Book Review: Mark Salzman--Iron and


Book Review: Mark Salzman--Iron and Silk

Book: Iron and Silk
Author: Mark Salzman
Recommendation: Highest

Having recently read and reread Salzman's Lying Awake for book group discussion, I took up the recommendation offered here by a couple of St. Blog's parishioners and by one of the book group members. I read Salzman's Iron and Silk. While not a particularly spiritual book, Iron and Silk is beautifully written and filled with small, exciting moments that give one a glimpse of China that would be otherwise impossible. For example, Ha Jin, a native of China, sees China with a native's eyes, and while his books are well-done, I found China a rather uninteresting, drab and dull place.

Salzman's book opens China up for the Western reader. Salzman was a Yale student who received a teaching position in Hunan for two years. He went there with an intense interest in Chinese Literature and culture, and seemed to come away not alienated, but enriched. He met the people of China on their own terms, communists, socialists, and simple people. He met martial arts teachers, teachers of calligraphy, and ordinary peasants. In the course of his book, we meet an eleven year-old runaway, a woman with whom he clearly falls into infatuation, about four martial arts teachers, at least two calligraphy teachers, and several more or less pleasant government figures and ordinary shop keepers.

The "chapters" are divided into vignettes about three to six comprising each section. One sample is a story of trying to get a cup of coffee from a very rare "coffee shop." The exposition is interesting, the end result a hjilarity of bureaucratic coldness. So too with Catching a Rat, and receiving mail from home.

The prose is lively, engaging and real. Never stumbling into the over-poetic, it is as finely balanced as his art of Tai Ch'i. Truly, a stunning, admirable work. Posbbily the second five star book I've read by this author.

High recommended.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on March 10, 2003 5:53 PM.

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