At the Corner of Fact & Fancy

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9780824604646: At the Corner of Fact & Fancy

When Jonathan Kolatch's imagination is set free to wander, you never know where it might perch. Whether exploring the logistics of taking a Japanese bath, revisiting the remains of an evacuated Jewish settlement in Gaza, debunking the Dx game doctors play, or analyzing the economics of a chocolate chip cookie, he sees the world through a unique Kolatchian perspective. Blurring the lines between the factual and the fanciful, close to home or far away, Jon Kolatch makes us care about people we've never met and consider things we've never thought about. For Kolatch, debating whether to sell an aging car segues naturally into a contemplation of human immortality, and a chat with a West Bank rabbi over coexistence with neighboring Arabs begets a visit to a Palestinian legislator bent on scuttling the rabbi's peace dreams. From his earliest years, Jon Kolatch found himself following unconventional paths. Of thoroughly urban stock, when his parents acquired a modest tract of land two hours north of New York City, he found himself immersed in rural life: planting fruit trees, tinkering with recalcitrant lawn mowers, challenging poison ivy. Thus began a bipolar existence weekdays in the big city, weekends in the stix that continues to this day. Country themes inspired some of his earliest published pieces in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Conversant in Chinese, Japanese, Hebrew, French, and Arabic, Kolatch dons a second suit when visiting abroad, preferring out-of-the-way places where he can invite himself into a stranger s house and survey the local scene. Sometimes his worlds intersect, like when a frustrating vibration problem with a newly purchased tractor led him to write in Japanese to the general manager of the Kubota Tractor Company, in Osaka, Japan. The result: a one-of-a-kind device to solve the problem, an audience with the G.M., and a personalized tour of the plant. Whether wandering through the serene backcountry of Wajima, Japan, or negotiating the danger-fraught markets of Khan Yunis in the Gaza Strip, Jonathan Kolatch's boundless energy and fearlessness of the unknown coupled with his ability to ingratiate himself with non-English speakers by communicating in their native tongue give him the access needed to tell his story. At the Corner of Fact & Fancy is a place where the serious and the lighthearted meet. You ll find it a sparkling place to visit.

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About the Author:

Jonathan Kolatch completed an M.A. at Harvard and a Ph.D. at Columbia in Chinese Studies. His articles on the Far East, the Middle East, medicine, and the rural American scene have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post. He is the author of Sports, Politics and Ideology in China and Is the Moon in China Just as Round?

Review:

"The Corner of Fact and Fancy," the address of Jonathan Kolatch's new book, is a fascinating intersection. You have to look both ways when you cross the street, however, since there is a whole lot going on and Kolatch doesn t miss much. Most of us news reporters, when we are assigned a story, book the first available flight, hit the ground running, get briefed en route to the scene, stay there just long enough to get a few sound bites and to be shot (by our cameras, of course), then race to grab the earliest possible flight home. Kolatch, who assigns himself, has been known to think about it a while, then make his way to some place on the opposite side of the world where human drama is in progress. There he lives with the people, sometimes for years. He gets to know them, learns their language, asks probing questions and patiently gains insight into what is going on. (Knowing what you re writing about. What a concept!) And we, his readers, learn too, since we are along for the ride. And since Kolatch writes all this in the first person, we get to know him as well. His own personal reactions what he thinks and how he feels about what he sees, does and dreams give this book its highly distinctive character. That is because HE is a highly distinctive character. The same powers of intense observation, attention to detail and active imagination that Kolatch brings to his treatment of clashing cultures in a changing world, he also brings to Kolatchian contemplation of a car, a farm, a bed, a tooth, a chocolate chip cookie and a thousand other things. Close to home or far away, we find ourselves caring about people we've never met and things we never thought about. It takes a fine writer to pull that off, and that's what Jonathan Kolatch is. --Charles Osgood

In this volume of eclectic essays, author and freelance journalist Kolatch (Is the Moon in China Just as Round?) addresses a range of topics with a light touch and a critical eye. A Ph.D. in Chinese Studies, Kolatch writes seriously and studiously on politics, religion and conflict without divisiveness, and his reflections on domestic pursuits social graces and part-time country living among them are a treat. Take, for example, Christmas Card Relationships, about the unique satisfaction of the holiday letter-exchange Kolatch has with a Swiss couple (of standing invitations never acted upon: Perhaps this is for the best ); or Approved House Gifts, which offers a tongue-in-cheek diagram outlining the proper present to offer a host, depending on the time of day, duration of visit and the guest s yearly income (including a surcharge for departure after 11:00 p.m. ). He doesn t fail to include dispatches, often with incisive historical background, from his travels in China, Japan, the Balkans and the world of high finance; his opening section on the Gaza Strip is especially enlightening. Kolatch s flawless skills of observation and guileless reporting, combined with a gentle wit, make for highly entertaining journalism, no matter which corner of the globe he happens to land. --Publishers Weekly

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Jonathan Kolatch
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