Free book idea: the torch

I hope some energetic writer is working on a short narrative book about China, centered on the world pre-Games tour of the Olympic torch. Unexpectedly the tour has turned out to be a vehicle for getting at countless important and interesting themes about the country. The ways in which it has "arrived," and the ways in which it hasn't. What it understands about the outside world, and what it obviously doesn't. What the outside world, in turn, perceives and mis-perceives about China. The role of genuine nationalistic pride, and of government-engineered nationalism. And much more.

At least if I thought such a book was coming out, it would be a reason not to scream each time I come across the CCTV channel that seems to be devoting 24/7 coverage to the torch, as it makes its way through a new city in China every day from now until the opening ceremony on August 8.

Two images to get the research going. The first, as specimen coverage, is the front page of today's China Daily, noting the torch's ascent of Mt. Everest. The second, via my friend Liam Casey in Shenzhen, is the crowd that greeted the torch there -- and Shenzhen, remember, is a city that is geographically and culturally about as far distant from Beijing as you can find in China, the far-southern outpost of pure manufacturing-based market-mindedness. If this many people are being let off from the factories, something is going on.

Academics, journalists, belle-lettrists -- it's open to anyone. If you do write the book, please just mention me on the "I'd like to thank..." page.

#1: China Daily, today.

#2: Shenzhen, yesterday: