STRONG DRINK, STRONG LANGUAGE by John Espey

STRONG DRINK, STRONG LANGUAGE

By

KIRKUS REVIEW

Droll memoirs of his boyhood in China by an American novelist (An Observer, 1965) and linguist. Much of this first appeared during the 1940's in The New Yorker and was collected at that time in three books. The amusement here hangs on Espey's fine sense of the meaning of words and the more limited understanding of his minister father, of Chinese servants, of Indian students, and so on whom young Espey met after his birth in Shanghai and later education at Occidental College in California and at Oxford. Among the memories: how Espey learned how to ride his first bicycle with no one's help; how he helped a nubile girl feed the homeless dogs in the neighborhood, an act the local Chinese discouraged since homeless dogs were the area's garbage removers; how he read forbidden novels about mixed marriages in China, edited (and largely wrote) the school paper without help, and came to antic grips with alcohol in China and during Prohibition in the States. One of the book's highlights is a review of the euphemisms allowed and disallowed in his family: impermissible was "Cheese and Crackers!"--an expletive debasing Jesus but favored at the Shanghai American School. These memoirs' other charms include loving sketches of Espey's parents, the missionary mentality spelled out in sharp penstrokes, and brook-water prose.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1990
ISBN: 936784-80-6
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