This open-minded, bemused portrait of a history-rich yet futuristic China beguiles.



A German journalist explores China’s mega-cities and remote outposts, takings risks that most tourists would avoid.

In this chronicle of his fourth trip to China, Orth, a former travel editor at Der Spiegel whose previous travelogues were about Russia and Iran, offers an unofficial account of “how the Chinese see the world…and about where this huge country is heading,” while acknowledging that any views formed can change. In a narrative that combines elements of memoir, travelogue, and cultural exposé, the author examines China’s infamous surveillance, state-sanctioned media, censorship, and reeducation camps, also providing snapshots of daily life that portray tech-savvy people who've mostly adapted to its breakneck pace. Deviations from the party line fascinate, and some of Orth’s hosts open up through WeChat and in-person interviews. Though they may not be a representative cross-section—“mostly middle class [people] who are cosmopolitan and exceptionally hospitable”—their stories shed light on how citizens live in a restrictive society: A subversive Beijing artist discusses the state mafia that claimed her studio. A woman motivated by the loss of her childhood home documents village traditions, impressing Orth with her innovation. An exile from the IT world embraces a Buddhist lifestyle. Even a Shenzhen policewoman disobeys workplace rules. Throughout, the author describes his newfound friends with candor, and he ably conveys the level of pollution and brash consumerism he encountered as well as the charm. His lively tales of navigating tense situations—e.g., meeting a cult leader—are particularly memorable. When he set out alone, such as in Xinjiang, where Muslim Uyghurs are persecuted, the narrative necessarily darkens. But the bulk of the narrative is far from bleak, and Orth includes clever anecdotes that stem from his “laowai” ("always a foreigner") status. Photographs and humorous mistranslations ("Be careful clothes sandwich," an escalator warning) embellish the work.

This open-minded, bemused portrait of a history-rich yet futuristic China beguiles.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77164-562-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Greystone Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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