Books & Talks

Don’t Miss: Peter Hessler

The New Yorker’s former Beijing correspondent and author of River Town talks about his latest book TONIGHT at Elliott Bay Book Co.

By Laura Dannen February 24, 2010

[Note: In this clip from 2007, Peter Hessler talks about his second book, Oracles Bones, which covers his time in China from 1999-2002.]

Peter Hessler has been likened to a modern-day Mark Twain for his nonfiction accounts of China, from the time he was a Peace Corps volunteer teaching English in the Sichuan Province (2001’s River Town) to his run as the Beijing correspondent for The New Yorker. His work reads simultaneously like fiction, travelogue, and memoir, with the dedicated reporting of an academic. Like Twain translating the story of the South through Huck Finn, Hessler manages to distill a nation of 1.4 billion people into small villages along the Yangtze River, and even smaller still: as students who take on English names like Barbara (for Barbara Bush) and Keller (for Helen Keller), who think Hamlet is too “sensitive, conservative, and selfish.” River Town was my personal guidebook when I was living in Singapore; though it takes place in China, it made unfamiliar elements of Asian culture more accessible.

Hessler continues his journey through China by car in new release Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory ($27.99, HarperCollins). He talks tonight at 7 at Elliott Bay Book Co, Thursday at noon at University Book Store, and Thursday at 7pm at Third Place Books.

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