Peter Hessler in Beijing

What's New — By Lauren Johnson on March 23, 2011 at 6:00 am

Star China writer and former Peace Corps volunteer has returned to China, at least temporarily for readings of his latest book, Country Driving, at the Bookworm (hosts to the literary festival) and Studio X.

Hessler’s talk on Thursday the 17th at Studio X focused on the first section of his latest book and included a slide show of images of his drives around China and images of his interviewees and their families. For someone who reads all of Hessler’s books, I was fascinated to learn about his writing process, and actually see imagery and evidence behind his tales of travel and interaction with locals. The pictures made the story more real, and in many cases proves the saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. One series of pictures was a time lapse where one shot was taken every month or so of a developing factory town outside Shanghai. You could literally see the growth month by month. This takes his text from an informative document about the fast pace of life in China and proves it in a handful of quick shots.

We were impressed with out open and approachable Hessler was. For a man that every expat living in China knows of and has read, he seemed a normal guy who was willing to chat with anyone who approached him. He laughed easily, and joked about China in a way only an expat could understand.

In happy news, his wife Leslie Chan and he recently had identical twins at their home in Colorado, and he is planning on moving to the Middle East once the children are old enough to do reporting and non-fiction writing from that corner of the globe. His sense of adventure and discovery hasn’t waned with the creation of his small family, and he and his wife are learning Arabic as they plan for their next adventure. In the meantime, we say goodbye to our beloved China writer and wish him well as he turns to the Middle East for new content.

Tags: book festival, books, bookworm, China travel, literary festival, Peter Hessler