"As a work of reportage, especially its summary of recent industrial, technological, and geopolitical change, The World is Flat is a must read – the l"As a work of reportage, especially its summary of recent industrial, technological, and geopolitical change, The World is Flat is a must read – the last several decades’ newspaper headlines enumerated and exuberantly summarized. If you weren’t aware of these events before, you ought to be, and Friedman’s volume is an easily absorbed corrective. In summary, it appears we in the West have won the culture war, other parts of the globe (especially in the Far East) are thoroughly sold on our lifestyle and means for achieving it, and now pursue same with a vengeance. Unfortunately, Friedman’s analysis of this reportage falls short, revealing an alarming myopia with respect to world history as well as the cultural and environmental consequences of the flat world he describes."
"England, summer 2003, and the Smart family – mother Eve (writer), father Michael (English professor), son Magnus (age 17), and daughter Astrid (12) –"England, summer 2003, and the Smart family – mother Eve (writer), father Michael (English professor), son Magnus (age 17), and daughter Astrid (12) – have rented a vacation house in Norfolk. Each, in third person singular, shares their perceptions: Astrid, bored, resorts to staring at the sun and recording a sequence of morning dawns on her Sony digital; Magnus withdraws to his room tormented by a suicide at school for which he is indirectly responsible; Michael fluctuates between exuberant and depressed after a recent student conquest; and Eve lies in bed frustrated at the lack of progress on her next book and her husband’s continued philandering.
Into this cosseted middle-class ennui arrives Amber, unknown and uninvited, a literary riff: 'born in the year of the supersonic, the era of the multistorey multivitamin multitonic, the highrise time of men with the technology and women who could be bionic, when jump-jets were Harrier, when the QE2 was Cunard, when thirty-eight feet tall the Princess Margaret stood stately in her hoverpad, the année érotique was only thirty aircushioned minutes away and everything went at twice the speed of sound. I opened my eyes. It was all in colour. It didn't look like Kansas anymore. The students were on the barricades, the mode was maxi, the Beatles were transcontinental, they opened a shop. It was Britain. It was great.' Michael thinks Amber has arrived to interview Eve, Eve perceives Amber to be an older student Michael is seducing, Magnus and Astrid are too adolescent to care, and all are too self-absorbed to communicate their thoughts to each other."
"As a thriller, Miso Soup contains the genre’s essential elements, but too often broadcasts the developing action to the reader, undermining much of t"As a thriller, Miso Soup contains the genre’s essential elements, but too often broadcasts the developing action to the reader, undermining much of the novel’s suspense. While this flaw may be an artifact of translation from Japanese to English, the more likely cause is that such development is not of primary interest to Murakami (more on which below). Nevertheless, Miso Soup contains an illuminating portrayal of the sex industry and youth culture of Japan, both of which are - as Kenji comments several times in the novel - 'fundamentally uninterested in foreigners,' yet which have paradoxically developed elaborate methods to mimic foreign ways. Or as Frank exasperates, 'it’s not cool, it’s embarrassing. Japan may have lost the war, but that was a long time ago now. Why keep imitating America?' Such a question has been posed by many visitors to Japan and is central to Murakami’s fiction.
Ryu Murakami, like fellow author, countryman, and unrelated namesake Haruki Murakami, was born in post-World War II Japan, emerging as an award-winning and very popular writer in the 70s, first in Japan and then subsequently worldwide. As members of the post-Occupation generation, Ryu and Haruki were the first writers to incorporate frequent Western cultural references into Japanese fiction, to mixed critical reception in their own country (and causing some identity confusion between them among non-Japanese readers). In the works of Ryu and Haruki, as in the contemporary Japan they were both born and raised in, Western fashions, cuisine, sports, and iconography flourish, contributing significantly to their novels’ accessibility for U.S. audiences as well as lending a somewhat surreal air to their fiction. The key difference, however, is that for Haruki Western custom appears as an inescapable and accepted reality, a setting his characters live within. Alternatively, for Ryu, commencing from his first novel Almost Transparent Blue 30 years ago, the same influences present as suspicious and possible sources of conflict."
"A distinct pleasure of Samurai Shortstop is the clarity of its prose and the accuracy of its setting. Gratz has done his homework, capturing the poli"A distinct pleasure of Samurai Shortstop is the clarity of its prose and the accuracy of its setting. Gratz has done his homework, capturing the political and social concerns of the times, depicting Japanese samurai warrior conduct (bushido), and describing the harsh realities of Japanese boarding school life of the period. Moreover, Gratz incorporates occasional historical events and figures into the narrative, thereby lending the story further verisimilitude. The resulting bildungsroman, while on occasion perforce too tidy for its subject’s complexity and significance, presents an admirable portrayal of a youth learning to negotiate and ultimately co-opt a cultural invasion."
"For the past year the liberal press has feasted on a Bush aide comment to a New York Times reporter declaiming, "We’re an empire now, and when we act"For the past year the liberal press has feasted on a Bush aide comment to a New York Times reporter declaiming, "We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality – judiciously, as you will – we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out." Putting aside the liberal shock and awe at such bald declarations of US as empire, the unnamed aide accurately portrays US foreign policy of the past century. Since the 1890s, the US has staged coups and ousted heads of state numerous times in service of creating the reality US foreign policy demands. And indeed, books such as Guests of the Ayatollah: The First Battle in America’s War with Militant Islam (Atlantic Monthly Press, $26), by former Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Mark Bowden, endeavor to study how things have sorted out as a result."