The Invisibility Cloak
Short novel set in contemporary China, ostensibly about love and high-end audio equipment. Really about a country grappling with mass hyper-urbanization, corruption, and huge wealth disparities. It plays out at first as a sort of surreal comedy, but quickly (the whole book is less than 200 pages) into a dark spiral of betrayal and loss.
I’m not much for the sardonic novel, but this one quickly takes its tongue out of its cheek and plunges into the tragically comedic, and then just the tragic. I know little about modern China, and can’t really say whether this is an accurate portrayal of the country or not, but I can say its captivating, and creates a surreal, yet resonate sense of place. Glad I took the risk.
The Art of War
I don’t know. Far be it from me to disparage a classic of Chinese literature, but I was underwhelmed.
A series of aphorism ostensibly proving advice on the conduct of a successful military leader, this must read of the management consultant can also be viewed as a general guide to strategy and life. It seems absurd to say this about such a famous book, but while the advice is often strong, and phrased in a somewhat cryptic, always interesting, style, it isn’t mind blowing.
Perhaps I feel this way because its teachings have been so deeply embedded in our society that I am not surprised by them. Or perhaps it’s because I’m just not smart enough, or educated enough, to appreciate the nuances. Who knows. The book is deeply embedded with Taoist philosophy and surely there are layers of meaning here that I am missing, but I bet Steve Bannon missed them as well.
Recommended for the enthusiast.