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David sedaris essay on china

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David sedaris essay on china

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Retrieved September 12, March 9, West Sussex County Times. July 28, Retrieved July 28, Oh, you mean the local litter-picker". Guardian newspapers. Retrieved July 31, Retrieved June 28, The Collegian. University of Richmond Virginia. Works by David Sedaris. Exit 57 This American Life Category Wikiquote. The Informant! Sedaris describes a meal he had at a mountain farmhouse, prepared by a local family, and it sounds like something out of a Wes Craven film: "The rooster was senselessly hacked, as if by a blind person, a really angry one with a thing against birds.

Portions were reduced to shards, mostly bone, with maybe a scrap of meat attached. These were then combined with cabbage and some kind of hot sauce. Another dish was made entirely of organs, which again had been hacked beyond recognition. The heart was there, the lungs, probably the comb and intestines as well.

I don't know why this so disgusted me. Then there was the dish of xue doufu , that is to say, congealed blood, a further offense to Sedaris's sensibilities: "In clean, sophisticated Japan the rooster blood, arranged upon a handmade plate between the perfect, tempura snow pea and a radish carved to look like a first trimester fetus, would have seemed a fine idea Here, though, I thought of the sanitation grade, and of the rooster, pecking maggots out of human feces before being killed.

Most of the restaurants in China to me smelled dirty, though what I was smelling was likely some unfamiliar ingredient, and I was allowing the things I'd seen earlier in the day -- the spitting and snot blowing, et cetera -- to fill in the blanks.

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Now, talking s--t about Chinese architecture, manners and sanitation is one thing: These are things that the Chinese people often critique themselves. But slandering Chinese food? Those are fighting words. Call a Chinese person's baby ugly and she might forgive you, but tell her that Chinese food is disgusting and you have crossed a line that cannot be un-crossed. Given that, I will now address David directly, writer-person to writer-person, though the chance that he'll ever read this is as slim as the likelihood that he'll be asked to serve as a goodwill ambassador for the China National Tourism Office.

Here's the deal, David: Chinese people eat weird food. There is a saying that "Chinese will eat anything with its back to the sky," and another that says "Chinese will eat anything with legs but a table and anything with wings but an airplane. But Chinese are far from the only culture that eats weird food, and heck, given that you're from North Carolina, have you looked at what American Southerners traditionally eat?

Bull testicles! Oh wait, you're from suburban Raleigh, so probably not, given that most of the more exotic dishes in Southern cuisine, like in many culinary traditions, were the offspring of necessity -- invention midwived by destitution. The fact is, if you're hungry enough, rodents start to look tasty, as do chicken toenails, random innards and balls. And once you've eaten them long enough, all these things become a nostalgic part of your cultural identity -- especially after you've pulled yourself out of poverty.

They go from things you have to eat all the time to things you choose to eat once in a while, to remind yourself you no longer have to eat them all the time. And that's what's truly ugly about your essay, David: For someone who's spent a lot of your career puncturing middle-class aspiration and self-delusion, your piece is painfully blind to the fact that all of China is just a few generations removed from dire, desperate want, and that many people, like the peasant family you had such a bad experience sharing a meal with, continue to subsist on an annual income that's a tiny fraction of what a sophisticated awesome American literary superstar like you loses in his sofa.

And in a country of 1. Meanwhile, you should note: Those 1. They're crawling up and out of the economic muck, while we seem determined to drag ourselves down into it.


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  • And more and more of them are learning English and traveling abroad and reading international newspapers like the Guardian. So, just sayin': The next time you're eating at a fancy New York restaurant near a table of tourists from Shanghai As much as I'm irritated by the broad-brush disparagement of Chinese culture, society and people -- or any other culture, society and people, for that matter -- I also believe it's important that we not whitewash the bad and ugly in favor of the good: Unless we engage with the darker aspects of the places we've come from, we can't ensure that they change in the present, or that they won't recur in the future.

    The hideous practice of footbinding -- folding and mutilating the toes and arches of young girls to create "perfect lotuses" the size and approximate shape of a clenched fist -- is one such element of Chinese history, and one of the most shameful chapters in the annals of humanity's abuse and repression of the female gender throughout recorded civilization.

    The story of China's bound-foot women has rarely been recounted with as much richness, detail and color as in Lisa See 's best-selling " Snow Flower and the Secret Fan ," which explores not just the practice itself, but the way it came to define Chinese society for generations. Footbinding was the rare thing that could allow a low-born woman to rise in society, so well-bound feet were simultaneously a great opportunity, a grand indulgence and a terrible handicap.

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    At the same time, footbinding was only a part of the greater architecture of control and commodification of women in 17th through 19th century China: Ultimately, the transfer of women to the control of their husbands' families, where they were confined to separate "female quarters" and expected to do nothing but perform domestic chores and await impregnation and eventual birth of a male heir, meant that the fate of Chinese women of that era was not far removed from livestock. Yet the very circumstances that oppressed them forged unique relationships among and between bound-foot sisters -- some of which were formally encouraged as a means to provide women relief given their harsh lot.

    Two young girls with similar backgrounds, complementary personalities and shared cosmological signs might be offered to one another as sworn sisters -- forming a relationship known as " laotong ," or "old sames," considered to be as solemn a tie as marriage, and in many ways deeper and more emotionally rewarding.


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    • Also more sensual: While the film's producers deny any sapphic subtext, the book's author, Lisa See, acknowledges that perhaps one out of 10 sworn sisters found comfort of a different kind with their female partners -- and other estimates suggest as many as 40 percent of lao tong relationships had an erotic component. The book "Snow Flower" is at its core the story of two such "old sames," and how their bond grows, twists, breaks and is reformed; it is a melodrama and a tragedy that resolves not with satisfaction but with sacrifice and survival.

      The book is now a movie, in theaters as we speak: The movie is a decidedly different thing from the book, taking the primal story of "Snow Flower" and weaving it together with a complementary one set in contemporary times, giving a tale that is wrenchingly sad in its original telling a rather more uplifting ending. Some fans may be disappointed as a result, though See herself says that she loves the film, and that the "part that is true to the book is absolutely true to the book," while the modern scenes create a "continuum that brings the story right up to the present, a present in which China is now a global economic superpower.

      It's also a present in which the role of women has evolved considerably, to the point where smart, educated and ambitious individuals -- like, for instance, "Snow Flower"'s Xuzhou-born co-producer Wendi Deng Murdoch -- are able to rise to the heights; though Murdoch has been subject to no small amount of vilification in her years of marriage to much-older media tycoon Rupert, her story is more extraordinary in many ways than the fictional one depicted in "Snow Flower. The incident, which has now attained Internet meme status , is proof positive that the name she and producing partner Florence Sloan the Malaysian Chinese wife of MGM chair Harry Sloan, and an impressive woman in her own right chose for their production company is both apt and saucily ironic: Big Feet Productions.

      He lives in New York City.