Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Sic transit gloria mundi

This item fits into so many categories it's hard to specify.

Recently Human Events published its list of the Ten Most Harmful Books of the 19th and 20th Centuries, as suggested by their panel of scholars. Number three on the list (being edged out by his guru Marx and Ueberteufel Hitler) was Mao Zedong's infamous "Little Red Book", The Quotations of Chairman Mao Zedong.

Item: President Reagan said that communism would be relegated to the ash heap of history. Mao's public image hasn't reached that stage yet, but in the rapidly-westernizing Shanghai, it's made it to the side streets. Mao only appears on kitschy wrist-watches and other souvenirs in the street markets, with the single noticeable exception of his portait in Tiananmen Square -- and Beijing is not Shanghai.

Likewise his book -- there's no shortage of original copies, in stacks alongside the fake ancient coins, made-yesterday antique knives, and other trinkets. I was quoted 100 RMB, about $12.50, for one, and snorted at it -- I offered 10 RMB, we settled on 25 RMB, and I still overpaid. IOW the first edition of this monstrosity -- you can't call it a "best seller" if it's given away, can you? -- can be had for about $3 if you don't haggle too hard.

Item: Over here, apparently, there's more demand. Amazon this morning had several used copies for sale, starting at $45 and on up to $75.

Gimme a break. I wouldn't give you $20 for the entirety of Chairman Mao Thought, let alone the Reader's Digest edition.

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