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British travel writer Bennett informs and endears in his quixotic quest to trace the provenance of his underpants in order to learn something about the "commercial and industrial processes on which [his] easy existence depends." Despite his publisher's misgivings, the author travels to the outskirts of Shanghai, posing as an underwear buyer and scheming his way into factories and showrooms to piece together the (increasingly) mysterious origins of his underpants. He heads toward the cotton factories, where few Westerners venture and the population is ethnically closer to Afghan than Chinese, and sober accounts vie with marvelously silly escapades around Bangkok and rural Thailand in search of rubber trees (or more specifically, the origins of his elastic waistband). Bennett's education in the world of global commerce sparkles with humor and sharp observations on modern China's competing strains of enduring Confucianism, vestigial communism and the government's ruthless economic ambitions. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.