Riding Iron Rooster

Paul Theroux, Author
Paul Theroux, Author Putnam Publishing Group $21.95 (480p) ISBN 978-0-399-13309-1
Reviewed on: 04/25/1988
Release date: 00/00/0000
Theroux (The Old Patagonian Express, The Great Railway Bazaar) spent a year exploring China by train, and his impressions about what has and has not changed in the country, as gathered in hundreds of conversations with Chinese citizens, make up a large portion of the book. The Cultural Revolution and the vandalism of the Red Guards have left scars on both the land and the people. Mao's death brought a collective sigh of relief from the population; reforms brought about under Deng Xiaoping have generally been welcomed. Still, this is not a political book. Whether describing his dealings with a rock-hard bureaucracy, musing over the Chinese flirtation with capitalismthey've ""turned the free market into a flea market''or commenting on the process of traveling, Theroux conducts the reader through this enormous country with wisdom, humor and a crusty warmth. Along the way are anecdotes about classic Chinese pornography (forbidden to the citizenry, but all right for ``foreign friends''); 35-below-zero weather; the Chinese penchant for restructuring nature; and the omnipresent thermos of hot water for making tea. The last chapter, ``The Train to Tibet,'' deals with the extremes to which the Chinese have gone in their attempts to subjugate the Tibetan people. Theroux develops an understanding of China through his travels, but he falls in love with Tibet. As in his previous works, he gives the reader much to relish and think about. BOMC featured selection. (May)
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