Wall Street Journal’s Bookshelf

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.