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Riding the Iron Rooster by Paul Theroux

Riding the Iron Rooster (1989)

by Paul Theroux

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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English (21)  Dutch (2)  German (1)  Spanish (1)  All (25)
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
Joy's Review: Theroux spends WAY too much time on Chinese Trains in the 80's. He is a keen observer and an excellent story teller. I also appreciate that he doesn't hide is opinions. He's also not hesitant to state negative opinions and to share what I think are insightful conclusions. Don't read this for any purpose, but to go along for the ride... and an interesting ride it is. ( )
  konastories | Apr 28, 2016 |
Theroux's eyes do indeed penetrate into nooks and crannies that provide a fascinating insight into China. Fun for railroad trekkies. ( )
  dbsovereign | Jan 26, 2016 |
Some interesting perspectives on the Chinese character, from an American pov ( )
  sarahemmm | Apr 28, 2015 |
Started to read this book on my way (by train) to Oxford. Had the idea, to leave the book in the train on my way home, but apart from the travel times, I did not have much time to read. And I finished the book after my return.

I liked it enough to read the book till the end, but not enough to be wildly enthousiastic about it. In fact, after the first few chapters after arrival in China the story became boring, predictable to me.
What I missed most, as a (small) map at the beginning of each chapter, to indicate the route of that particular chapter. I'm not good at geography and have limited knowledge of the Chinese one in particular, do I felt quite lost while reading.
The map in the front of the book could have combined all track, indicating chapter, or train number as given in the rest of the book.
The part I liked the most is Theroux's journey to and stay in Tibet, the last part of the book. So I'm happy to have read it till the end :-) ( )
  BoekenTrol71 | Apr 19, 2015 |
Among the first inventions of the Chinese were such things as toilet paper (they were enamored with paper and in fact invented a paper armor consisting of pleats which were impervious to arrows), the spinning wheel, seismograph, steam engine (as early as 600 A.D.) and parachute hang gliders in 550-559 B.C. which they tested by throwing prisoners off towers. This same country, according to Paul Theroux in Riding the Iron Rooster, is driving many animals to extinction. The Chinese like to eat strange foods and are superstitious about the medicinal value of exotic animals who achieve status not from individual beauty or from intrinsic qualities, but because they taste good.

Theroux, who has a passion for trains, wandering, and gossip, found many changes in China since his first visit of several years earlier. People were much freer and willing to talk. Theroux's writing is fascinating because he's so nosy. He's not afraid to ask anything. And he notices everything. It's his way of "getting the measure of a place." If he sees someone reading he makes note of the title, memorizes the contents of refrigerators, labels in clothes, compares prices, copies graffiti and slogans, and collects hotel rules. My favorite: "Guests may not perform urination in sink basin."

At one point he was forced to fly to catch a particular train and his description is particularly revolting; people standing in the aisles while landing, puking, the plane popping wheelies on the runway, the aircraft itself having wrinkled skin. The cultural revolution was uniformly hated by everyone he spoke with and the change in the people could be measured by the change in their slogans. Formerly when students were asked what they wanted to do with themselves they would reply, "to serve people." A book filled with interesting tidbits.

I should note, as an avid reader of Airways magazine that airlines in China have improved tremendously, have terrific equipment today, and service standards far exceeding United's. Theroux's book is quite dated in that respect. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 21 (next | show all)
''Riding the Iron Rooster'' is Mr. Theroux's account of a journey that would drive most people insane. Traveling in China (which is different from living in China) for even a week can be exhausting; how he managed to do it for a year is beyond my comprehension. As one has come to expect of him, Mr. Theroux never wastes a word when re-creating his adventures. He is in top form as he describes the barren deserts of Mongolia and Xinjiang, the ice forests of Manchuria and the dry hills of Tibet. He captures their otherworldly, haunting appearances perfectly. He is also right on target when he talks about the ugliness of China's poorly planned, hastily built cities. But his book is mainly about Chinese people, and it appears that Mr. Theroux didn't like them much
added by John_Vaughan | editNY Times, Mark Salzman (Jul 19, 1988)

» Add other authors (13 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Theroux, PaulAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davids, TinkeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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'A peasant must stand a long time on a hillside with his mouth open before a roast duck flies in'

- Chinese proverb
'The movements which work revolutions in the world are born out of the dreams and visions in a peasant's heart on a hillside'.

- James Joyce, Ulysses
To Anne
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The bigness of China makes you wonder.
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p 70 De chinezen zijn de laatsten ter wereld die nog kwispedoors maken, en kamerpotten, en trapnaaimachines, en beddepannen, en kroontjespennen (van staal, om in inkt te dopen), en houten hamen voor ossen, en ijzeren ploegen en omafietsen, en stoommachines, en de Packard van 1948 die zij de Rode Vlag noemen. Zij maken nog grootvadersklokken - van het mechanische soort met een kettingoverbrengen, die tik-tak zegt en bong!....de Chinezen hebben de eerste mechanische klok uitgevonden, tegen het eind van de Tang-dynastie. Als veel Chinese uitvindingen is dit in de vergetelheid geraakt, ze wisten niet meer dat ze dat konden en de klok werd vanuit Europa opnieuw ingevoerd. De Chinezen zijn de eersten geweest die gietijzer gemaakt hebben, en hebben korte tijd later de ijzeren ploeg uitgevonden. De Chinese metallurgen hebben de kruisboog uitgevonden in de vierde eeuw voor christus en gebruikten die nog steeds in 1895. Ze hebben als eersten gemerkt dat alle sneeuwvlokken zeskantig zijn. Ze hebben de parasol uitgevonden, de seismograaf, de lichtgevende verf, het spinnewiel, de passer, porselein, de toverlantaarn en de stinkbom.... Ze hebben de kettingpomp uitgevonden in de eerste eeuw na Christus en gebruiken die nog steeds. Ze hebben de eerste vlieger geconstrueerd tweeduizend jaar voordat eer een werd opgelaten in Europa. Ze hebben de losse drukletters uitgevonden en het eerste gedrukte boek gemaakt ...in 868. Ze hebben de eerste hangbrug gebouwd, en de eerst brug met een gesegmenteerde boog (de eerste, in 610 gebouwd, is nog steeds in gebruik). Ze hebben speelkaarten, rees voor hengels en whisky uitgevonden....De Chinezen waren de eerste zeelui ter wereld die een roer gebruikten, de mensen in het Westen stuurden met een roeispaan, totdat ze omstreeks 1100 het roer van de Chinezen overnamen. Het papiergeld, vuurwerk en de lak.....behangselpapier, toiletpapier... ZE hebben de eerste kruiwagens ontworpen, de beste zijn nooit in het Westen nagemaakt.. p 71
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0804104549, Mass Market Paperback)

Paul Theroux invites you to join him on the journey of a lifetime, in the grand romanttic tradition, by train across Euope, through the vast underbelly of Asia and in the heart of Russia, and then up to China. Here is China by rail, as seen and heard through the eyes and ears of one of the most intrepid and insightful travel writers of our time.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:03:57 -0400)

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Describes the author's travels by train in every province of the People's Republic of China.

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