lu Xun once remarked: "People with good memories are liable to be crushed by the weight of suffering. Only those with bad memories, the fittest to survive, can live on."

Page 359
All of it consisted of the simple labor of hands and feet and basic tools, and the terrain has been changed so gradually that the owrk of the peasants seems as inevitable as a force of nature -- something as determined and powerful as the river itself. Human history sits heavily on the ladn, as it so often does in China.
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