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James Salter
Photo by Lana Rys
Random House
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by Charlie Finch

There is no new China.
-- Ai Weiwei

In his memoir Burning the Days, James Salter relates an old Chinese fable. For years, a mandarin stood by a river, fishing, not with a hook at the end of his line, but a straight pin. News of his strange behavior reached the emperor, who went out and questioned the mandarin. "What can you achieve by fishing this way? What are you fishing for?"