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Journey of a Thousand Miles: My Story Paperback – September 8, 2009

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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—This world-renowned pianist was born to parents whose lives and aspirations were interrupted by China's Cultural Revolution. Like his entire generation, he was an only child due to his country's population-control policy. This created a kind of perfect storm. In some families, every ambition parents had for their own lives was visited upon their offspring. That was the case with Lang Lang, whose creative and musical parents were delighted when their son showed great interest and talent for piano at an early age. While this is the story of his life, it is also the story of a family's struggle to balance ambition, expectations, and relationships, and it illustrates to the extreme the pressure many young people face to live up to their own and their parents' expectations. The writing is immediate and emotional, drawing readers into a life of hard work, dedication, music, competition, and performance. Lang Lang's life and creative choices demonstrate a willingness to take chances and trust his instincts, honed through years of battling insular established systems.—Charlotte Bradshaw, San Mateo County Library, CA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Smith spent much of a tumultuous life in one glamorous endeavor, filmmaking, wishing he were in another, writing. How he evolved from thrill-seeking, drug- and alcohol-besotted low man on the Hollywood totem pole to sober, insightful writer is the subject of this moving, gently written memoir made up of 12 loosely connected personal essays, in which he touches on such diverse topics as love of skydiving, ambivalence about his family, and struggling repeatedly with chemical addiction. As the book’s title implies, Smith also spends a lot of time discussing the film industry—how he found work in it, whom he met, the niche he occupied, what a key grip does (rigs lights, prepares dolly shots, does last-minute construction), and why he stayed in the field despite long hours, grueling pace, and exploitative producers. Altogether, a wise, intensely readable autobiography that should please those who enjoy reading about transformation-filled life journeys and those who like a spoonful of gossip to make the life lessons go down. --Jack Helbig --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Spiegel & Grau; Reprint edition (September 8, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385524579
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385524575
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #133,067 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By D. S. Wong on August 28, 2008
Format: Hardcover
When he burst into the classical music world as a seventeen-year old pianist from China, it was more than his piano playing versatility, and repertoire that caused a sensation; it was also Lang Lang's personal history and background. That a seventeen year old student at the Curtis Institute of Music, alone with his father in America, and away from his mother, etc, etc. This book is Lang's answer to the thousands of times he has been asked the same questions. He did a credible and honest job of describing his life and hardship in China. However, his telling of his growth and maturation in America in the last quarter of the book is superficial and shallow, as what one would expect from a 26-year old.

However, as a Chinese-American reader I am also struck by several aspects of Lang's book. First, it must have been a catharsis for him to retell the relationship with his father, the conflicts and mental and physical abuse (in American eyes, but not necessarily to the Chinese) he suffered. He has violated one of the most important Chinese canons, that is: "don't publicize family dirt." It must have taken a tremendous amount of courage and maybe some American rebelliousness to write a tell-all book about his father. Second, he appears to be challenging the musical, maybe even the artistic hierarchy of China, that winning competitions, especially international competitions is not the measurement of musical or artistic achievement. Third, Lang Lang's fierce personal drive and desire to succeed is not often evidenced in Chinese-American artists. This book explains his love of fashion, hairstyles as well his flamboyance and showmanship (good or bad) and, in turn, his success in America.

I highly recommend this book, especially to Chinese-Americans and readers who wish to better understand and appreciate Lang Lang.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Rui Zhu on July 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I picked up the book reluctantly, expecting it shallow and celebratory. Loving Lang Lang's music, I had no intention to idolize him however. But the book turned out to be well written and surprisingly rich in meaingful details.

The book is more about human bonding amid struggles, the power of passion, the cut-throat but still humane environment in today's China, than about parading the gamut of Lang Lang's musical feelings. The tone of the book is honest and sincere.

I am moved particularly by the character in Lang Lang's father. The book depicts him as relentless, maniacal, absurd, but utterly committed to his son and capable of all-out self-sacrifices. He represents a familiar truth that has terrified many people in the past - a father's love is most revealed in his despair. When he despairs, he is at the most destructive.
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Christoff on August 7, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This book absolute blew me away by the powerful experiences related by this equally brilliant musician. I read it 3 x times within the first 3 weeks after release. I will cherish and read this book over and over again. It feels to me as if Lang Lang is standing or sitting next to me telling me his life story personally.

I believe reviewer "G. Hansman "jakebc" (Vancouver, Canada)" was reviewing an altogether different book when he wrote his review of this same phenominal title. I hope to have Lang Lang sign my book in the near future to cherish even more for years and decades to come. I have and will continue to recommend this outstanding book to any possible real reader of good books. Not only is the content extremely moving and moved me to tears on every reading whether Lang Lang achieved success or whether he failed, but the presentation style is extremely accessible and of a deeply personal nature.

Lang Lang absolutely bared his soul to readers and lovers of his brilliant music CDs & performances. I will also forever in future when I see, watch or hear any other talented person - not only in music - remember that the artist I'm enjoying may have gone through an often brutal training and preparation phase to produce that which I'm enjoying now.

To every person who loves reading good Non-Fiction: Buy this book immediately - I can hardly imagine anyone not getting his/her value for their money and time reading this amazing book!!
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45 of 59 people found the following review helpful By G. Hansman on July 16, 2008
Format: Hardcover
While recognizing that he is still early into his career, and as someone who appreciates the piano work of Mr. Lang, I was surprised at how hollow, clunky, and one-dimensional this autobiography came across -- even with an English-speaking co-writer. The difficult relationship between Mr. Lang and his father, who overzealously pushes his son to an almost abusive level, is the predominant narrative here -- while there is little about Mr. Lang's love of particular pieces of music, his vision for bringing Chinese musice to Western audiences, or anything of depth written about his art itself.

Too bad. I would have liked to have read those things. Mr. Lang does so well in interviews in making classical music accessible to audiences, often his enthusiasm doing most of the talking! That doesn't come across here.

Nor does one really get a sense of Mr. Lang as a person. One gets the sense that his father has trained him to be a piano-playing machine -- cut off from anything resembling real life, asexual, and flat. Where is the living, breathing man? One fears that the sterility of life as depicted in "Journey of a Thousand Miles" will only have a negative impact on his art in the long run -- unless there's much more to Mr. Lang than what is conveyed here in this autobiography. If so, it's a missed opportunity, and doesn't make for an interesting read.
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