Wanted to Facebook this, but didn’t want my name attached to it. Doing so would compromise the protagonist of today’s vignette.

I’m co-writing a book about communication. A big part of it is about how to strike up a conversation with strangers. My co-author and I have already read a small library of books on the subject, from both of our respective countries.

Last week, co-author (hereafter referred to as “co”) called to tell me that his friend recommended two more books. “He says they’re the best,” co said. “They really helped him talk to new people.” He said he had English versions, and they were in the mail.

Last week I received the first one. It was a book on how to pick up women.

I sent a picture of it to co. “Yeah, that’s it!” he said. “How do you like it?”

“I haven’t read it.”

“Neither have I. But my friend said it was good.”

I tried to explain to him that pick-up culture was the opposite of what we were doing. Pick-up artistry trains you how to see other people as commodities. Its techniques are manipulations. Aside from being repugnant, that’s the opposite of what our book is trying to do: teach our students how to NOT see foreigners as an English commodity, and interact with them as real people.

Co didn’t seem to get it. I Googled the author, looking for more ammunition. Turns out, after writing the book he checked himself into rehab for sex addiction. He later wrote an exposé about pick-up artistry. He was happy that he had gotten over that part of his life. He wanted other people to avoid his mistakes.

Co still didn’t get it.

“I’m going to throw it away,” I told him. “I can’t have this in my house.” He didn’t seem to care either way. He just repeated that he heard it was a good book, and I should take a look.

I was perplexed. I wasn’t asking for an apology. I didn’t even want him to admit to any wrong – he was just passing on a friend’s recommendation. All I wanted him to do was agree that a book on picking up chicks is not a good model for our book. I felt that this was vital to our continued cooperation. He didn’t seem be processing it at all.

The next day, he came to Beijing to hammer out some revisions to the first draft. We were in his hotel room. I’d brought the book and left it out on the couch so he could see it. After about an hour, he finally picked it up and started flipping through it.

“What!” he exclaimed. “I really bought this kind of bookI can’t believe it!” He tossed it back onto the sofa, and sighed a disappointed sigh. I wanted his thoughts, so I prodded him with a “Yeah?”

“The type!” he said, throwing his hands in the air. “It’s so small! I just hate books with small type!”

Just now I received the second of the two books he sent me. The tagline: “How to get beautiful women into bed.” Doesn’t seem so hard to me – just wait until about eleven o’clock or midnight. They tend to get tired and go to bed all by themselves.

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