Cover

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Frontmatter

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Contents

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p. vii

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Acknowledgments

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p. viii

I am grateful to the following people for their careful reading and sound advice: Harlyn Aizley, Christopher Bram, Kathleen Kushman, Vicky Frankel, Jim Mezzanotte,George Packer, Pamela Painter, Maxine Rodburg, Adam Schwartz, Christopher Tilghman, Jessica Treadway, and Kate Wheeler. Thanks to School Year...

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Summer

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pp. 1-74

There is a building in my city—the Old Hancock Tower it’s called, though in 1947, the year it went up, people probably still said “skyscraper”—one of the first skyscrapers to be built in Boston during those years of soaring confidence that followed the Second World War. It’s not a...

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Autumn

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pp. 75-160

I spent my first weeks in Beijing concentrating on my job . . . or rather trying to concentrate. But even inside that air-conditioned, antiseptic cocoon of the building where I worked, China would not let me go. It was everywhere, distracting me, seducing me, undoing my attention. In every detail of the...

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Winter

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pp. 161-230

Winter came early that year. By the beginning of December, the weather was so cold and dry that my lips were constantly chapped and my hands in need of lotion three or four times a day. I stopped riding my bike to work and started taking public transportation. Often I’d stay late at my desk just to avoid the packed busses full of sneezing, sniffling commuters....

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Spring

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pp. 231-288

During the first week of April, the talk around the office was all about the peach blossoms, how they would be late that year. Auntie Chen started it, telling us that the trees needed more time to wake up from the long, hard winter....

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The Breaking Cup of Spring

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pp. 289-312

In Hong Kong, the rain was coming down in unforgiving torrents. Stalwart to the end, the departing British honor guard remained unflinching, standing at attention, as still, it struck me, as the terra cotta tomb soldiers outside Xi’an. Even their dress uniforms were holding up under the heavy...