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Video Night in Kathmandu: And Other Reports from the Not-So-Far East Paperback – June 18, 1989
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Pico Iyer is more than just a travel writer. For four years, he wrote about world affairs for Time, and he brings to these brilliant, comical, and poignant essays his extensive knowledge of politics and culture as well as a journalist's eye for the telling details. Video Night in Kathmandu provides both a stark, unsettling view of modern Asia and an exploration of the ambivalent attitudes Asians hold toward the West.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
The book really has two main values. First, it gives an annecdotal view of a lifestyle that, while only 15-20 years ago, is already gone. Hong Kong 1986 is a place in transition that is different than Hong Kong today. While many books today provide political and economic viewpoints on the times, and the changes, they don't accurately cover an expats view of life and cultural exchange.
The second value is in understanding aspects of the culture that still apply. India's polyclot of ethnic groups and interaction with the West applies today. Pico Iyer is adept at capturing cultural traits that last, and perhaps even grow, despite the pressures of a globalizing world.
I'm not a universal fan of all of Iyer's material, but this is certainly one of his better works. It's more readable, and the concepts more universal and lasting than some of his other books.
What especially impressed me was that Iyer does not romanticize or glorify or exoticize what is beautiful about the lands he travels to. Nor does he denigrate their shortcomings. He is a fair and honest observer of what he has chosen to observe: the ground zero of "west" meeting "east".
As someone who has studied in both China and Thailand (as well as two other Asian countries which were not in the book), I can vouch for the accuracy of what Iyer is reporting. Sure, a scholarly author might have added more details about Chinese philosophy or Thai history. But for his chosen topic, Iyer's accounts are complete and flawless.
The book is certainly entertaining, but it is also informative and thought-provoking as well. Well done, Mr. Iyer.
A few years ago, I wrote a book about travelling around East Asia called Notes from the Other China. Some people liked it, others didn't. My first book, I'm not really happy with it and don't recommend reading it. It's derivative and disjointed, but it's original, or so I thought. I was defensively touting its originality on a discussion board once when someone asked, `What about Pico Iyer's Video Nights in Kathmandu?' Another commenter chimed in, `Yes, I was just thinking of that one. He's good.'
I thought, `Pico who?'
I bought Mr. Iyer's The Global Soul, read half of it, and dropped it off at a second-hand bookstore thinking, `Life's too short.' I was also happy in a way. Iyer wasn't that good. I found The Global Soul boring (brush fires in California) and fawning (the city of Toronto). `I can write better,' I thought, and then, thinking there must have been something to the book that launched Iyer's career, I bought Video Nights in Kathmandu and such illusions evaporated.
Video Nights in Kathmandu is a travel-lit classic. It's beautifully written and realized. It's insightful, engaging, and all those other favourable adjectives professional reviewers use to gush about a book. Iyer makes use of metaphor superbly, he uses just the right amount of comedy, he's excellent at analysing and dissecting cultures, and he writes with genuine empathy, and it's this last quality that taught me something about travel writing.Read more ›
Iyer's insights are by no means new, unique or even profound. He sympathised with Chinese-occupied Tibet. He blew the spiritual cover of hippies in Nepal. He talked about the sex trade in Thailand. However, it is through this book that I discovered Pico Iyer's great talent with words and highly polished writing style. For those who like "plain English", I would certainly not recommend Iyer's books. But for those who enjoy introspective literary works, Iyer will not disappoint.
My favourite chapter is Thailand - Love in a Duty-Free Zone. The content of the chapter is as full of nuances as the title.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A lively, perceptive view of Asia--an astonishingly vast range of countries included--in the mid-1980s, and even more valuable because it contains an epilogue which moves into the... Read morePublished 20 months ago by Carrington Ludd
Great book, excellent writing and interesting reading. Pico Iyer has great insight into the way the world works and the people driving its changePublished on July 9, 2013 by adrian cox
Pico Iyer is a writing star. His lyrics flow, his thoughts captivate. The book is slightly dated, but still worth reading and thinking about or studying if you want to be a... Read morePublished on March 26, 2013 by Laura C. Lippman
HIghly recommend this book to anyone who has studied abroad, loves traveling, and/or wants to travel. Read morePublished on December 24, 2012 by Lisa S.
As I was reading, I couldn't help but think Iyer was trying to prove his point too much by rattling away with endless examples of globalism and American influence on Asian... Read morePublished on January 2, 2011 by Micah Anderson
Perhaps it's because I'm reading it 20 years later, but I was not so impressed with this book, for all the reasons mentioned above. Read morePublished on April 19, 2010 by Ravi C.
While I agree that Video Night is abit dated, I still loved the book. And I was delighted to see Murni's restaurant mentioned in the book. Read morePublished on September 19, 2008 by et
Brings back times of travel before the world learned of the Internet. True description of the oddities of Katmandu for anyone who has spent some time there. Read morePublished on December 26, 2005 by Kevin Smidge