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River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze (P.S.) Paperback – Bargain Price, April 25, 2006
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About the Author
Peter Hessler is a staff writer at The New Yorker, where he served as the Beijing correspondent from 2000 to 2007, and is also a contributing writer for National Geographic. He is the author of River Town, which won the Kiriyama Prize; Oracle Bones, which was a finalist for the National Book Award; and, most recently, Country Driving. He won the 2008 National Magazine Award for excellence in reporting, and he was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2011. He lives in Cairo.
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This particular book covers two years as a literature teacher at a small Chinese college. His students had previous instuction in English and understood it with varying degrees of comprehension. During his tour Hessler became fluent in Chinese and spent all of his tour with his students or getting to know the citizens in the adjacent town.
All of his students were from peasant families, making their interest in, and comments about, for example Shakespeare and American writers impressive. His comments and the comments by the citizenry re the mandates of the Communist Party are fascinating.
This book precedes another book he wrote later while living inBeijing and as a stringer for The Wall Street Journal
I have perhaps become a crashing bore in praising both books to the skies. Truly, these are books where you hate to come to the end.
This book is an interesting -- and also intensely personal -- account of living in China. I was sorry to have the book come to its end. 5 stars.
I can only suppose Mr. Hessler is brighter and more dedicated than I am: in his second year in country, he was daily conversing and reading newspapers in Chinese as a result of his private efforts, his regular classes with two tutors, and his daily practice with Old Hundred Names, the people at the bottom of the Chinese socio-economic scale. They were willing--even eager--to talk with the strange-looking foreigner, and they had a great stock of concrete knowledge of the way the country worked.
It was from Old Hundred Names that Mr. Hessler got his basic anthropological understanding of the country, from the particular cast of mind shared by Chinese individuals, through the assumptions and taboos all societies possess, to the conditions imposed by Socialism with Chinese Characteristics permeating the society at all levels.
I am not yet done with this book; I shall be sorry to finish it.