Books: American Shaolin: Flying Kicks, Buddhist Monks, and the Legend of Iron Crotch: An Odyssey in the New ChinaWhy I am recommending this book:
If you like your wisdom served up in tasty tidbits; if you like a book that will dare you to want to put it down - you'll probably love this book. Polly shares his experience as a young, awkward, tall American man in China with delightful humor, observing the cultural realities, while learning valuable lessons about life.
In this smoothly written memoir, 98-pound weakling Polly makes the age-old decision to turn his nerdy self into a fighting machine. Polly's quest for manhood leads this guy from Topeka, Kans., to the Shaolin Temple, ancient home of the fighting monks and setting for 10,000 chop-socky movies. As much a student of Chinese culture as he is a martial artist, Polly derives a great deal of humor from the misunderstandings that follow a six-foot-three laowai (white foreigner) in a China taking its first awkward steps into capitalism after Tiananmen Square. Polly has a good eye for characters and introduces the reader to a Finnish messiah, a practitioner of "iron crotch" kung fu, and his nagging girlfriend. We get the inside dope on Chinese dating, Chinese drinking games and a medical system apparently modeled on the Spanish Inquisition.
A sensibility more alien to my own than Matthew Polly's is hard to imagine. I consider foreign cultures to be really... foreign. I don't spiritually quest; I go to church. As for the martial arts, I own a gun. But I loved American Shaolin. Reading it was like being abducted by an alien-a brilliant, funny, and hospitable alien who took me to another universe of sensibility. There I enjoyed myself immensely.