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Journey of a Thousand Miles: My Story [Hardcover]

Lang Lang , David Ritz
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 15 2008
“Number One” was a phrase my father—and, for that matter, my mother—repeated time and time again. It was a phrase spoken by my parents’ friends and by their friends’ children. Whenever adults discussed the great Chinese painters and sculptors from the ancient dynasties, there was always a single artist named as Number One. There was the Number One leader of a manufacturing plant, the Number One worker, the Number One scientist, the Number One car mechanic. In the culture of my childhood, being best was everything. It was the goal that drove us, the motivation that gave life meaning. And if, by chance or fate or the blessings of the generous universe, you were a child in whom talent was evident, Number One became your mantra. It became mine. I never begged my parents to take off the pressure. I accepted it; I even enjoyed it. It was a game, this contest among aspiring pianists, and although I may have been shy, I was bold, even at age five, when faced with a field of rivals.

Born in China to parents whose musical careers were interrupted by the Cultural Revolution, Lang Lang has emerged as one of the greatest pianists of our time. Yet despite his fame, few in the West know of the heart-wrenching journey from his early childhood as a prodigy in an industrial city in northern China to his difficult years in Beijing to his success today.

Journey of a Thousand Miles documents the remarkable, dramatic story of a family who sacrificed almost everything—his parents’ marriage, financial security, Lang Lang’s childhood, and their reputation in China’s insular classical music world—for the belief in a young boy’s talent. And it reveals the devastating and intense relationship between a boy and his father, who was willing to go to any length to make his son a star.

An engaging, informative cultural commentator who bridges East and West, Lang Lang has written more than an autobiography: his book opens a door to China, where Lang Lang is a cultural icon, at a time when the world’s attention will be on Beijing. Written with David Ritz, the coauthor of many bestselling autobiographies, Journey of a Thousand Miles is an inspiring story that will give readers an appreciation for the courage and sacrifice it takes to achieve greatness.

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Review

“The hottest artist on the classical music planet may well be the Chinese pianist Lang Lang…the darling of fans worldwide.”
The New York Times

About the Author

LANG LANG was born in 1982 in Shenyang, China. He has played with the leading orchestras in all of the major concert halls throughout the world.

DAVID RITZ is a bestselling music writer who has cowritten autobiographies with Ray Charles, Smokey Robinson, Aretha Franklin, and B.B. King, among others.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt
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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Triumph! Dec 16 2008
By I. Wong
Format:Hardcover
Please forget the negative review from the previous reviewer and hear me out; if you are a musician of any level, you will enjoy this triumphant and inspirational story of Lang Lang's improbable struggle to achieve international superstardom.

It's true that the book does not discuss his insights on bridging the West with the East, nor does it delve deeply into his thoughts on some specific pieces. Rather, this autobiography does exactly what it's supposed to, it spoke about his LIFE; the teacher that abandoned him for a "lack of talent", and how that drew his father to the brink of insanity, or the days of NINE or more hours of practice with teary eyes and bruised fingers, or the debt that his parents incurred by raising travel funds for him to enter a piano competition in Germany.

Seeing Lang Lang's now almost signature emotional face on the cover of a glossy documentary didn't surprise me, he is the most hyped, most marketed pianist in recent years after all. The man has so many haters that I had to try to approach this book as fairly as I could with no prejudice. The biggest public criticism for Lang Lang was that he misinterpreted pieces and shows too much emotion on his face and not his playing, yet his fans and critics agree unanimously that his TECHNIQUE is breathtakingly world class. This book explains the root of that technique, but it also explains his controversial expressiveness that earned him countless reviews of "overrated" and nicknames such as "Bang Bang", but also praise such as "the most exciting and explosive keyboard talent to come along in decades".

To say this book was deprived of music is like saying the Romeo and Juliet lacked irony because Romance was the main theme.
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Format:Hardcover
There is a lot of hype surrounding this pianist and he's not my favorite, but this very moving autobiography certainly helped me to appreciate his journey to the stage and understand his character.
I was almost in tears at certain parts of this book, which delves into the struggle between he and his father, and the extremely competitive world of music in China.
Any musician would also appreciate reading accounts of advice given to Lang Lang by great teachers and maestros in the world of classical music along his journey.
I highly recommend checking this out. It's a very interesting and readable book.
I couldn't put it down and finished it in one day.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Missed opportunity July 28 2008
Format:Hardcover
While recognizing that he is still early into his career, and as someone who appreciates the piano work of Mr. Lang, I was surprised at how hollow, clunky, and one-dimensional this autobiography came across -- even with an English-speaking co-writer. The difficult relationship between Mr. Lang and his father, who overzealously pushes his son to an almost abusive level, is the predominant narrative here -- while there is little about Mr. Lang's love of particular pieces of music, his vision for bringing Chinese musice to Western audiences, or anything of depth written about his art itself.

Too bad. I would have liked to have read those things. Mr. Lang does so well in interviews in making classical music accessible to audiences, often his enthusiasm doing most of the talking! That doesn't come across here.

Nor does one really get a sense of Mr. Lang as a person. One gets the sense that his father has trained him to be a piano-playing machine -- cut off from anything resembling real life, asexual, and flat. Where is the living, breathing man? One fears that the sterility of life as depicted in "Journey of a Thousand Miles" will only have a negative impact on his art in the long run -- unless there's much more to Mr. Lang than what is conveyed here in this autobiography. If so, it's a missed opportunity, and doesn't make for an interesting read.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  47 reviews
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Fuller Picture of Lang Lang Aug. 28 2008
By D. S. Wong - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
When he burst into the classical music world as a seventeen-year old pianist from China, it was more than his piano playing versatility, and repertoire that caused a sensation; it was also Lang Lang's personal history and background. That a seventeen year old student at the Curtis Institute of Music, alone with his father in America, and away from his mother, etc, etc. This book is Lang's answer to the thousands of times he has been asked the same questions. He did a credible and honest job of describing his life and hardship in China. However, his telling of his growth and maturation in America in the last quarter of the book is superficial and shallow, as what one would expect from a 26-year old.

However, as a Chinese-American reader I am also struck by several aspects of Lang's book. First, it must have been a catharsis for him to retell the relationship with his father, the conflicts and mental and physical abuse (in American eyes, but not necessarily to the Chinese) he suffered. He has violated one of the most important Chinese canons, that is: "don't publicize family dirt." It must have taken a tremendous amount of courage and maybe some American rebelliousness to write a tell-all book about his father. Second, he appears to be challenging the musical, maybe even the artistic hierarchy of China, that winning competitions, especially international competitions is not the measurement of musical or artistic achievement. Third, Lang Lang's fierce personal drive and desire to succeed is not often evidenced in Chinese-American artists. This book explains his love of fashion, hairstyles as well his flamboyance and showmanship (good or bad) and, in turn, his success in America.

I highly recommend this book, especially to Chinese-Americans and readers who wish to better understand and appreciate Lang Lang.
17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars awed by the power of his father's love July 26 2008
By Rui Zhu - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I picked up the book reluctantly, expecting it shallow and celebratory. Loving Lang Lang's music, I had no intention to idolize him however. But the book turned out to be well written and surprisingly rich in meaingful details.

The book is more about human bonding amid struggles, the power of passion, the cut-throat but still humane environment in today's China, than about parading the gamut of Lang Lang's musical feelings. The tone of the book is honest and sincere.

I am moved particularly by the character in Lang Lang's father. The book depicts him as relentless, maniacal, absurd, but utterly committed to his son and capable of all-out self-sacrifices. He represents a familiar truth that has terrified many people in the past - a father's love is most revealed in his despair. When he despairs, he is at the most destructive.
19 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Most Outstanding Autobiography I've Ever Read Aug. 7 2008
By Christoff - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book absolute blew me away by the powerful experiences related by this equally brilliant musician. I read it 3 x times within the first 3 weeks after release. I will cherish and read this book over and over again. It feels to me as if Lang Lang is standing or sitting next to me telling me his life story personally.

I believe reviewer "G. Hansman "jakebc" (Vancouver, Canada)" was reviewing an altogether different book when he wrote his review of this same phenominal title. I hope to have Lang Lang sign my book in the near future to cherish even more for years and decades to come. I have and will continue to recommend this outstanding book to any possible real reader of good books. Not only is the content extremely moving and moved me to tears on every reading whether Lang Lang achieved success or whether he failed, but the presentation style is extremely accessible and of a deeply personal nature.

Lang Lang absolutely bared his soul to readers and lovers of his brilliant music CDs & performances. I will also forever in future when I see, watch or hear any other talented person - not only in music - remember that the artist I'm enjoying may have gone through an often brutal training and preparation phase to produce that which I'm enjoying now.

To every person who loves reading good Non-Fiction: Buy this book immediately - I can hardly imagine anyone not getting his/her value for their money and time reading this amazing book!!
40 of 54 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Hollow and clunky - a missed opportunity July 16 2008
By G. Hansman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
While recognizing that he is still early into his career, and as someone who appreciates the piano work of Mr. Lang, I was surprised at how hollow, clunky, and one-dimensional this autobiography came across -- even with an English-speaking co-writer. The difficult relationship between Mr. Lang and his father, who overzealously pushes his son to an almost abusive level, is the predominant narrative here -- while there is little about Mr. Lang's love of particular pieces of music, his vision for bringing Chinese musice to Western audiences, or anything of depth written about his art itself.

Too bad. I would have liked to have read those things. Mr. Lang does so well in interviews in making classical music accessible to audiences, often his enthusiasm doing most of the talking! That doesn't come across here.

Nor does one really get a sense of Mr. Lang as a person. One gets the sense that his father has trained him to be a piano-playing machine -- cut off from anything resembling real life, asexual, and flat. Where is the living, breathing man? One fears that the sterility of life as depicted in "Journey of a Thousand Miles" will only have a negative impact on his art in the long run -- unless there's much more to Mr. Lang than what is conveyed here in this autobiography. If so, it's a missed opportunity, and doesn't make for an interesting read.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How to Become a Great Pianist April 13 2009
By Clifford - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This was a very enjoyable biography. What is rare and gratifying is that Lang Lang wrote it when he was 26 years old. His childhood memories were still vivid, honest, and unfiltered. When he described his feelings about his achievements and disappointments or when he was forced to practice by his dictatorial father, the reader can readily empathize. A plus about the book is that he gave a glimpse of what it takes to become a great pianist. His parents had to make great sacrifices, he had to practice the piano for 7-9 hours everyday, he had a dogged determination to succeed, he had excellent piano teachers and mentors, and he had to overcome a piano teacher who wanted to destroy his career. Another plus about the book is that he gave some insight in how the Chinese and the Westerners define musical (and the accompanying economic) success. The former emphasizes winning piano competitions while the latter emphasizes engrossing oneself in the "process" of making music. When I finished the book, I found that I not only liked Lang Lang as a great pianist, but, most of all, as a human being.
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