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Christopher BenfeySpence describes Zhang Dai as an "excavator," someone who "tried to get into the deep and dark places" of memory. The same could be said of Spence himself. He is marvelously tactful in allowing Zhang an aura of mystery—"it is hard to catch the essence of Zhang Dai," he confesses. He resists making facile comparisons to other writers or other times…anchoring us firmly in a 17th-century landscape and mindscape. In Return to Dragon Mountain, Spence has himself opened an unsuspected world of "tadpole traces" and "bird feet markings," a magic-lantern realm lost until now and movingly retrieved.
—The New York Times