Senior NY Times writer and well-traveled/well-cultured can-speak-six-languages-fluently man, Howard French, was at the Walker last night to present his talk, On China and the West, presented in conjunction with the exhibition, House of Oracles: A Huang Yong Ping Retrospective.
I’m fairly drooling just reflecting back on this talk. Howard delivered a prepared speech and it’s really no wonder that he has received the NY Times’ top publishing award SIX times. He presented a snapshot of China as the world’s fastest growing economy, and brought to light many of the implications that means for the Chinese people on social, political and environmental levels. It’s totally astonishing. Even more so for me, because I walked into the talk knowing almost nothing about China.
He drew an interesting parallel between the current situation in China and the similar path that Japan took in the late 19th/early 20th century to modernize, colonize, and compete with the West. He spoke at length on the connections between Japan and China, and made a fascinating comparison on the situation of women in both countries, stating that Chinese women are very different from Japanese women, jumping in with both feet and actively pursuing their ambitions and voicing their opinions. (He alluded to an upcoming book about women in Japan – I can hardly wait!) But Howard also later spoke briefly on the continued practice of detecting and aborting female fetuses, and in some regions male children outnumber female children four to one. That’s a pretty sobering statistic.
Howard presented such a comprehesive and compelling account of China, I was inspired to move to Shanghai and start the Howard French fan club. Geeking out after the talk, I couldn’t get close to Howard to offer my compliments for the presentation. He was surrounded by Director Kathy Halbreich’s entourage, and I couldn’t imagine busting in on that. Maybe it was better for all that I didn’t do anything to embarrass him AND my co-workers.
Check out Howard’s site, featuring a blog, writing excerpts, and some of his stunning photography.