Friday, January 16, 2009

The Sky Is Not All Grey

Postcards from Tomorrow Square: Reports from China
by James Fallows

A review by Xujun Eberlein

A proprietary approach I use to help assess English journalism books about China is to measure how much they tell me, a Chinese, what I don't already know. This, needless to say, lacks objectivity, and it can easily undervalue an otherwise excellent book. As an example, Out of Mao's Shadow by Philip Pan consists essentially of stories I had already read from the Chinese media or the internet. Not new to me, but that doesn’t mean the book is not worth reading for Western readers (in fact, it is).

On the other hand, this approach raises a high bar for journalists writing about China. To find stories not broadly known even to the Chinese requires not only extraordinarily acute ears, but also the admirably open mind of a deep thinker. Thus, I can narrow down my reading list to a few outstanding books. James Fallows' new book, Postcards from Tomorrow Square: Reports from China, is one of them. Many things he writes about are new to me, but that's the least of the delightful surprises. Continue reading on The China Beat >>


Uln said...

Thanks Xujun for that comprehensive review (I just read it on China Beat but commments are not open there!)

I was really reassured when I got to the phrase "is one of them". Actually I ordered this book when I saw the picture on your blog last week, and I am waiting for it to be delivered in time for the New Year holidays.

I am glad to see I haven't thrown my money and I can't wait to read about Tang Jinquan and co. (although many of Fallows articles I have probably read before on the AM)

Xujun Eberlein said...

Hi Uln, glad you find the review helpful. The book definitely is worth your money. :-) I wonder though, why couldn't you comment on China Beat? I just took a look, the comments are open there. Is this a "great firewall" problem?

Uln said...

Haha, no. Nothing to do with firewall. It is just that they use the Blogger system where you are forced to sign in as a google/blogger user. I don't use Blogger and I hate giving away my google email password on the internet. Your blog has the option to comment just using my Name/URL, but theirs for some reaon does not.