Round Rock New Neighbors is a social organization of women welcoming women in the Round Rock area since 1978. Both "new" and "old" neighbors are welcome. For more information: [Barnes & Noble requires that RRNN's book club be open to the public, so you do not need to be an RRNN member to attend book club, and both men and women are welcome and do attend. ]
EEA-based end users: There are no ads on this site. Us it at your own discretion.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

American Shaolin Kicks Butt

I'm already on an airplane over the Benedict Ranch, but I am writing to you about China. It would be great to write these messages as soon as I get home from our discussion. I guess you'd like that, too! I am always energized after our discussions, even though I invariably seem to need that energy for something other than writing up a summary. If you can get home and write us up more quickly, please feel free to contribute any summaries of our discussions or maybe plan in advance to be a guest messager! Please send me whatever you think of!
Last Monday our discussion took us to China, looking at American Shaolin, by Matthew Polly. I think it was Cindy T. whose daughter has met Matthew Polly, the author of the book. Cindy told us that Polly is engaged to be married, among other interesting things about him. Although none of us at the meeting had been to China, 2 (at least) had read the book Rivertown, by Peter Hessler, which we have had nominated but didn't choose, and said that Rivertown is comparable to American Shaolin but different and another interesting tome on more aspects of modern China. Modern China seemed to be what we most wanted to discuss, rather than the characters in the book. The changes in China and cultural differences between China and the U.S. were of particular interest. Frank posed a question about what young Chinese people would come to the U.S. for, given a situation similar to Polly's from the Chinese point of view. This set us thinking and brought up even more contrasts between the U.S. and China. The Chinese youth all learning martial arts seems to have affect the Chinese adult culture, giving them more experience with self-control than many American citizens, and also giving them a competitive nature. Competition and self-discipline are a compatible pair! But even with the current strides China has taken, the poverty is still a major problem. We wondered how well the poverty will be hidden during the worldwide coverage of the Olympics. I think the span of time covered by the book and discussion, partly because Polly delayed 10 years between visiting China and writing the book, plus another 10 years since then, helped our discussion to cover both the aspects of Chinese tradition that were endemic at the time Polly was there and the changes that have since occurred. It was a very rich context for discussion!
We got into the discussion, and it included everyone, and everyone seemed to think it was an especially interesting discussion! Only a couple of people mentioned anything negative about the book. And then as everyone was leaving, I asked who did not like the book, and I was surprised to see that about a third of the group did not enjoy reading the book. Someone said it seemed ridiculous for Polly to go on his adventure to study kungfu. I think the details about kungfu bored most of us. I kind of tried to picture them a little but didn't waste much time or energy on them. I could just about picture the leg going out and around...never figured out that part about the hips! I was surprised that we hadn't gotten into a detailed discussion about the aspects of the book that were disliked. We're a good group to have so much to cover that we never get to the negative aspects! The rest of us enjoyed the reading. I enjoyed the book and didn't consider it a problem to ignore the kungfu details. I liked the way Polly described the individuals and their relationships in the context of Chinese ways.

No comments: