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Books on Cities: Tom Scocca, Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future

Tom Scocca has known difficult times of late. Earlier this year, he published an essay in New York magazine detailing his struggle with a fierce and mysterious — and, as of the piece’s writing, still unexplained — autoimmune disorder. This health crisis struck amid “some normal midlife stuff, some normal parent stuff, some abnormal and menacing stuff that I truly can’t even get into,” but also as the effects of the professional apocalypse in the journalism industry reached his own career. “I gambled on a job I wanted, as the editor-in-chief of a small magazine, and it ran out of funding.” (This seems to have been a short-lived, garishly designed, murkily blockchain-driven venture called Popula.) Another position was not forthcoming: “abruptly, all that my connections could offer were gigs.”

Despite only ever having had gigs, I’ve felt some of this myself; over the past six months or so, for reasons I still don’t understand, it’s become awfully hard to get a reply out of any editor. Being a dozen or so years younger than Scocca, without a family to support or a body suddenly bent on dissolving itself, this hasn’t put me into a much worse position than usual. Regardless, I can’t help but pay more attention to what I do have in common with him, especially when I consider where he was back in the mid-two-thousands. I mean that not in the sense of where he was in his career, exactly, but where he was in the world: Asia, and more specifically China, gathering the experiences that would go into his first (and, to date, only) book, Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future.

Read the whole thing at Substack.