The Last Samurai
Just re-read after 10 years after really enjoying DeWitt's very different second novel, Lightning Rods, which just came out. In the past decade I've crammed in a few hundred novels, a few hundred pages of my own writing, and an MFA etc. And it's still one of ...more
The Last Samurai (2000) was the first novel by American writer Helen DeWitt.
The Last Samurai is about the relationship between a young boy, Ludo, and his mother, Sibylla.
Sibylla, a single mother, brings Ludo up somewhat unusually; he starts reading at two, reading Homer in the original Greek at three, and goes on to Hebrew, Japanese, Old Norse, Inuit, and advanced mathematics.
To stand in for a male influence in his upbringing, Sibylla plays him Akira Kurosawa's S ...more
Am I alone in thinking that Helen DeWitt writes like the Alabama 3 play their music - a sort of Country/Acid House fusion with a surprising British flavor? She drives through her fictional life with a relentlessly hard beat of ‘this is it/me; deal with it/me’ with riffs and shouts from whatever’s around - bits of ancient language, unsuspecting academics, cultural connections no one else has ever clocked. She tolerates anything but boredom and whatever might get in betwee ...more
Six stars! Seven stars! Hell, a herd of stars. We’re givin’ em away (liberated and reworked from The Tubes’ White Punks on Dope).
Finding exactly the right book at exactly the right time doesn’t happen very often. Finding exactly the right book at all doesn’t happen often enough. This one found its way to me through the oddest of circumstances—via Lee (his review), clumsy fingers, and time at the deathbed of my mother—it is what it is.
I follow Lee’s reviews and checked out the one for The Last Sa...more
Books like The Last Samurai don’t come my way very often whic ...more
Dewitt's book rambles on and on, ski ...more
The Last Samurai is a book where you’re never quite sure where you’re going next and at what speed, you just realise it’s going to be unconventional. To make sure you remain connected to the short snappy pointed tone of the main characters the writing adopts a similar style.
Ludo is a 6-year-old language and literary genius and his mother Sibylla is also intellectually gifted. I mean seriously gifted, where they home-study mathematics, science, literature, and multiple languages inc ...more
I sometimes feel depressed too. In my line of work, I often come across people who feel depressed. And I think, well, I have no degree in psychology. I'm certainly not qualified. But then I also think, what the hell? Sometimes people just simply need to know that someone is listening. So I try to listen. But I'm not always so good at getting people to talk. So I often ...more
I'm stuck in a rut myself. I've been doing this for too long. I keep telling myself I should bite the bullet... and make a comeback. What's the use of spending my life in this room? What's the use of me sitting in front of this blank screen trying to achieve some undefined ideal ...more
The novel itself is an original, highly innovative work, making bold and unexpected decisions in te ...more
This is a book which zooms between disciplines: music, maths, literature, language all play important parts - and we should note the character's names: Sybilla and Ludo, because there' ...more
One of my favorite books ever. I don't know is how time will affect my opinion of it, but I think it could last.
It's a novel about the normal and the eccentric, about learning, about languages, music, art, and Kurosawa. It's about the shape of brilliance. It doesn't sacrifice philosophy or intellectualism for narrative power or vice versa. Each smaller narrative wound into the whole is like story-candy. There is nothing to dislike: the style, the form, the content, the mood, the cha ...more
It's easy to get off of "death of this-or-that" re fiction, or really any art form, because art of course moves quickly. After writing that screed I just wrote about Palahniuk, I for a moment felt disillusioned with the state of the contemporary novel. It was my belief that, because of the immense acclaim the E ...more
1 star because her prose is clunky ("He said:... I said:... He said:...") and banal ("The wind is howling. A cold rain is falling.") Because her experiments with form are juvenile and obnoxious. Above all, because it's the type of book that wants to entrench itself against criticism (well of course the prose and form are that way because that's the type of people these characters are!), rather than simply being a better book.
5 star because o ...more
interruption by another character
continuing where it left of in mid sentence or even mid wor
d which can get a bit irritating actually. It is also funny particularly in the first half ...more
Hands down this is one of the best novels I have read in several years. Helen DeWitt has written a tour de force, a brilliant, funny, sometimes tragic tale about a single mother and her precocious young son , Ludo, whom she also endearingly calls The Phenomenon.
The Last Samurai follows the education and adventures of Ludo. His mother Sibylla meagerly supports the both, typing out copy for popular hobby magazines of mostly obscure pursuits. Home schooled, modeled a ...more
This wasn't an easy book to get into. I started it during a particularly busy time - moving to a new place, working longer hours at work ...more
I make it a rule not to read my book jackets until I'm done with the book. I only read books based on whim or recommendation and this one came from a dear friend and another mega-reader. Upon finishing the book, I read the jacket and there were two words that pretty ...more
I liked reading this one, it reminded me Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Yet, Foer's book was much better and made much more sense than this one. The Last Samurai starts off in a great way, I especially liked the Japanese parts, since I'm a learner of Japanese and all. However, the second part of the book has many ramblings that don't make any sense sometimes. It's like it could be a great book, yet it lost something along the way and became more of a medio ...more
plus, it's the first fiction by a woman since ayn rand that i loved (don't hold that against me. it's like mandatory for nerdy teenage boys, isn't it?). that's a 14-year drought! and lord knows i tried.
i don't understand why some novels about ordinary people struggling with ordinary crap are considered worthwhile. what do i ...more
DeWitt grew up primarily in South America (Mexico, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador), as her parents worked in the United States diplomatic service. After a year at Northfield Mount Hermon School and two short periods at Smith College, DeWitt studied classics at the University of Oxford, first at Lady Margare ...more