*Country Driving*

The author is Peter Hessler and the subtitle is A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory.  It is the account of the author's driving journeys throuh the Middle Kingdom.  Here is one bit:

…Chinese drivers haven't grasped the subtleties of headlight use.  Most people keep their lights off until it's pitch-dark, and then they flip on the brights.  Almost nobody uses headlights in rain, fog, snow, or twilight conditions — in fact, this is one of the few acts guaranteed to annoy a Chinese driver.  They don't mind if you tailgate, or pass on the right, or drive on the sidewalk.  You can back down a highway entrance ramp without anybody batting an eyelash.  But if you switch on your lights during a rainstorm, approaching drivers will invariably flash their brights in annoyance.

I found this to be an excellent travel memoir, a very good book on transportation economics, a wonderful book on China, and most of all a first-rate study of the adjustments and changing norms which accompany rapid economic development.  I also found it to be a very funny book and, for whatever reason, I don't find most books funny. 

Here is another bit on China:

Often I passed billboards dedicated to the planned-birth policy, whose catchphrases ranged from tautology ("Daughters Also Count as Descendants") to unsolicited advice ("Marry Late and Have Children Late") to outright lies ("Having a Son or a Daughter Is Exactly the Same").  As I drove west, the messages became bigger, until barren hillsides were covered with slogans, as if words had swelled to fill the empty steppes, "Everybody Work to Make the Green Mountain Greener" — this in forty-foot-tall characters across an Inner Mongolian mountain that was neither green nor the site of a single working person.

Recommended.

Comments

This book looks good - thanks for the tip. Like you, I rarely laugh when reading, but couldn't control myself with "A year in the Province" by Christopher Marsh. Only an academic could write it.

Anything Peter Hesller writes is worth reading.

Nice writing, but I think he got the whole bit about headlight use wrong.

In many poorer places, headlight use is seen as making a difference in fuel consumption and how often you need to change your light bulb. Yes, it seems like these should be small considerations for those who can afford a motorcycle or car in the first place, but it’s in fact prevalent. Same as people using dirt-cheap flickery halogen light bulbs in their expensive homes to lower the electric bill. Happens all the time.

So it’s not annoyance that the approaching cars are conveying. It’s more like "hey, did you know your lights are on unnecessarily?"

Comments for this post are closed