Thursday, March 18, 2010

You're to Blame

I don't know why I read opinion articles anymore--they just make me want to bang my head against a wall. Political commentaries are the worst with mangled and bastardized "facts" and statistics that suit the particular writer's point of view while ignoring any contradictory argument no matter how well-supported it is.

But the opinion piece I'm referring to today has nothing to do with politics. It's about how Peter Hessler has ruined another foreigner's experience of living in China (yes, there have been others with this complaint). China Daily ran this article yesterday (which was posted elsewhere online a week earlier):
Peter Hessler singlehandedly ruined my life in China.

I've never seen Hessler, author of the bestsellers Oracle Bones and River Town, but I eke out a bitter existence every day in his footsteps.
Sounds rather harsh. Fortunately, the writer added a little bit of what passes for humor in some circles. The real complaint is that all the stories expats love to tell their friends back home have already been told by Hessler in one of his three books. There's nothing left for foreigners in China to do to impress the folks back home. Hessler previously issued an apology for "ruining" the China experience for everyone else.

After reading his books (I'm almost done with Country Driving), I can say that he didn't ruin anything for me as an expat in China or as a writer. I have many stories to tell that Hessler never experienced (or at least didn't write about). With the size of the country and how quickly it changes, there will be plenty of tales for foreigners to regale us with.

I met Peter Hessler at an author event at Asia Society last month and have exchanged e-mails with him (he is a very nice guy). He admits that there are still books to be written about China--but writers have to search a little deeper to find them now.


Xujun Eberlein said...

A great feature of Hessler's writing is its readability. He is capable of making a mundane anecdote interesting. I've bought "Country Driving" and look forward to reading it.

Peter said...

Agreed Matt. I like to add, that if people only go to China for the stories to tell back home, they may not go there for the right reasons ;-)

Country Driving will be the next book I hope to dig into. Just have to finish the extremely reader hostile "Satanic Verses" first.