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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Your granchildren will read it in college in 50 years. Why not read it now?, February 1, 2009
This review is from: The Last Days of Old Beijing: Life in the Vanishing Backstreets of a City Transformed (Hardcover)
Journalists, businessmen, students, professors and diplomats in Beijing are all reading this book. Everyone's got a copy lying around that they're working on or have just finished, and for good reason: The Last Days of Old Beijing is an easy, thoughtful read about a culture, a country, a society, a city, a neighborhood and then the lives of a small group of people in a warren of dilapidated, traditional housing one step away from the wrecking ball in old Beijing. An elegiac memoir of the author's life as an accepted member of this poor community, a hilarious account of the misadventures of all sorts of people living in the hutong, and a wider criticism of the tragedy of the destruction of China's past in the name of money, The Last Days of Old Beijing is also a suspense story pitting tradition and locals against the wealthy and powerful development forces Meyer calls only "The Hand."

The journalism is impeccable and the writing a joy. In this example, he is recounting his conversation with a Chinese writer: "Like Feng, Zhang felt he was finished writing books; the cataloging of heritage took all his time. "My first book was about the Eight Big hutong," he said, holding his hands parallel, with the palms facing in, before his stomach. "I just finished another book on Dazhalan's history, which covers one hundred and fourteen hutong." His hands moved farther apart, framing his body. "That just got me interested in the rest of Beijing's remaining neighborhoods." The space between his hands grew wider. "Then I wanted to know more about all of China." Now his arms were fully outstretched. "Next I need to learn about all of the world's other cities and how they protect heritage!" His arms windmilled in the ashy air."

Each page contains a treasure, and you will be smarter and more insightful when you finish. Chinese history professors will assign this book in their classes fifty years from now. Why not get a jump on your grandkids and read it now?

I rate along with John Pomfret's Chinese Lessons and Peter Hessler's River Town as one of the three best on China today.
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Location: China

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