Imagine our delight last night at the poshest of posh media events when we discovered that the smart, witty author at our Mandarin Oriental hotel table, James Kynge, had just won the Financial Times‘ “Business Book of the Year Award.”
First we listened to a brilliant and depressing speech by Larry Summers, the former Treasury Secretary who was offed as Harvard president after making remarks that were taken as an insult to womenkind (more on that, below). And we saw such media lights as FT editor Lionel Barber, Time Inc.’s Michael Elliott, the always irrepressible Ed Koller, Bloomberg editor-at-large Tom Keene (like Koller, spiffy in a bowtie), some people who tried to sell us corporate jets, Garrick Uttley, Chris Anderson (whose book The Long Tail, which we partied to, was also nominated), Kynge’s lovely, intelligent and charming wife Lucy Kynge (2½ years in Mongolia?!), Time business editor Bill Saporito, Kynge’s editor at Hougton Mifflin, Webster Younce, newly New York-based Guardian business reporter Andrew Clark, and many more.
Kynge, a Chinese-speaking Englishman who lives in Beijing and whose name is pronounced “King”, had been tricked by one of the wily judges (we think she was Rachel Lomax, Deputy Governor for Monetary Policy, Bank of England) into thinking he wasn’t the winner so he relaxed, drank wine, argued with us (sometimes in Japanese!) about everything from Chinese publishing, to the Internet, to the state of intellectual property in the digital age, and nearly fainted when Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, co-sponsors of the event, announced the award for Kynge’s book China Shakes the World.
“I hope I’m not going to do a Halle Berry,” Kynge joked.
He thanked everyone from Younce to his supreme helper Yang Li (“only she knows all the places where I wrote ‘I’ it would’ve better been ‘we,'”) and his wife Lucy, a U.N. development contractor, who not only made him honey sandwiches, but also told him to stop panicking after he’d quit his FT job to do the book, but also told him to stop worrying, to sit down and start thinking.
Earlier, Summers, looking out over a well-suited crowd in a chandeliered room atop the hotel with a stunning view of Manhattan, told us that the assembled New York crowd may be movers and shakers in the new economy, and that Chinese and Indian laborers stood to have their incomes rise as much as 100-fold during their lives — unprecedented in world history. But, he warned, all the glib economic pronouncements about riches for all and how wonderful globalization is leaves a lot of people in between, “from Dusseldorf to Detroit,” unable to participate, and that the happy literature of today reads a lot like what he’s read that was written between 1910 and the start of World War I. Like we said, powerful, but not cheerful.
Summers joked about what he had thought was the main difference between being the Treasury Secretary and being the president of Harvard.
“In Washington, it’s so political, there’s organized opposition to anything you do.” That was about the only laugh he got. Other than that, you could’ve heard a billfold drop.