The Laughing Sutra

Mark Salzman, Author Random House (NY) $18.95 (263p) ISBN 978-0-394-57009-9
The author of the highly praised Iron and Silk , the nonfiction account of his years as a teacher in China, debuts with a novel whose sincerity, good spirits and imaginative high jinks make up for some weaknesses in prose and narrative momentum. A blend of picaresque adventure, guide to China's history, politics and culture, and satire on contemporary life in China and the U.S., the book has an unpretentious charm. Salzman's protagonist, orphaned Hsun-ching, is rescued from death by a mysterious Colonel Sun, whose great age, brilliant yellow eyes and superhuman strength identify him as the legendary Monkey King. Adopted by a venerable Buddhist monk, Hsun-ching learns of his mentor's lifelong quest for the Laughing Sutra, purported to hold the key to immortality, which has been taken from China by a San Francisco collector. Forced into servitude during the Cultural Revolution, on his release Hsun-ching decides to go to America and find the text. Colonel Sun joins him, and their adventures, both suspenseful and funny, allow Salzman to turn a satiric eye on misguided revolutionaries, fatuous religious proselytizers and pretentious artists and bureaucrats in both countries. Though he has a tendency to slip into didacticism, Salzman nevertheless manages to convey a great deal of information about China while entertaining readers with a generally suspenseful, often rollicking tale. Author tour. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1991
Release date: 01/01/1991
Paperback - 272 pages - 978-0-679-73546-5
Open Ebook - 185 pages - 978-0-307-81424-1
Prebound-Sewn - 978-1-4177-1856-6
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