Overall, a fascinating account of the disarray of the Japanese government and leadership during the years leading up to the Pearl Harbor "decision," wOverall, a fascinating account of the disarray of the Japanese government and leadership during the years leading up to the Pearl Harbor "decision," which now appears to be more of a default action made in a vaccuum of apathy, fear, and ignorance of international politics. At first glance, Japan's decision to go to war seems hastily executed and even questionable, as has been portrayed in the general historical narrative. However, we must remember that history builds on the actions of the past, all mistakes included; furthermore, it is difficult to easily forget or separate recent gaffes, particularly bold movements like acquiring territory or flat-out invasion. Japan's idea of staking its claim in other Asian countries is not new nor morally bankrupt; after all, this was the prevailing narrative in many other regions at the time, when it was acceptable (though not necessarily condoned or "good") to continue to push around smaller countries. Still, the ignorance of the overlapping ideas of cultural politics, international discourse, the blend of culture and government so prevalent in Japan, yet so absent in the United States (on the surface, anyway, but that is another discussion) seems to show the idea of glory-war having too much momentum to be contained.
Particularly on the Japanese side, the constant undermining of leadership among different government entities contributes to the issue. No one honestly knows whose job is whose, thereby, as Hotta correctly dictates, responsibility is avoided on the whole. On the U.S.'s side, Nazi Germany is an overwhelming concern and when one country is tugged, others are bent and stretched along with it. Japan's actions in the Pacific and the hostility against other countries are not unnoticed and cause ripple effects that, truthfully, could have been reigned in at some point. All in all, both countries deeply misunderstood the others' intentions in error and due to reasonable ignorance - that does not excuse the situation.
The concepts of "Honne" and "Tatemae" are crucial here, and even more so because the United States does not have a parallel behavior. With one side practicing their natural cultural and social inclinations and the other not having the faintest idea that it exists, communication is crippled from the beginning. With the U.S. receiving conflicting messages from their intelligence while meeting representatives who are singing a different song of peace, it seems it could easily be misinterpreted as disengenous. Viewing this along with Japan's more aggressive past and present, complete with invasions and clashing directly with the other tiger in the region, China, the momentum of war, again, appears quite difficult to stop.
The apathy and choice to do nothing seems to have done just as much damage as making decisions. In fact, inaction prompted others to fill in the gaps with less-than-stellar ideas. Japan's government in that period clearly had logistical issues with regard to decision-making, and a check-and-balance system, normally intertwined with the Japanese methods of discussion, failed here. The concept of "face" and the importance of the cultural and social behavior in every relationship and interaction, from neighbors to leaders, is also something I recommend researching to better understand the behaviors of the main players; it helps us gain a perspective on what seems to be erratic and unreasonable behavior. Several times while reading, I wanted to yell "Just speak up! Just say what you mean!" It is not such a simple thing to do in this multifaceted situation, with layers upon layers of intrigue.
Despite the very Japanese elements in this historical story, I believe a theme throughout is how easily this could, and can, happen to other governments in times of multi-pronged negotiation and politics, and that every culture and society has behavior that can lead to the recklessness, apathy, fear, and reactive aggression that built a brick wall between the U.S. and Japan discussions. Think of it this way: If choices are consistently made on the flawed decisions of flawed decisions, there is no chance for a solution infused with truth. A kernel may remain, but it is clear that poor decisions or withdrawl from action let the issue snowball until the momentum reached a tipping point; by then, both sides convinced themselves that it was a heavenly mandate, an unavoidable situation; destiny, if you will.
After that, it only took one more man to set the fire.
My rating would be closer to a 3.5, and I will admit that it was solely due to the ending. The meandering nature of the novel did not begin to botherMy rating would be closer to a 3.5, and I will admit that it was solely due to the ending. The meandering nature of the novel did not begin to bother me until about halfway through, when characters that by definition should be considered "established" were still nothing more than wisps of smoke. Light detail and change is not the issue, but rather, it felt like we, as readers, were having the wool pulled over our eyes. Characters flit in and out of the narrative and we never are given direction in the matter of their importance. Perhaps the mistake was expecting; the constant building of the plot, including the physical "feel" of the characters constantly moving, never standing in one spot, never allowing a moment to fester, much less occur or crystallize into an experience, is a letdown.
The prose is great; poignant, emotions packed into small sentences and simple words. Still, it does not lead anywhere, which leaves me simultaneously hating and loving this book. It forced me to double back and question what was missing. After musing on it, the lack of flesh is the fine point - but I resent that, as the attachment bridged between the reader and character deserved more. In glimpses of life, Baxter captures them beautifully, but the novel is a limp, tangled web of barely-present knots that tug on one another without any urgency. On one hand, the idea of meandering and nothingness is rarely explored in standard / post-modern (particularly North American) literature and often generates discomfort, likely what I am experiencing now. On the other hand, it was compelling enough that watching the characters fade away and never have a climax in their stories is frustrating.
Summarily, I am still not sure what I feel about this book. At all. And maybe I can pick it up at a later date and look at it with different eyes, and it will reflect themes that I could not see the first time.
My knowledge of the agriculture industry is extremely rudimentary, having only read a few non-fiction introductions to the industry, as well as textsMy knowledge of the agriculture industry is extremely rudimentary, having only read a few non-fiction introductions to the industry, as well as texts regarding food waste, local growing, and supply chains. I believe the issue of food scarcity, population, and starvation are quite serious topics that tend to be lost in the shuffle of safety, weaponry, politics, and inward-facing domestic issues, which cause the average consumer to shelve the issue in the face of more tangible threats. Like a lurking medical issue, this will compound until we are socially and politically pursuing reactive solutions rather than proactive, or actually preparing for the tipping point.
Why is this information so difficult to find? We do not see these problems on headlines except in passing, and it is consistently portrayed as an outburst by the scientific community, crafted as an overreaction. How have we allowed these changes in the industry to crawl under our skin and shape our entire perspective on food, and where it comes from? This book is a wake up call to the dangers in our agricultural industry and food supply, and I guarantee it can be tied to several other social problems that, while outside the scope of Elton's works, reveal the fundamental issues shaking the foundations of a modern society. Is collapse on the horizon? I could not answer that; I do not have the knowledge of the industry to make any sort of claim or prediction. What I do believe is that the way we are engaging with our food will reach a tipping point, if it has not already. Local growing, reducing food waste, and investing in microfarming and grassroots efforts in organic farming are all viable options that are gaining traction. However, we all can recognize the enormity of the food processing giants and seed distributors. What I find most disturbing about these trends, and the tight concentration of power in the industry, is that ultimately the people that patent techniques and technologies are effectively allowed to determine the fate of thousands and millions and lack any moral scruples about it. It is not much different than the medical industry, not required to necessarily share cures and ideas, leaving people who cannot afford expensive, "new" or "trial" treatments to wither.
As much as we would like to confine this issue to households, and be able to break it down by demographics and use it as a marketing tool rather than the jolt and eye-opening social issue it should be . . . agriculture plays a part in the cycle of any society, third- or first-world, developing or in transition, or post-modern, as the United States may be called at this point. Only by accepting that we will have to turn to our neighbor, to our community, and create a new network for a pressing social issue, and make it a priority in our lives, can we take steps to reverse the disturbing trends in the industry and REALLY find out where our food comes from....more
This is an extremely inspiring project begun by Candy Chang, and what is even more amazing is how others feel spurred to greater heights and choose toThis is an extremely inspiring project begun by Candy Chang, and what is even more amazing is how others feel spurred to greater heights and choose to engage in their own community goal. The layout of the book is fantastic, drawing the eye all over toward the color and font (a font which I love by the way, have to figure out what it is). I found myself yearning for larger, more colorful photos, but I feel that is an indication of the conditioning we feel about the media we consume; the staged and overwhelming feeling when in reality, photos are not always so gauche. I appreciated the diversity in the locations and was surprised at the variety.
I did notice that certain locations did not have extra pages or dedicated stories - particularly, a few from Asian countries and other places which are in the middle of some serious cultural change. I wonder if it was a language issue (could not be translated; either way, I would still like to see the photos untranslated) or if what was written wasn't desired to be included in the book. Maybe I'm reading too much into it ....
The remix page was interesting, and the stats page was gorgeous and my favorite.
I guarantee the reason I did not enjoy this novel as much as her other works is because an expectation has been formed in her usual mysteries and darkI guarantee the reason I did not enjoy this novel as much as her other works is because an expectation has been formed in her usual mysteries and dark noir. Deeply impressed by the normal "feel," this novel felt jarring not only because of its differences, but what I was searching for in the nooks and crannies of her prose that I felt were lacking. Much more straightforward in voice and prose, it is a new twist on the oft-repeated tales of Japanese mythology and figures that are brought up in Japanese history as often as their modern stories. Perhaps the translation muffles the magic of the stories, but it felt flat in places; however, in others it blossomed well, emotion charged into short, quick phrases.
Having read every other work by Kirino that has been translated into English, I was hoping this would prove to earn a spot on my bookshelf. I'm torn: I prefer complete collections of an author and this is novel is not "bad," but perhaps my expectations bogged it down while reading because her crime fiction and knowledge of Japanese society, and nuances in relationships, particular women, is what always captured me. This novel marched duly on, repeating the underlying theme that is prevalent in her novels, but did not delve into the WHY.
It is a solid book, but I am hoping her short stories are better, if I can ever get hold of a copy. Additionally, I heard great things about the novel "IN" but alas, not translated into English or any language I would know except Japanese, which I'm not well-versed in to the point at which I can read a full length novel....more