Books: West Meets East IRON AND SILK

by Mark Salzman Random House; 211 pages; $16.95

Mark Salzman was riding an overcrowded bus in Changsha, the capital of Hunan province, when he saw a passenger clambering aboard. The driver asked him to step off. The request was ignored, the door closed, and the bus pulled away with the stubborn rider sticking halfway out. Arriving at his destination, the man cheerfully paid half the usual fare and went on his way.

Salzman knows exactly how he felt. For two years the author stood part way in, part way out of a rapidly moving conveyance called the People's Republic of China. Fresh out of Yale, he took a job...

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