A review of

The Train to Lo Wu

by Jess Row

Central question: When we travel, what do we expect to find?
Format: 208 pp., cloth; Size: 5-1/2" x 8 -1/4 "; Price: $33.00; Publisher: Dial Press; Editor: Susan Kamil; Book designer: Virginia Norey; Typeface: Jante Antiqua; Time author spent in Hong Kong: 1997 to 1999 as Yale-China teaching fellow at the Chinese University of Hong Kong; What author is working on now: A novel set in Laos and the United States during the Vietnam War; Subject of author’s recent letter to the editor of the New York Times: Airport security techniques in India; Representative sentences: “We say, life is a cloud which appears and disappears. Do you understand?”

In the first story here, a young American teaching in Hong Kong describes his letters home as “factual and sparse.” And it’s a good description of the writing in Jess Row’s The Train to Lo Wu, a collection inspired by his own experience teaching in Hong Kong. But if the prose is pragmatic, the stories themselves operate as intuitive, emotional, and in some cases, romantic responses to one of the most unusual places on earth.

Anyone who’s been there will agree. In Hong Kong, as Row accurately characterizes it, where skyscrapers grow from mountainsides, the Chinese are separated from themselves, and the political and economic philosophies of the world converge (or whatever it is they’re doing), it feels like a thousand borders can be crossed in a single day.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please purchase a copy of the magazine from The McSweeney’s Store.

—John Glassie

John Glassie has written about books and the arts for numerous publications. His book of photographs, Bicycles Locked to Poles, comes out from McSweeney’s in May.


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