☆ [PDF / Epub] ★ Strange Stones: Dispatches from East and West By Peter Hessler ✩ – Dailytradenews.co.uk

Strange Stones: Dispatches from East and West chapter 1 Strange Stones: Dispatches from East and West, meaning Strange Stones: Dispatches from East and West, genre Strange Stones: Dispatches from East and West, book cover Strange Stones: Dispatches from East and West, flies Strange Stones: Dispatches from East and West, Strange Stones: Dispatches from East and West 4b9ca360822e0 An Absorbing And Ambitious Work Of Reportage On History, Politics, And Culture From The Acclaimed New Yorker CorrespondentOver The Past Decade, Peter Hessler Has Built A Reputation As One Of The Finest Journalists Working Today The Three Books He S Published In That Time Brilliantly Explore The Wonders, Oddities, And Paradoxes Of Life In Modern China In The Pages Of The New Yorker, He Has Persistently Probed And Illuminated Worlds Both Foreign And Familiar, Ranging From China, Where He Served As The Magazine S Correspondent From To , To Southwestern Colorado, Where He Lived For Four YearsStrange Stones Is A Far Ranging, Thought Provoking Collection Of Hessler S Best Reportage Over The Past Decade During This Time, Hessler Lived In Asia And The United States, Writing As Both Native And Knowledgeable Outsider In These Two Very Different Regions This Unusual Perspective Distinguishes Strange Stones, Which Showcases Hessler S Unmatched Range As A Storyteller Wild Flavor Invites Readers Along On A Taste Test Between Two Rat Restaurants In South China One Story Profiles Yao Ming, Basketball Star And China S Most Beloved Export, Another David Spindler, An Obsessive And Passionate Historian Of The Great Wall In Dr Don, Hessler Writes Movingly About A Small Town Pharmacist And His Relationship With The People He Serves While Hessler S Subjects And Locations Vary, Subtle But Deeply Important Thematic Links Bind These Pieces The Strength Of Local Traditions, The Surprising Overlap Between Apparently Opposing Cultures, The Powerful Lessons Drawn From Individuals Who Straddle Different WorldsFull Of Unforgettable Figures And An Unrelenting Spirit Of Adventure, Strange Stones Is A Dazzling Display Of The Powerful Storytelling, Shrewd Cultural Insight, And Warm Sense Of Humor That Are The Trademarks Of Peter Hessler S Work

10 thoughts on “Strange Stones: Dispatches from East and West

  1. says:

    Peter Hessler s fourth book is a compilation of eighteen essays, most of which appeared in some form in The New Yorker Each week when my issue of that magazine arrives, I notice first the by lines There are certain author names I recognize right away, and I read them first, sometimes even before looking at the cartoons Peter Hessler is one of those authors.I became acquainted a dozen years ago with his first book, River Town, which is the story of his years in China as a member of the Peace Corps His two subsequent books were also about China, primarily about ordinary people into whose lives he delves deeply and sympathetically It s wonderful writing I feel no need to embellish further from that statement.I picked up this, his fourth book, inspired by a rare opportunity to hear him speak and to attend a QA session he held with writing students His talk was great so is this book Besides the essays about China, he includes several essays written upon return to the United States But it s the window into China that I crave.While this book lacks the central focus of his first three, the essays are warm and brilliant observations that add to the impressions of China garnered from the first books I have a few favorite essays One, called Quartet, details his four traffic accidents in a country with millions of new drivers and no tradition of driving protocol Another, Walking the Wall, profiles several Great Wall obsessed people notably American David Spindler who are part archeologists, part historians, part hikers Wild Flavor takes the reader along to compare two restaurants in China that specialize in serving rat We have unique views of the new Chinese economy in Chinese Barbizon and Boomtown Girl It would be easy to go on, but Spoiler Alert you will like this narrative non fiction.

  2. says:

    I ve read all four of Peter Hessler s books, this being the most recent, and MAN is he a terrific observer and writer His essays are brilliant his first book, River Town, about his Peace Corps volunteer experience in Fuling, China, is brilliant everything he writes is brilliant I love his observations, his humor, his deep and abiding respect and affection for his human subjects his clear, beautiful, and accessible writing everything Much of his writing is about his 15 year residence in China anyone with any level of interest in China should read this book well, anyone with any interest in human nature, in the world, in OK anyone who is breathing should read this book This latest, a collection of essays, also includes pieces written about the USA southwest, and Colorado in particular, where he and his writer wife Leslie Chang moved after living in China Peter Hessler is a MacArthur Fellow 2011 and he and his family now live in Cairo, where he is a foreign correspondent for The New Yorker READ THIS BOOK READ ALL OF HIS BOOKS AND ANYTHING ELSE YOU CAN GET YOUR HANDS ON BY MR HESSLER

  3. says:

    4 stars or if this is the first Peter Hessler book you ve read 3.5 stars if you ve read any of his China trilogy books previously The rating discrepancy is due to some overlap here with his prior books and the tidy endings in the essays to make them fit within a magazine the New Yorker that are thankfully absent in a full length book.While reading this book I thought back to the Seinfeld episode where Jerry cannot be unfunny I think it was that Jerry cannot not be funny This is the fourth Hessler book I ve read and I think he s incapable of writing poorly All of the usual good stuff is on display here the depth of writing the perceptiveness the humor the effortless storytelling This book is a good starting point to get sense of Hessler s writing style or if you want to try a book you can pick up and put down frequently None of the stories should take than a half hour and a few are pretty short All of the essays are good and Quartet was my favorite although that essay largely appeared in Hessler s third book Country Driving.

  4. says:

    Loved this book The author is an adventurous and thoughtful soul who is able to relate to all manner of people in different parts of the globe, and his experiences make for quite an extraordinary journey The book is a compilation of eighteen exquisite essays which do not have to be read in any particular order but each and every one really should be read because they are that good The vignettes are moving and funny and insightful, and offer glimpses into towns and cultures and everyday people mainly in China and in the western United States.Hessler starts out with a foray into Luogang, a village in China s southern province, to dine at the city s famous rat restaurants His matter of fact description of eating rat at two competing establishments is a fine introduction to the rest of the book but the stories just keep getting better and better Many are set in exotic locales like the first one in Luogang but the stateside ones are equally moving and Hessler is great when describing a druggist who dispenses friendly advice along with pharmaceuticals in a slowly dwindling town in Colorado Readers join Hessler in his walk along parts of the Great Wall of China while gaining understanding about the wall s history, and we learn about a beach resort on the Bo Hai Sea where the government officials always vacation Some might not like the fact that stories about China are interspersed with the author s accounts of moving back to America where among other things, he finds himself stumblingly winning a half marathon along Frank Sinatra Boulevard in Las Vegas But I really like the transitions back and forth Hessler is skilled enough to allow us to appreciate both the exotic and the familiar while yearning for in each.

  5. says:

    I m biased, but I think Peter Hessler writes some of the best narrative non fiction around This book is a fantastic showcase of it My favorite essays were Chinese Barbizon I love the way Hessler brings home the ties between China and the U.S., ties that exist where you least expect them Wild Flavor just funny and Strange Stones Peace Corps, Hessler writes, changed you, but not necessarily in the way you d expect It was a bad job for hard core idealists, most of whom ended up frustrated and unhappy Pragmatists survived absolute truth, in my experience But everything in this book is good.

  6. says:

    In the title essay, Strange Stones, Hessler wrote From the beginning, the Peace Corps had another goal to produce Americans with knowledge about the outside world It was intended to influence national policy everybody I knew had been changed forever by the experience But these changes were of the sort that generally made people less likely to work for the government The vast majority of former volunteers would have opposed the American adventure in Iraq But their opinions had virtually no impact on national policy

  7. says:

    Peter Hessler is an American writer who spent years living abroad in China His memoir of teaching in a village called Fuling, River Town, is one of my favorites Strange Stones compiles various observations from his time in China, but also upon his return to the United States, where he lives in a small town in the Rocky Mountains.If you ve never had a chance to read anything by Hessler, I highly recommend doing so His work is very readable, and touches on everything from food, family, relationships, business and travel My favorite Hessler book is still River Town, but Strange Stones is still head and shoulders above most China memoirs.

  8. says:

    This is a hard book to rate, but I probably give it 3.5 stars It s good interesting and entertaining but it s a collection of articles essentially, so it s not as cohesive as Hessler s other books I somewhat dreaded finishing it because I like his writing on China, and after this book, there are no This book is mostly articles that were originally in the New Yorker, with most of them being about China, and a few about rural America After living abroad for about 15 years in the UK and China, Hessler returned to the United States, living in rural Colorado for a time This helped give him some fresh perspectives on both places, and positioned him to tell stories of people who don t always capture the attention of most writers He does have brushes with notable people, but also shares the struggles and dreams of ordinary people.It s not a single theme for a book, so it s hard to summarize I thought it would be useful to just share a few random quotes that I thought were insightful In an article about walking the Great Wall, Hessler shares some perspectives on its importance Historians generally portray the Great Wall as a military failure and a waste of resources Spindler disagrees, noting that the improved wall held back major attacks in the sixteenth century At Shuitou, where we hiked, the Chinese defeated thousands of Mongols in a key battle For the Ming, the wall was only part of a complex foreign policy, but because it s the most lasting physical relic, it receives disproportionate blame for their fall 43 When reconnecting with a student he taught a few years earlier The building was only half constructed the walls unpainted, the plaster chipping away, the plumbing unfinished They didn t have hot water yet and probably never would Much of the development beyond the Shenzhen fence seemed to be like this abandoned before it was completed There was so much work to do, so many new factories and apartments to build, and contractors moved on once the bare essentials were in place It occurred to me that if anything in this region was actually finished, it was immediately sent away for export 106 People living where the Three Gorges dam was going to flood But there was almost no long term planning If the river rose, they moved up the hillside farmers waited until the water reached their fields before harvesting When people spoke of the future, they meant tomorrow 132 And the lack of political stability taught people to avoid long term plans Since 1949, policy has changed so often You never knew what would happen In the 1980 s, people saw the reforms as an opportunity And you had to seize the opportunity, because it might not last Whenever I traveled along the Yangtze, I sensed that the Three Gorges dam s timing was perfect Building the dam appealed to the dreams of the Communist leaders, but they never could have achieved it in the days of Maoist isolation and political chaos, before the market reforms And if the reforms had been around long enough for locals to get their bearings and look beyond satisfying today s immediate desires, they would have questioned and possibly resisted the project In the future, when people look back at this particular moment in China s transition, with its unusual combination of communism and capitalism, the most lasting monument may well be an enormous expanse of dead water in central China 133 On a town that had been near a uranium mine Scientists said that, despite the public perception, radiation is a weak carcinogen In the 1980 s, the National Cancer Institute conducted an extensive study of all 107 American counties that contained a nuclear power plant or a Department of Energy nuclear facility The study found no excess cancers Recently the institute participated in a fifteen nation study that involved over four hundred thousand nuclear industry employees, all of whom had worn dosimeters that tracked radiation levels over years of work Dr Ethel S Gilbert, a scientist at the institute, told me that they found no evidence of increased mortality for people exposed to doses of less than 0.1 sieverts, which is than fifty times the average annual dose of an American nuclear power employee She talked about the challenges of explaining such issues, because people fail to distinguish between high and low doses of radiation With high levels of radiation, there s a clear linear pattern exposure means an incremental rise in risk But it s unclear whether this pattern continues into the lower dose range, where any health effects are so small that they can t be demonstrated by epidemiological studies 149 The experience working in the Peace Corps changed you, but not necessarily in the way you d expect It was a bad job for hard core idealists, most of whom ended up frustrated and unhappy Pragmatists survived, and the smart ones set small daily goals learning a new Chinese phrase or teaching a poem to a class of eager students Long term plans tended to be abandoned Flexibility was important, and so was a sense of humor There had been nothing funny about the Peace Corps brochures, and the typical American view of the developing world was deadly serious there were countries to be saved and countries to be feared That was true of the Communists, too their propaganda didn t have an ounce of humor But the Chinese people themselves could be surprisingly lighthearted They laughed at many things, including me my nose, the way I dressed, the way I spoke their language It was a terrible place for somebody stiffly proud to be American Sometimes I thought of the Peace Corps as a reverse refugee organization, displacing all of us lost Midwesterners, and it was probably the only government entity that taught Americans to abandon key national Characteristics Pride, ambition, impatience, the instinct to control, the desire to accumulate, the missionary impulse all of it slipped away 164 On a chapter on driving in China When you live in China as a foreigner, there are two critical moments of recognition The first occurs immediately upon arrival, when you are confronted with your own ignorance Language, customs, history all of it has to be learned and the task seems impossible Then, just as you begin to catch on, you realize that everybody else feels pretty much the same way The place changes too fast nobody in China has the luxury of being confident in his knowledge Who shows a peasant how to find a factory job How does a former Maoist learn to start a business Who has the slightest clue how to run a car rental agency Everything is figured out on the fly the people are masters at improvisation This is the second moment of recognition, and it s even frightening than the first 213 In an interview with Yao Ming In china, the goal has always been to glorify the country, Yao said I m not opposed to that But I personally don t believe that that should be the entire purpose of athletics I also have personal reasons for playing We shouldn t entirely get rid of the nationalism, but I do think that the meaning of sport needs to change I want people in China to know that part of why I play basketball is simply personal In the eyes of Americans, if I fail, then I fail It s just me But for the Chinese, if I fail, then that means that thousands of other people fail along with me They feel as if I m representing them 247 When I visited the GM China offices in Shanghai, Timothy P Stratford, the company s general counsel, handed me two photographs In the first picture, two cars were parked side by side the green one was the QQ of the Chinese brand Chery , and the black one was the Matiz, the South Korean original In the second picture, the doors had been switched green on black, black on green You would never find two competitors cars where the doors could be swapped, Stratford explained It means that not only do they copy the door but everything else that is necessary to form the opening for the door A door opening is kind of like a fingerprint for a car 287 In an article about the city of Lishui, which has many people dedicated to being painters He explained that a clerk had miswritten his given name on an earlier application, so now it was simpler to just use that title He was becoming somebody else, on his way to a country he d never seen Italy , preparing to do something completely new When I asked what kind of work he hoped to find and what the pay might be, he said, How can I tell I haven t been there yet Next to us in line, a man in his early twenties told me he planned to go to Azerbaijan, where he had a relative who might help him do business I asked the young man if Azerbaijan was an Islamic country, and he said, I don t know I haven t been there yet In other words, virtually everything I had heard from the Lishui migrant workers, in the form of unsubstantiated rumor, turned out to be true about workplace hazards It was another efficiency of the third tier factory town People manufactured tiny parts of things, and their knowledge was also fragmented and sparse But they knew enough to be mobile and decisive, and their judgment was surprisingly good 311 In an article about moving back to the United States People in China never talked like that They weren t storytellers they didn t like to be the center of attention, and they took little pleasure in narrative They rarely lingered on interesting details It wasn t an issue of wanting to be quiet in fact, most Chinese could talk your ear off about things like food and money and weather, and they loved to ask foreigners questions But they avoided personal topics, and as a writer I learned that it could take months before an interview subject opened up Probably it was natural in a culture where people live in such close contact, and where everything revolves around the family or some other group And a Chinese person with options would never choose to live in a place like southwestern Colorado The American appetite for loneliness impressed me, and there was something about this solitude that freed conversation One night at a bar in Ridgway Colorado , I met a man and within five minutes he explained that he had just been released from prison Another drinker told me that his wife had passed away, and that he had recently suffered a heart attack, and now he hoped that he would die within the year I learned that there s no reliable small talk in America at any moment a conversation can become personal 324 Leslie and I learned that the most effective way to kill our end of a conversation when in the US was to say that we were writers who had lived in China for than a decade Nobody knew what to make of that they seemed much comfortable talking about their most recent prison term At times, the lack of curiosity depressed me I remembered all those questions in China, where even uneducated people wanted to hear something about the outside world, and I wondered why Americans weren t the same But it was also true that many Chinese had impressed me as virtually uninterested in themselves and their communities They weren t reflective they preferred not to think hard about their own lives That was one of the main contrasts with Americans, who constantly created stories about themselves and the places where they lived In a small town, people asked very little of an outsider really, all you had to do was listen 325 Overall, it s a good book, and classic Peter Hessler, but not as great as an entire book on a single subject You can find most of these articles in old issues of the New Yorker, but it s nice to have them all in one place I would say it s a good book for someone who likes bite size pieces, or who has enjoyed Peter Hessler s books, and wants to have one last one that shares his wonderfully informative perspectives on China.

  9. says:

    Hessler is one of my favorite non fiction writers, with 3 previous books my favorite one being Oracle Bones about China and the years he spent living there This book is a collection of stories he wrote for the New Yorker most of them are about China, and some of them will be familiar to readers of his previous books, because the same stories appeared there That s a bit disappointing But there are also a few essays covering Colorado where he moved when he left China , Japan, and Nepal Those stories represent a branching out for Hessler, and some of them an examination of the legacy of uranium mining in southwest Colorado, a piece about the Japanese yakuza and a journalist who crusades against them are among the best pieces in this book.This is still an excellent book even the familiar stories are worth reading again Hessler approaches China with a very open mind, willing to approach the country on its own terms Perhaps the most critical observation which underpins much of what he writes about this rapidly changing society comes from the essay Quartet When you live in China as a foreigner, there are two critical moments of recognition The first comes immediately upon arrival, when you are confronted with your own ignorance Language, customs, history all of it has to be learned, and the task seems impossible Then, just as you begin to catch on, you realize that everybody else feels pretty much the same way The place changes too fast nobody in China has the luxury of being confident in his knowledge Who shows a peasant how to find a factory job How does a former Maoist learn to start a business Who has the slightest clue how to run a car rental agency Everything is figured out on the fly the people are masters at improvisation This is the second moment of recognition, and it s even frightening than the first Awareness of your own ignorance is a lonely feeling, but there s little consolation in sharing it with 1.3 billion neighbors

  10. says:

    This collection of dispatches cover a number of years of Peter Hessler s early writing years, covering rural China and small towns in Colorado Peter Hessler is well known as a correspondent for the New Yorker, and I have admired his work for many years His quiet way of writing suggests that of an excellent listener, and his way of seeing opens ones eyes to many wonders especially of China The first dispatch speaks of eating Rat in China, and the last closes with the only pharmacist within four thousand square miles in Southwestern Colorado Mr Hessler combines the best of Charles Kuralt and Bill Bryson and I am enthralled with the combination Spending over 1 1 2 decades in China the last time he put gas in a car in the United States he had to use leaded gas left him with China as his frame of reference He uses this frame to turn the mirror back to us Americans, and his insight is well worth reading Allow me to share a small section pg 325 In the States, I often had trouble responding to personal stories But soon I realized that it didn t make much difference what I said Many Americans were great talkers, but they didn t like to listen If I told somebody in a small town that I had lived overseas for fifteen years, the initial response was invariably the same Were you in the Military After that, people had few questions Leslie and I learned that the most effective way to kill our end of a conversation was to say that we were writers who had lived in China for than a decade Nobody knew what to make of that they seemed much comfortable talking about their most recent prison term The lack of curiosity depressed me I could go on, but why ruin it for you Take a chance and enjoy Strange Stories by Peter Hessler Highly Recommended.

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