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Posted December 29, 2000
Even if you never thought of going to the Gobi...
read this book. More than informative, it is a kick in the pants! Travel writers can sometimes go too far in two directions: 1) maintain a somewhat contemptuous distance from the people, whose country they are traveling through, and writing about discovered foibles in a tone 'oh those crazy natives!' or 2) get mushy in their enthusiasm for the culture. Man does neither. He seems to love the country he's traveling through and takes the people whom he meets as they are, yet he avoids drippy sentimentality. His discussion of the environmental issues involved gives equal weight to protectionists and herdsmen. He delves into the tricky world of paleontology and geology in one breath and then discusses Mongolian contemporary history with the next, all the while sharing conversations with his local guide over English expressions such as 'flogging a dead horse.' 'What does 'flogging' mean?' 'Beating.' 'Why would you beat a dead horse?' 'Exactly.' And just wait til you get to the part about 'washing a rutting buck's face...' A delightful book I will be reading over and over!
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