To the Editor:
Kathleen Nott must have suffered a long, hot summer in 1970, judging by her comments on Hong Kong [“East Is West?” July]. She found it “pleasant to cross to the mainland from Kowloon by ferry. . . .” and then went on to observe how there were “so many people rushing to and fro between Kowloon and the mainland. . . .”
Even traveling by simulator would not make Miss Nott’s comments possible. . . . Perhaps she traveled by ferry from Kowloon, which is on the tip of the Chinese mainland, to the island of Hong Kong. There is no ferry service that I know of between Kowloon and the mainland.
Miss Nott is also adrift in regard to street lighting, which functions extremely well in the Colony. . . .
Miss Nott’s inaccurate observations lead me to believe that travel writing should be done by experts and not mere writers. How can Miss Nott hope to answer the complicated question “East is West?” when she doesn’t even know which way the double-ended ferry is going!
Kowloon, Hong Kong
To the Editor:
I suppose that Kathleen Nott proves her point—that travel is not broadening. Yes, possibly, if you don’t know where you are and to whom you are speaking. Kowloon is on the mainland, and you take the ferry to go to Hong Kong island. . . . Mr. Edward Seiden-sticker is not a Sinologist but a famous scholar of Japanese literature. Miss Nott might have been expected to know that, for he has translated Kawabata who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968. He is known as “Sticker” to his American friends, not to the Chinese, of course. Miss Nott’s opinions and interpretations are just as dubious as her facts. . . .
Year after year, decade after decade, I, like many interested in Asia and Asian affairs, have watched COMMENTARY, Encounter, and a host of other reliably intellectual magazines go their merry Eurocentric way. Then, on that rare occasion when some space is given to this part of the world, an article like “East Is West?” is printed. . . .
International Bank for Reconstruction and Development
Kathleen Nott writes:
I must apologize to Messrs. Caplan and Sanders. Both complain that I referred to Hong Kong as the “mainland.” This is very careless—it was actually a slip of the pen—I do know that Hong Kong is an island.
Mr. Caplan also complains that I said that the Hong Kong authorities economize on their street lighting and rely on their splendidly illuminated street signs. They did during the nights of my short visit. Still, I accept that in general they don’t.
Mr. Sanders objects to my reference to Mr. Seidensticker as a Sinologist instead of an eminent Japanese scholar. I do know he is an eminent Japanese scholar, having met and talked to him for some time in Tokyo. However, he does also know Chinese and kindly interpreted the “ideogram” to which I referred in my article when I met him again in Taiwan.
My article was meant to be impressionistic—is there no place for such a thing when the subject, as Mr. Sanders further complains, is, so he believes, insufficiently treated by your excellent periodical? It is sad that my impressions were sometimes too subjective. But the important subject of discussion was the Far Eastern political leaders and the extent to which their impressions of liberal democracy were accurate or deluded—and here I wasn’t being “impressionistic” but was reporting what they said themselves. I think therefore that the main body of my article was not invalidated by these unfortunate slips in local observation and color.