Monday, September 6, 2010

Lost on Planet China

Lost on Planet China by J. Maarten Troost
Broadway Books, 2008
Trade Paperback, 400 pagesISBN-13: 9780767922012
not recommended


Maarten Troost has charmed legions of readers with his laugh-out-loud tales of wandering the remote islands of the South Pacific. When the travel bug hit again, he decided to go big-time, taking on the world’s most populous and intriguing nation. In Lost on Planet China, Troost escorts readers on a rollicking journey through the new beating heart of the modern world, from the megalopolises of Beijing and Shanghai to the Gobi Desert and the hinterlands of Tibet.
Maarten Troost brings China to life as you’ve never seen it before, and his insightful, rip-roaringly funny narrative proves that once again he is one of the most entertaining and insightful armchair travel companions around.
My Thoughts:
When Lost on Planet China: One Man's Attempt to Understand the World's Most Mystifying Nation was first published I always planned to read it because I had enjoyed Troost's other two books,The Sex Lives of Cannibals and Getting Stoned with Savages so much. As I said in the review of The Sex Lives of Cannibals, " He is funny, often in a lighthearted, self-deprecating way. Troost can find humor in the most mundane daily tasks." This was the humor I was anticipating and looking forward too. Alas, it was not to be.

If I based a decision whether or not to visit China based on Troost's book, I'd never go.

He [the author] would write honestly about China. He would write from the perspective of a guy who neither speaks Chinese nor has all that much knowledge pertaining to things Chinese, a guy who spent month after month just kind of wandering around this massive and rapidly changing country, without a plan, learning and experiencing life there. pg. x

There are two kinds of people roaming the far fringes of the world: Mormon missionaries and Chinese businessmen. opening

But as I delved into his black and yellow Reference Book for the Rest of Us, I soon realized that if it was indeed sufficient to teach Chinese to a dummy, then clearly I must be a feebleminded moron. pg. 17

Elsewhere in the world, a four-lane highway suggests that no more than four vehicles can move side by side. Yet somehow, in china, seven cars manage to share a space designed for four. pg. 23

And now I learned that the grisly mass that lay before me was not a chicken but the brain of an unfortunate sheep. As I sat there, chopsticks in hand, it occurred to me that it was time to start paying attention in China, because there are consequences for not paying attention in China. Big consequences. pg. 27

How could people live in this? I wondered. How could they put up with it? The air was so rank and dense with pollutants that even a Republican would be hollering for clean air. Really, it's that bad. pg. 86

Japan has never accounted for its wartime atrocities, and it is this lack of remorse that feeds the well-justified hostility most Chinese have for Japan. pg. 130

Things get done in China. Lots of things get done. This is because the system that prevails throughout the country - the system that has always prevailed from the imperial days of yore to the Maoism of recent years to the hypercapitalism of today - is guanxi, the network of family, friends, and contacts that grease the wheels of life in China. pg. 229

Not even if I were high on crack would I have gotten on a motorcycle [taxi] in China. pg. 315

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