Matthew Davis left the University of Missouri-Columbia to join the Peace Corps as an English teacher in the remote western province of Mongolia. The wide-open country and its alien — to Western eyes — culture fascinated him so that when his time was up, he stayed in Mongolia for another year. For this year, though, he lived in the capital city of Ulaan Baatar in order to experience urban Mongolia. The people were exchanging their traditional nomadic culture for a more sedentary lifestyle even as the government was continuing its transition from communism to free market, and the change was not an easy one. Alcoholism was a way of life, and with it came increased violence — for the Mongolians and for Davis, who found himself badly beaten and naked in a hospital after another drunken night in a string of drunken nights. Davis recounts his experiences, good and bad, in his well-received book, When Things Get Dark: A Mongolian Winter's Tale, which also features several essays on the history and customs of Mongolia that reveal his fondness for the culture and people of his host country. Davis reads from and discusses When Things Get Dark at 7 p.m. at the Central West End location of Left Bank Books (399 North Euclid Avenue; 314-367-6731 or www.left-bank.com). Admission is free.
Tue., Feb. 23, 2010