There’s a good chance Georges Borchardt was responsible for shepherding at least one of your favorite writers to publication. After immigrating to New York from war-torn France at age nineteen in 1947, Borchardt found work as an assistant at a literary agency. One of the first sales he completed on his own was a play by an Irishman titled Waiting for Godot.
Over the next seven decades, Borchardt introduced American readers to works by Jean-Paul Sartre, Marguerite Duras, Jacques Lacan, Roland Barthes, Michel Foucault, and Eugene Ionesco, and found a home for Elie Wiesel’s oft-rejected Night. He has represented John Gardner, Mavis Gallant, Stanley Elkin, and John Ashbery. Today his clients include Ian McEwan, T. C. Boyle, and Susan Minot as well as the nonfiction writers Tracy Kidder, Anne Applebaum, Adam Hochschild, and—somehow—me. Here’s my Interview with this fascinating man.
Here’s a link to my lengthy interview and Sleeping Dragon excerpt in the March/April edition of the AWP’s Writer’s Chronicle, its magazine sent to members and over 500 university writing programs. The AWP’s text is behind a paywall, but the interviewer, John Coyne, has helpfully posted it on the Peace Corps Worldwide site.
I spent the past weekend back in Dazhalan and Xianyukou, the two ancient neighborhoods whose daily life – and destruction – form the setting and plot of The Last Days of Old Beijing. Remarkably, the district government and its affiliated development company invited a team of 25 Urban Land Institute planners and architects to advise on how to regenerate what to this point has been a failed project. The team included the man behind the rebirth of London’s Covent Garden, the woman who oversaw Singapore’s Changi Terminal 3, and the former mayor of Pittsburgh who steered the construction of our beautiful river trails and ballpark.
Half of my former home is now a chain hotel, and the residents evicted. Much of Dazhalan remains intact, while immediately to its east the formerly vibrant hutong neighborhood of Xianyukou is a field of rubble. Still, I left the capital optimistic about its rebirth, provided the developer chooses to rebuild a community, instead of an anodyne destination.
On November 6, I’ll speak at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club, showing slides across twenty years of coming to know China from living in places most correspondents and tourists miss. Tickets are available here.
On October 12 I’ll show slides from the Chinese hinterlands across twenty years at the Asia Society NY (tickets here), in conversation with the New Yorker‘s Jiayang Fan. This is a talk starting from naivete, discussing how we think of and approach China based on our own starting points and eras. I began at zero! If a schmuck like me can figure this place out . . .
September 15: The University of California-Berkeley, Doe Library, 4pm
September 24: The Berlin Marathon, Germany 9:30am
October 10: The University of Pittsburgh’s William Pitt Union, 1pm
October 10: Penguin Bookshop, Sewickley, Pennsylvania, 7pm
October 12: The Asia Society, New York City (with the New Yorker‘s Jiayang Fan), 6:30pm
October 17: USC, US-China Institute, 4pm
October 18: The Adam Carolla Show, Los Angeles
November 6: The Commonwealth Club, San Francisco, 6pm
November 15: Columbia University, 4pm
November 15: The China Institute, New York City, 6:30pm
November 16: National Committee on US-China Relations, breakfast
The reviews-before-the-reviews are coming in, and I’m relieved the readers got the humor, and the tone of “humility gained through immersion.” Here’s Library Journal, Booklist, and Kirkus. “Many delightful and appalling adventures” would have made a great cover quote.
The book comes out on October 10 and is available for advance purchase here.
Its cover blurbs include a trio of nonfiction writers whose work spans China, Africa, Siberia and more:
“The Road to Sleeping Dragon is an invaluable resource for anybody determined to engage with today’s China. Rather than telling readers what to think about China, Michael Meyer’s lively memoir shows them how to think – how to embrace new experiences, new perspectives, and the ever-changing new incarnations of this incredible country.”—Peter Hessler, author of Oracle Bones and River Town
China has never had an explicator and enthusiast like Michael Meyer. His story of how he got to know the country is exciting, sometimes hair-raising, and always fascinating. This is a terrific book and I recommend it highly. –Ian Frazier, author of Travels in Siberia
“I’ve been an admirer of Michael Meyer since his first book, and this, his third, only makes me more so. It’s hard for me to think of anyone who can dive into another culture with such infectious zest and curiosity, and who gets in so deep, so fast.”—Adam Hochschild, author of King Leopold’s Ghost
In London this year I wrote the third book of my China trilogy. The Road to Sleeping Dragon: Learning China From the Ground Up will be published worldwide by Bloomsbury in 2017.