Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dreaming In Chinese : Mandarin Lessons In Life, Love, And Language
by Deborah Fallows

Being a language nut (I speak French, German, and Spanish and know a smattering of Chinese, Farsi, Hebrew, and Hindi), I thought this book was going to be a delight. It certainly started out that way. Each chapter has linguistic explanations of the Chinese language and at the same time the author interweaves her encounters with everyday life.
Mandarin is one of the most difficult languages to learn due to characters, tones (there are four and don't mix them up), no verbs and no tenses.
Deborah Fallows is a linguist yet in her three years of living in China, she doesn't really master the language and it's understandable. Even the Chinese get rusty about remembering some of the characters.
One of the things she writes about that is irritating is saying how rude and impolite the Chinese are. She generalizes from some of her encounters as if that's the norm. (Having worked with several Chinese, I have found the opposite to be true.)
This book will have limited appeal for most readers. Only students or tourists visiting the country would want to peruse this slim tome.
One more thing. The title isn't valid. Fallows never did say that she dreamt in Chinese. When that happens, you truly have arrived.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Diamond In The Desert : Behind The Scenes In Abu Dhabi, The World's Richest City
by Jo Tatchell

It used to be an endless desert home to Bedouins. They lived in tents and rode camels.
Abu Dhabi means "Father of the Gazelle" for that is what brought the huntsmen to the area in the first place. Now, the only gazelles that can be found are on mugs and currency.
The author lived as a child in Abu Dhabi in the 1970s. She has wonderful memories of that time. In 2008 she returns and everything that she remembered from her childhood has been obliterated.
There are 420,000 citizens each with a net worth of 17 million dollars. Kind of leaves you gasping. Glitzy condos and skyscrapers abound with luxury hotels. Most of the wealth came from foreigners who were willing to invest. Nobody seems too happy in the world's richest city.
I got to page 153 and for me, the book came to a screeching halt. The particular chapter that ruined it is called The Next Generation and it's about the young people who party, shop, sleep around, etc. It's like reading a trashy gossip column. Ugh. Who cares?
The book was really interesting up until this part. I learned all about the history of the United Arab Emirates, oil, the different tribes, how the island came into existence.
There are no pictures except what is on the front cover (in the background you can see all these high-rises).
There's got to be somebody out there who can write a decent book on Abu Dhabi and just stick with the facts. So far, I haven't found one. (Months ago there was a previous attempt for a book on Abu Dhabi and that one was equally dismal. It's on this blog.)
Not recommended.