The May 22 episode of This American Life is a rebroadcast of “Americans In China,” which features me reading from what became Chapter One (“Winter Solstice”) of In Manchuria. The 17-minute segment begins at the 38:45 mark, introduced by Ira Glass. I find it hard to believe this first aired nearly three years ago; I remember writing it in a Changchun city Home Inn like it was yesterday. Now I’m a father, and in Singapore, writing the next book.
The esteemed National Geographic Traveler editor and writer Don George picked the book as a “great new travel read” at the Society’s Intelligent Travel blog.
In Shanghai, City Weekend wrote – if I dare say so myself – a spot-on review, highlighting some of the lines that still make me laugh. Fatty always has to go first . . .
Here is Joshua Bird’s review, which quotes my single favorite utterance about Manchuria, through the ages, from a French Jesuit priest crossing the Northeast in the 1800s: “Although it is uncertain where God created paradise, we can be sure He chose some place other than this.”
Jeffrey Wasserstrom’s take on In Manchuria in the FT’s Weekend section is here. It concludes:
There’s one final aspect of In Manchuria that gives it an edge over The Porcelain Thief, especially for anyone looking for a book to take on a first trip to China: it contains a sweetly told love story. Meyer doesn’t head to Wasteland just to satisfy his curiosity about the fate of Chinese rural communities, but also to learn how his wife became the person she is. Although Francis makes only occasional cameo appearances, the couple’s courtship and road to starting a family become a central thread in the book. Her dissection of how cynically fortune cookie sentiments would read if they had been written by a hard-nosed contemporary resident of China rather than by an American trying to ventriloquise a jolly Confucius (“The current year will bring you much happiness” would become “This is as good as it gets”, she suggests) is one of In Manchuria’s standout passages.