Strange Stones: Dispatches from East and West

Peter Hessler. HarperPerennial, $14.99 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-06-220623-7
In 18 elegant and thoughtful essays, almost all previously published in the New Yorker, prize-winning writer Hessler reflects on the foreign and the familiar, offering profiles of people who are often “chameleonlike, while others dreamed of returning home,” as well as a few who were engaged in “creative bumbling.” Although many of the essays focus on China, where he lived for a decade and a half, they range over topics from rat restaurants and life in a Chinese boomtown to life in the uranium town of Uravan, Colo., to the experience of moving from China back the U.S. In a profile of pharmacist Don Colcord, from Nucla, Colo., Hessler provides a brief history of the this small town that grew up over a century ago and was named by idealists that hoped the community would become the “center of Socialistic government for the world.” Drawing upon the experience of one of his former students, Hessler provides a portrait of the Chinese boomtown Shenzen, illustrating how it became divided into two worlds, which were described by the residents as guannei and guanwai—”within the customs” and “outside the customs.” In one of the most hilarious and poignant essays, Hessler reflects on his move back to America after more than a decade away by recalling his victory in a half marathon in Las Vegas: “I had run alone down Frank Sinatra Boulevard, and I had appeared on Las Vegas television… Finally I was home, and I had a story to tell; in America that was all you’d ever need.” (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/11/2013
Release date: 05/01/2013
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