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Polly was a junior at Princeton -- a self-described "glass-half-empty" kind of guy -- and sorely in need of some masculine traits and spiritual direction or discipline. A devotee of all things Chinese, he decided that the cure for what ailed him was a trip to a remote region in China, where he would immerse himself in the study of "kungfu." The results of his journey were numerous, but perhaps the most intriguing souvenir he brought back with him to the States is this lively, humorous, and thought-provoking memoir.
In 1992, China was still perceived as an impoverished Communist country whose recent history included the slaughter of students in Tiananmen Square. Undaunted, and despite the protests of his parents, Polly left college for the Far East, only to discover that his first obstacle was merely finding the distant Shaolin Temple, "the birthplace of both Zen Buddhism and the martial arts." Imagine his astonishment when he saw that the 1,500-year-old institution was not the isolated monastery he'd pictured but "a low-rent version of an Epcot Center pavilion"! Or when he learned that the Shaolin monks who practiced kungfu were hardly monastic recluses -- in fact, they dreamed of movie stardom! Yet, when Polly began his training, his body was first taxed to the limit, then soared to the heavens as he had his first mystical experience. (Spring 2007 Selection)