Here’s an interview embedded in a review with the Wall Street Journal. It begins:
Michael Meyer has a talent for linking China’s present to its past through the details of everyday life. For his first book, “The Last Days of Old Beijing,” (Walker, 2008) he parked himself in the hutong, the alleyways of old Beijing. That was the perfect observation post to chronicle how the modernizing metropolis prepared for the Olympics by razing communities rich with culture.
For “In Manchuria,” Mr. Meyer moved to his wife’s home village near Jilin. When he visited the government office to ask about its past, the clerk directed him to a stone outside, on which was carved: “Wasteland: In 1956, it became a village.”
“That really felt like a blank page,” he recalled, “like history waiting to be written.”
This is a big, ambitious book and, unlike his Beijing debut, about a topic totally outside current events. “I know it’s time to write a book, when the book I want to read doesn’t exist,” he joked in an interview last month in Singapore.
Here’s the link to my pod with conversationalist extraordinaire Gil Roth, recorded in New York City.
Here is my tale of Meng Zhaoguo, the Northeasterner who not only bedded an extraterrestrial, but impregnated one. (Her resemblance to the Michelin Man is purely coincidental.)
The Chinese show One Book, One City chooses a text to tour the town. In Paris, the show drew from Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast; in London, it followed one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mysteries. For Beijing, they picked The Last Days of Old Beijing, interviewing students featured in the book. (They flew to Singapore to talk to me.) Watch the show, in Chinese, here.
Here’s my Los Angeles Times piece on agricultural reforms in Wasteland, and also the Sinica podcast recorded in Beijing with David Moser and Kaiser Kuo. The latter started off by asking me to retell his favorite China story: my Sichuan bus ride that ended in mayhem, murder and a police station. Was it already 20 years ago this summer? I can still feel that guy’s hands around my neck . . .
Here’s an interview with the NYT’s Beijing bureau chief Edward Wong, timed to the launch of the Beijing Bookworm Literary Festival. I’ll be there March 21 and 22. Ironically, my courtyard home that is the setting of The Last Days of Old Beijing still stands, while the farmhouse that was my base for In Manchuria has been razed.
Here’s a LARB review by longtime China writer Adam Minter. He knows what Lake Wobegon looks like, on two continents.