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Apologies to My Censor: The High and Low Adventures of a Foreigner in China Paperback – July 2, 2013

4 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this witty memoir, Moxley recounts his coming-of-age years in the strange, gritty, and wonderful environment that is 21st century China. Before arriving there in 2007, Moxley was restless, bored, and depressed about his career prospects. While searching an online job board, the young Canadian journalist came across a writer/editor position for the only English-language newspaper in the country. Planning to stay for only a year, Moxley dove into the intoxicating, high-octane environment of emerging China. Commerce was booming in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics and, although his new job wasn't what he expected, Moxley reveled in the heavy drinking and rigorous nightlife typical of expats in China. He took Chinese lessons, established himself as a freelance writer, appeared on a Chinese dating show, and even became one of China's hottest bachelors, as ranked by Cosmopolitan. While the country's idiosyncrasies began to seduce Moxley, misgivings about his untethered life started to bubble up. You stop noticing the unusual things around you—in fact, the unusual things are simply not unusual anymore. And then you're left wondering: Why am I still here? Moxley's tale is a nostalgic travelogue; one purchase is never far from his mind: A plane ticket. One way. To New York. (July)

From Booklist

In his mid-twenties, Canadian Moxley came to Beijing in 2007 as an editor at what was then China’s only national English-language newspaper. He procrastinated a year at the paper, and then for the next five years lived off infrequent journalism, voice-recording, and his parents. This book is for under-30 partiers. It exists on the coattails of the Atlantic Monthly’s publication of “Rent a White Guy,” Moxley’s one-pager on Chinese companies hiring random Caucasian men to pose as executive backers. If told right, any subject can, of course, be interesting. Here, however, slacker life is rendered with painful tedium in a wearisome repetition of thin entries on partying, wanting better work, cute girls, and watching movies at home. In addition to the many small writing subjects inherent to moving to another country, Moxley also has some colorful experiences. He just fails to penetrate them or describe them with engaging eyes. --Dane Carr
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Original Edition edition (July 2, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062124439
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062124432
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,569,035 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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There are many China expat memoirs on the market and this is, well, another one. On the positive side, it's reasonably up to date (as of 2013), so even though the author's tenure stretched back to pre-Olympics Beijing it still seems fairly fresh. A lot of the neighborhoods, locations and bar/restaurants are still in business. And if you're thinking of moving to Beijing or considering an expat posting somewhere quite foreign to your home country it's worth a quick read. Anyone thinking about an expat stint ought to carefully consider both the lows and the highs that are likely to be in store. Another plus is that the author seems pretty honest about his own failings, namely, a fair amount of aimlessness, and a real lack of initiative and effort in doing his job at his first employer in China. It's refreshing when he finally gets motivated and leaves Beijing to do a couple of more in-depth stories, and interesting to follow along on his reporting trips.

However, the author's honest admissions about his failings also presents one of the problems with this book. In many places the author just isn't that likable. He struggles to find motivation, and fritters away a lot of the opportunities he was presented. On some occasions he comes across more like a college sophomore struggling to pick a major than a 30-ish professional who's attempting to conduct serious journalism in a foreign country. After awhile the angst -- should the author stay in Beijing or go -- becomes repetitive and doesn't seem to move the narrative forward.

In the end this is a mix of mild expat adventures in China plus a few "inside the scenes" tales of how a journalist gets some moderately interesting stories written in China. For a fresh take on the China experience, it's OK. But there are much better places to start if you're just starting to read current memoirs of journalists in China. Read any (or all) of Peter Hessler's books before you read this.
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Format: Paperback
If you are interested in the bar scene in Beijing and the losers whose lives revolve around it, then this is the book for you. This pathetic, repetitious and poorly written account of the author's six years in China reads like the memoir of an 18-year old's first spring break -- dozens of accounts of all-night drinking binges and the hangovers that follow, with no attention to the nuances of the Chinese people or their culture. If you are looking for insight into Chinese culture or history, give this book a pass, because the author's self-centered stories could just as easily have been written about Hoboken. To give a flavor of the utter self-involvement of the author, he doesn't even bother to make an earnest attempt to learn the Chinese language until the fifth year of his six year stay, and then it is only (by his own admission) to "save face." The author's life revolves around getting drunk and partying with other equally immature and self-involved "ex-pats," who clearly have no interest in China other than the relative ease of making a living while doing nothing productive. To give a flavor of the author's childish fixation on himself, he manages to use "I' seven times in three sentences in a single paragraph. After mooching off of his parents and the Chinese system for six years, he decides to return to Canada, obviously having learned nothing more about China than the reader does by reading this book, which should be titled, "Apologies to My Readers."
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Some really fascinating, off-beat, and truly bizarre stories humorously related by Mitch Moxley about a country that continues to amaze, confound, and beguile visitors, whether they be tourists or expatriates. But I found the narrative severely compromised by the author's cloying generational angst and aimlessness. Too much of the story revolved around this Millennial's search for meaning, love, and purpose in an alien culture, all the while being abetted by his parents and underwritten by his amoral willingness to participate in an exploitive business and social culture. Had he not been in China, I could have sworn he was still living in his parents' basement at age 30.
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It was somewhat interesting but as a parent I kept thinking why are his parents bankrolling him. He was taking advantage of their generousity and behaving poorly.
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Wholly self-centered account of flailing around in China with no purpose in life. The author would have been better off reprinting his "The Atlantic" columns, not this woe-is-me account of his years in China.
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Although I don't often buy books with so many free ones available, this one intrigued me, and so I went ahead and purchased it. I am so glad that I did. Thanks, Tall Rice, from Barbara aka good orchid bamboo. I will be going back to the USA in July of 2014, after being in and out of China since 1992, knowing that China will always be in my blood and in my heart, my stomach, and my liver. Keep writing, Meetch. I will continue to buy your books. Great read, from the "bottle of my heart." Xie Xie hao.
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I've lived in Beijing for 13 years. As an ex-pat from America, it's hard for me to encapsulate what the experience is like to live in China. That's what makes Apologies to my Censor so good. Moxley does a great job of accurately capturing my own experience. His anecdotes may be different from mine, but they share the same qualities. They are absurd, unexpected, humorous, and surreal. I've often asked myself what am I doing here, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Now when someone asks me what it's like to live in China, I can just tell them to read Apologies to my Censor.
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