Neil Crossan's Reviews > Dreaming in Chinese: Mandarin Lessons In Life, Love, And Language

Dreaming in Chinese by Deborah Fallows
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's review
Jan 02, 2012

it was ok
Recommended to Neil by: SF Book Club
Read on January 02, 2012 , read count: 1

There is a part of me that wants to just unload on this book. And then there’s the other part that says, “C’mon now Neil. Let’s be fair here. You’ve never been to China.” And then the first part gets really annoyed and just takes over like an irrational two year old on a cross country flight. Here comes the screaming …
#1: No book under 100 pages deserves to be published in hard cover unless it’s a photo book of my trip to Vancouver for my parents or its poetry. And don’t tell me this book is 188 pages, because the publisher pulls out every line spacing, increasing margin, smaller pages technique I used in 6th grade to stretch this into something I could turn into for a book report or they can charge you $20 hardcover prices for. C’mon now this is 80 pages tops.
#2: I was hyped to learn about Mandarin. It’s amazing to think that people can walk on Stockon Street (San Francisco) and actually read those characters and understand what they mean. Oh that’s an acupuncturist that is closed on Mondays. Each one is a puzzle. Every Chinese person must score 1600 on their SATs to figure those things out. That’s what I wanted to hear about, which I did … on page 145 of 188.
Here’s my cynical take on what actually happened. Fallows husband was writing awesome stories for the New Yorker. She read his stuff and thought she should be having the same awesome Chinese experience. But she wanted to write what she knew so she focused on language, BUT … BUT. Chinese is hard. It can’t be mastered in 3 years. But she had to come up with something. So she threw in a few anecdotes like, “Shopping in China is hard”, “Once a dude let me have a cab” and “Massages are awesome” with language anecdotes like “there is no he or she in China, it’s just ta” and thought she had a book. I’m calling bullshit.
I didn’t gain any real insight to the Chinese language from this book and that was my expectation.

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