From the Publisher
"Stewart is a master at weaving history and geography into cleverly reconstructed observations and encounters that range from the merely curious to the heartily bizarre. Juxtaposed against all is his unabashed fascination with unfamiliar surrounding and the isolation that comes with being alone."Booklist
"A Stanley Stewart travel story about a walk to the nearest corner would be a page-turner. And that is because, unlike too many other travel writers, he takes his reader on the most important trip of all: the journey of a good sentence."The Washington Post
"Self-deprecating and wry, Stewart is a gifted amateur in the classic tradition of Patrick Leigh Fermor; indeed, he seems to have no particular objective other than to observe and enjoy. This is not travel with a purpose; it is pure gratification, a fine addition to what is sometimes called 'loiterature.' "New York Times Book Review
". . . The book is full of the kind of lively encounters most people find only in literature . . . Stewart's narrative brings the Great Wall that much closer."USA Today
"Stewart writes of his experiences with compassion and great charm."Chicago Tribune
Read an Excerpt
Excerpt from pgs. 72-73:
I was eventuall led to the pagoda by a High Court judge. He was a cheerful fellow with his shirt knotted above his bare tummy and his trousers rolled up to his knees. He was on this way to try a difficult case which he described in English as "very grave, very murderous." Strapped to the back of his bicycle was the head of a freshly butchered cow. As he led me through the maze of alleys it left a trail of blood in our wake which I later used to find my way back to the main street. Its tongue lolled hideously between wet lips. The eyes followed me like the eyes of a portrait.
"You are from England?" the judge asked.
"Yes," I said, dropping slightly astern in the hope of shaking off the sorry gaze of the cow.
"The Old Boiling," the judge said. "Very famous. Number One court. Tell me. Do the judges in the Old Boiling Number One court still wear the women's hair?"
"Wigs. Yes, I am afraid so," I said.
The judge roared with laughter. "And women's dresses?"
"Absolutely. The judges are very fond of women's clothing."
He could hardly contain himself. In his hilarity he slapped the cow's forehead and the stiffening jaws closed slowly on the tongue.
The judge grew suddenly serious. "What about execution? Do you execute?" He made a chopping motion with his hand. It was, given the cow, a tasteless gesture.
"No," I said. "We gave it up. It didn't work."
"Didn't work?" he snorted. "What could be simpler? What method are you using? Shooting, hanging, electric, gas ovens?"
"No. I mean it doesn't stop crime."
"In China it is one hundred percent effective," he declared merrily. "The executed never commit another crime."