Even when the library’s computer tells me I’m at the top of the list of people requesting a book, it can take as much as two months for the volume to arrive at my branch, for me to pick up. This adds an additional layer of mystery to what books I will have to read simultaneously.
I just finished Ha Jin’s new book, A Free Life, about a Chinese man and his family who emigrated to the US before the Tiananmen Square massacre. Circumstance then led them to a northern Atlanta suburb, where they owned and operated a restaurant (the author taught here at Emory for a time), and the years passed. Ha Jin crafted a good tale, but the epilogue and appended poems (authored by the hero at the end of the tale) make the volume truly special.
The other book I’m reading is non-fiction and a couple of years old, but still pretty recent. It is River Town: Two Years on the Yangtze, by Peter Hessler, about Hessler and a pal who teach English in Fuling, a city on the Yangtze near the Three Gorges Dam. I haven’t gotten far in this volume, so I don’t know where Hessler gets with it….
Together, the two provide interesting insights into modern China, and the concerns of individual citizens. I still can’t imagine living in modern Chinese mega-cities, with those high population densities and pollution levels….