Storyteller Embraces Humor to Depict Life in China

Story tools

A A AResize

Print

 

On a visa run to Hong Kong in 1999, Peter Hessler made a stop in a tiny village with competing rat restaurants.

He was writing freelance news articles at the time, and Luogang, located in southern China's Guangdong province, had caught his attention with stories in the Chinese press.

At the Highest Ranking Wild Flavor Restaurant, a waitress casually asked a question he'd never considered: "Do you want a big rat or a small rat?" At the next table a little boy chewed on a miniature drumstick, content enough. A small rat, then.

Later he described the trip in an e-mail to a group of family and friends that included his former professor in narrative nonfiction, the author John McPhee, and could only do it justice in first person.

How else to write about the bizarre experience of being wooed by rival rat delicatessens intent on conquering his American palette? As he'd discovered with the Peace Corps, humor was not only absolutely necessary for survival in China but also for accuracy in depiction.

Read the rest at China Daily