Quite readable, although a bit rushed and broad brushed, so that I found myself having to backup and re-read chapters a few times in order to wrap myQuite readable, although a bit rushed and broad brushed, so that I found myself having to backup and re-read chapters a few times in order to wrap my brain around it (I'm not good at just remembering facts, I need to be able to identify underlying patters or currents to see how those facts fit a story or pattern -- which made this lack of detail a bit frustrating for me).
The author starts out saying he assumes you have no background in Korean history, but then because of the broad strokes I got the feeling that he was expecting me to fill in the missing details with my own previous knowledge. I think he's sort of FORCED into doing this because a lot of what is historically true runs smack into what Koreans believe is true, and by the norms of Korean culture talking about it directly is therefore impolite -- and these things should not be talked about. I should note I"m basing this on what my college age Korean students tell me, and from talking to them I've learned most of what they know about their own history is from historical movies, TV dramas, etc... which is, just as in the states, a bit distorted; very few of them have ever taken a class on Korean history or cracked open a history book. Fewer still watch the news or read newspapers, so their sense of their own history is predominately from entertainment shows. This puts the author (who is Korean) between a rock and hard place... what is acceptable to the emotionally sensitive Korean brain that has only ever heard things that are flattering to the Korean viewer's sense of self (nationalistic belief), and what is in fact historically true.
I do not come to this book with a blank slate. I've already (before reading this book) from my various students (I teach at the University level) Korean, Chinese, etc., picked up bits of history and had numerous chances to visit a bunch of historical sites both in Seoul and around the peninsula. I had also already developed a distinct sense of a massive disconnect between Korean history as Koreans describe it to me and what I heard about their history from the Chinese, Japanese, etc. Also, if you have since I already have a preexisting knowledge of Chinese and Japanese history (I studied both in college), the more I listened to Koreans talking about their own history the more the pieces just didn't seem to fit.
Therefore, having now lived in Korea for a year and a half -- and having developed a bit of my own prejudices about the stories I was being 'taught' by my hosts, I figured it was time to actually read up on Korean history from what seemed to be authoritative sources.
One of the nice things about this book, from my perspective as someone who studied history a lot (I can teach US history no problem, and can do justice to an overview course on European or Asian history), is that the author makes a point of trying to show where the historical record often does NOT jive with how Korean nationalism has chosen to revise its past to meet current political needs. He discusses where Koreans tend to view certain historical results as inevitable (think preordained) when they were far from it, and shows where they judge their past unfairly with current ideas about political nationalism (which any historian will tell is you is an idea very much of the modern age). He also in his discussion of the Japanese occupation says a lot of things that to my ears rings as far more likely to be true than the narrative I'm used to hearing from Koreans, but which I'm sure will greatly offend most them (in that as previously stated they do NOT jive with the nationalistic narrative). To put it bluntly, according to the author, becoming part of the Japanese empire was viewed by about half or more of the population as the lessor of inevitable two evils, as the other option was to have western/white overlords (Keep in mind that this was the period of the rapid colonization of all of Asia by Europeans... which the exception of Japan which had just exhibited its military prowess by beating the Russians). While the author does not mince words when it comes to the atrocities that began with and then accelerated during WWII, his descriptions of life in the Japanese dominated peninsula BEFORE the war started may cause Koreans to become 'reactive' at best.
Also he diminishes the importance of many Korean heroes of that period as having been essentially NOT influential to any ultimate outcomes, but argues that their deeds were "amplified' after the war as Koreans desperately tried to construct a war-time stance they could be proud of. (Not unlike what one sees in how the French tell their history of WWII.) And that in fact, these figure heads were brought in from outside of Korea and as such were representatives of the Allied forces that had 'liberated' Korea, rather than of the Koreans themselves. (North Korea ends up under Russian communist hegemonic influence, the South to the Americans.) This in turn resulted in a period of intense politics as Korean went from Japanese domination to domination but US and Russian forces who had even less understanding of Korean culture than the Japanese had had, and that ultimately resulted in the Korean war.
The author does ultimately make a good argument for how this period of relying on, and or trusting in, the Japanese to protect them -- only to find themselves betrayed, which was then followed by a different sort of western colonization, resulted in the strong nationalistic tendencies (and tendency to blame everyone but themselves of any and everything wrong in Korea, or its history)that is evident among Koreans today.
Going back a bit, Koreans (here in Korea) tend to reject the strong historical and cultural ties that exist between themselves and Japan historically, preferring to see Japan simply as aggressors.
This book on the other hand discusses how one of Korea's three kingdoms had very strong ties with Japan and hints that the Japanese royal family may have originated in Korea and at the very least were deeply influenced by the Paekach kingdom. Keeping that in mind, the choice of many Korean intellectual and power elites to turn to Japan, as a preferable overlord to the western powers during the colonial period, is far more understandable. The Author goes on to suggest that this in turn may not have been (in retrospect) the worst choice when the post WWII results are considered in their totality -- and of course if you choose to simply forget the atrocities of the war. He (BRIEFLY) points out that a lot of the companies that are Korea's pride and joy today got their start during the Japanese period, and profited greatly from those collaborative connections during the post war period when the Japanese economy was at its strongest. From the modern nationalistic Korean perspective, however, the 1/2 that had supported the Japanese are now being viewed as traitors who betrayed Korea and/or Japanese-collaborators by the 1/2 who never had agreed with inviting in any colonial power -- and they choose to not think about any benefits to modern Korea's economy accrued as a direct result of that period.
In the author's mind however this does not forgive the Japanese behaviors during the war which went from one of allowing a high level of cultural freedom in Korea, even allowing them to develop and codify the Korean alphabet, and language as an outlet for the tensions of colonization ... to then doing a full about face in 1940 and forcing Korean school child to speak Japanese, attend Japanese shrines, bow to the emperor, etc... and for the populace to be forced into giving up their ancestral Korean names in favor or Japanese ones, etc.. nor does he in any way forgive the forced labor, comfort women, etc.
That said, its a good guess on my part that most (less enlightened) Koreans who would read this history would be SO offended by some of what he had to say about the war that none of this last part would matter to them. Its my guess that a lot of Koreans would probably hate this book.
Likewise, while modern Koreans like to claim almost every part of their own culture as being Korean in origin. This book/author makes a pretty good argument for showing how Koreans -- back before any notion of a modern Korean state existed (before the modern notion of nationalism) -- happily adopted everything it could from China, and integrated those ideas into what is now 'Korean culture.' And how that even back then, Korean leaders would point to various thing that were obviously imported and declare them to be uniquely Korean. Again, I doubt most of the Koreans I work with on daily basis, would appreciate this author's (who is a Korean American himself, let's not forget) interpretation of their history; however, based on every academic review I've read, this is considered an authoritative telling of it.
The author, who normally writes about politicians, sets out to investigate what is it about Wayne that made him so iconic/political that he continuedThe author, who normally writes about politicians, sets out to investigate what is it about Wayne that made him so iconic/political that he continued to be listed as one of the greatest American male movie stars long his death. A character accepted as definitively Male, and yet is usually overlooked by academics who specialize in gender-studies. The goal (according to the intro) isn't a biography written for fans so much as a critical analysis interested in the part Wayne plays in America's political myth of self. The book says its intent is only to consider who Wayne really was and his actual history, in order to compare those to the constructed (spun) image and the Hollywood myths surrounding him, in order to clarify that construction.
Please note that above I referred to the intent as described in the intro and title, not what the book actually does. This book reminds me of some of my very WORST papers, the ones where I write a great intro paragraph, get lost and confused along the way, never actually support any of my arguments, or have a clear central one to begin with, and then at the very end I come up with biggest 'grand' statement of utter bullpuckie I can, hoping the proff will get so confused in my grandiose conclusions as to forgive the mess that was the paper.
Additionally, there are parts of Wills' narrative that ring false, so for instance when talking about the director Ford, it feels like the author has his own 'narrative' that he's pushing so hard that it feels like listening to partisan politics. There's no nuance to it, it's too black or white and therefore untrustworthy. Now you might be saying to yourself, 'well Wills' very liberal and this reviewer must be a conservative' only I'm not, I'm also a liberal. However, it sort of puts my teeth on edge when authors are so busy trying to indoctrinate that they push their arguments to incredulity.
The final conclusion is out in L.A.-L.A. land, making comments about how our relationship to cities is different from the rest of the world, and that this is an extension of our separation of church and state....??? The author says that all cities are built around a religious point (rather than an economic one, as most are), and even gives St. Paul's in London as an example. Problem is, St. Paul was built on the site of roman temple, and London was never a religious center, not even in ancient times.
The book says its about the construction of Wayne, and spends a lot of time describing scene by scene various movies he was in, and what went on behind the scenes of the making... but rarely if ever does the author broach the central issue of the introduction of how did these movies ring in the national consciousness as part of the construction that is the political image of John Wayne the movie star.
The book is in fact over 300 pages, and if you whittled it down to just the bit where the author does do this, its maybe a 15 or 20 page paper .... double spaced. Now these 20 odd pages are very good.
Also, if your interest is not in the political image of Wayne but rather you're a film student interested in how the films were made, a shot by shot analysis, what was going on in the background and any petty squabbles on set, this book does go into great detail about that.
It does not however do what it claims it set out to do, at least not really. By the end of the book you're not really any more knowledgeable about the politics of celebrity of Wayne than you were at the start
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Small readable paperback that does a really good job of explaining what terrorism is, its historical development, and who terrorists actually tend toSmall readable paperback that does a really good job of explaining what terrorism is, its historical development, and who terrorists actually tend to be (and its not who you think most of the time). Was assigned it by a professor who who was in the Israeli Army and currently works for the department of Homeland defense when he's not teaching....more