Cover image for The laughing sutra : a novel
The laughing sutra : a novel
Salzman, Mark.
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Publication Information:
New York : Random House, 1990.
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pages cm
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Iron & Silk, Mark Salzman's bestselling account of his adventures as an English teacher and martial arts student in China, introduced a writer of enormous charm and keen insight into the cultural chasm between East and West. Now Salzman returns to China in his first novel, which follows the adventures of Hsun-ching, a naive but courageous orphan, and the formidable and mysterious Colonel Sun, who together travel from mainland China to San Francisco, risking everything to track down an elusive Buddhist scripture called The Laughing Sutra. Part Tom Sawyer, part Tom Jones, The Laughing Sutra draws us into an irresistible narrative of danger and comedy that speaks volumes about the nature of freedom and the meaning of loyalty. From the Trade Paperback edition.

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

The author of the highly praised Iron and Silk , the nonfiction account of his years as a teacher in China, debuts with a novel whose sincerity, good spirits and imaginative high jinks make up for some weaknesses in prose and narrative momentum. A blend of picaresque adventure, guide to China's history, politics and culture, and satire on contemporary life in China and the U.S., the book has an unpretentious charm. Salzman's protagonist, orphaned Hsun-ching, is rescued from death by a mysterious Colonel Sun, whose great age, brilliant yellow eyes and superhuman strength identify him as the legendary Monkey King. Adopted by a venerable Buddhist monk, Hsun-ching learns of his mentor's lifelong quest for the Laughing Sutra, purported to hold the key to immortality, which has been taken from China by a San Francisco collector. Forced into servitude during the Cultural Revolution, on his release Hsun-ching decides to go to America and find the text. Colonel Sun joins him, and their adventures, both suspenseful and funny, allow Salzman to turn a satiric eye on misguided revolutionaries, fatuous religious proselytizers and pretentious artists and bureaucrats in both countries. Though he has a tendency to slip into didacticism, Salzman nevertheless manages to convey a great deal of information about China while entertaining readers with a generally suspenseful, often rollicking tale. Author tour. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This first novel by the best-selling author of Iron and Silk (LJ 2/1/87) tells the story of Hsun-ching, a native of rural China raised by a Buddhist monk following his mother's death. After surviving the Cultural Revolution, Hsun-ching agrees to take up his mentor's lifelong search for the last remaining copy of the Laughing Sutra, ``a scroll so precious that whoever understood its message would instantly perceive his Buddha-nature and . . . achieve physical immortality.'' The sutra is in San Francisco, and most of the novel describes the improbable journey of this Chinese innocent to the United States in the company of Colonel Sun, a strange character who claims to be centuries old. This comic tale of a quest and culture clash is recommended for large fiction collections. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/90.-- A.J. Wright, Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

YA-- Hsun-ching comes to the U. S. from China in the late 1970s, fulfilling the dream of the Buddhist monk who raised him. His companion on the trip is Colonel Sun, a 2500-year-old warrior. Both are naive and unprepared for the complexities of American life. Comic scenes--a first encounter with a television and a visit to a restaurant--are contrasted with situations concerning American values, as Hsun-ching's knowledge of Americans is drawn from stereotypes: he thinks they are always in a hurry, love money, and hate the elderly. His bewilderment is mixed with a tinge of mystery and romance, and the combination will keep readers curious until the end. Although the plot will hold them, this is really a character study: Hsun-ching's unswerving devotion determines all of his actions. The novel is not just for newly arrived immigrants who will identify with the experiences; it can be enjoyed by most high school students.-- Claudia Moore, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.