Asia,  Book Reviews,  Creative Non-Fiction,  FOUR STARS ****,  NON FICTION

Oracle Bones by Peter Hessler **** (of 4)

Normally when a magazine writer — Hessler is a New Yorker correspondent — assembles a book it feels like a compilation of previously published articles. Not so for Oracle Bones because Hessler manages to hold together the fine details of daily life in China — the smell of soup, the dust in Tiananmen Square, the rumble of trucks — with the global signficance of China’s headlong rush into industrialization and capitalism. Throughout it all he uses plot generated by three or four characters whose stories intertwine leaving me with only a minor, though forgiveable, sense of contrivance. In sum Hessler has given me an impression of China in the first decade of the 2000s that is built on jiade, false or bootleg versions of everything from DVDs to college diplomas, and a culture just beginning to wonder what the consequences of mass capitalization is having on the spiritual core of its people. A surprisingly easy read for such a long, detailed book. December 2007.