“The Countryside Was Romantic Only to People Who Didn’t Have to Live There”

(p. C4) Mr. Meyer’s motivation for writing his book is simple and straightforward. “Since 2000, a quarter of China’s villages had died out, victims of migration or the redrawing of municipal borders,” as the country urbanizes, he notes early on, adding: “Before it vanished I wanted to experience a life that tourists, foreign students, and journalists (I had been, in order, all three) only viewed in passing.”
“In Manchuria” shifts back and forth among various genres. It is part travelogue, part sociological study, part reportage and part memoir, but it is also a love offering to Mr. Meyer’s wife, Frances, who grew up in the unfortunately named Wasteland, the village that Mr. Meyer chooses as his base near the start of this decade, and to the unborn son she is carrying by the time “In Manchuria” ends.
. . .
After a year in Wasteland, Mr. Meyer was ready to move on, and he now divides his time between Singapore and Pittsburgh, where he teaches nonfiction writing. But his interlude in Manchuria clearly taught him many lessons, perhaps the most fundamental being this: “The countryside was romantic only to people who didn’t have to live there.”

For the full review, see:
LARRY ROHTER. “A Vanishing Way of Life for Peasants in China.” The New York Times Book Review (Mon., MARCH 8, 2015): C4.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the review has the date MARCH 8, 2015, and has the title “Review: Michael Meyer’s ‘In Manchuria’ Documents a Changing Rural China.”)

The book under review, is:
Meyer, Michael. In Manchuria: A Village Called Wasteland and the Transformation of Rural China. New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2015.

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