This book is excellent — possibly one of my favorite books I’ve ever read. A rich, deep story about a Chinese farmer rising from a simple man of the land to the head of a great house.
Last week I started reading A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson, a travel book that he wrote after hiking (most of) the Appalachain Trail. Bryson’s novel is funny and educational, full of factoids about the natural environment of the Appalachian mountains and human impact in the past few centuries. On page 83 of my edition, he arrives in Franklin, a small town in southwestern North Carolina that was my home for the first 18 years of my life. Closest reference points are Asheville (1.5 hours northwest) and Atlanta (2 1/2 hours south). I thought Bryson’s observations of the town were hilarious, so I’ve quoted him here:
And so we had a little holiday in Franklin, which was small, dull and cautiously unattractive, but mostly dull — the sort of place where you find yourself, for want of anything better to do, strolling out to the lumberyard to watch guys on forklifts shunting wood about. There wasn’t a thing in the way of diversions, nowhere to buy a book or even a magazine that didn’t involve speedboats, customized cars, or guns and ammo. The town was full of hikers like us who had been driven down from the hills and had nothing to do but hang out listlessly in the diner or launderette and two or three times a day make a pilgrimage to the far end of Main Street to stare forlornly at the distant, snow-draped, patently impassable peaks.
There’s only one place in town I can think of where a diner and a laundromat are in the same shopping plaza, so I wonder if the diner is the B&D, an old staple for my family on Sunday mornings after church. I think Bryson’s observations are funny, but to do it justice, I must say that though Franklin is not the most bustling place on earth, it does have some great qualities that include a beautiful landscape and kind people.
It’s so funny to come across mention of a place no one who isn’t from the area has ever heard in such a well-known novel. I guess I will have to start reading more trail books to find out what others think!
I realize that this is not the best picture of the D. But it is worth noting that the bright sunset makes the city seem like a much happier place! – and it gives an idea of the magnitude of my view from the hotel, which is at General Motors.
Detroit has done right by me thus far, and sometime soon I plan on riding the People Mover to Greektown. Until then, an update on the reading situation.
Between Friday and today I finished Running with Scissors, finally finishing A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which took me a ridiculous amount of time to read because… it was horrible.
I guess it’s one of those love it or hate it things, and I knew after 25 pages that I didn’t love it and was determined to finish it anyway. And I did, and there were a couple of bright spots (like a quote I was going to include in this post, but alas, my book is in DC), but mostly it was a twisty, turny, plotless rant by Eggers. Which, oddly enough, was exactly what it was supposed to be, and no doubt what attracts many of its fans. Unfortunately, I’m not one. Inquire further if you’re interested.
And after Friday’s post I went out and bought Running With Scissors by Augusten Burroughs and I thought it was fascinating. Not the best book I’ve ever read, but a quick read because it’s honest, if a little disturbing. Both of these books are memoirs of types, and both take a candid look at the author’s past. But Running With Scissors maintains a much more understandable storyline and better anecdotes and self-analysis.
And now I’ve moved on to Marie Antoinette, which I want to read because the movie is coming out and after I saw a preview I started reading Wikipedia about her and spent most of Friday morning doing that. So we’ll see how long that one takes me.