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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From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.


A light-speed tour of (mostly) Western poetry, from the 4,000-year-old Gilgamesh to the work of Australian poet Les Murray, who died in 2019.

In the latest entry in the publisher’s Little Histories series, Carey, an emeritus professor at Oxford whose books include What Good Are the Arts? and The Unexpected Professor: An Oxford Life in Books, offers a quick definition of poetry—“relates to language as music relates to noise. It is language made special”—before diving in to poetry’s vast history. In most chapters, the author deals with only a few writers, but as the narrative progresses, he finds himself forced to deal with far more than a handful. In his chapter on 20th-century political poets, for example, he talks about 14 writers in seven pages. Carey displays a determination to inform us about who the best poets were—and what their best poems were. The word “greatest” appears continually; Chaucer was “the greatest medieval English poet,” and Langston Hughes was “the greatest male poet” of the Harlem Renaissance. For readers who need a refresher—or suggestions for the nightstand—Carey provides the best-known names and the most celebrated poems, including Paradise Lost (about which the author has written extensively), “Kubla Khan,” “Ozymandias,” “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” Wordsworth and Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads, which “changed the course of English poetry.” Carey explains some poetic technique (Hopkins’ “sprung rhythm”) and pauses occasionally to provide autobiographical tidbits—e.g., John Masefield, who wrote the famous “Sea Fever,” “hated the sea.” We learn, as well, about the sexuality of some poets (Auden was bisexual), and, especially later on, Carey discusses the demons that drove some of them, Robert Lowell and Sylvia Plath among them. Refreshingly, he includes many women in the volume—all the way back to Sappho—and has especially kind words for Marianne Moore and Elizabeth Bishop, who share a chapter.

Necessarily swift and adumbrative as well as inclusive, focused, and graceful.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-300-23222-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Yale Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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