Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon


The Current Reading List

Posted in Books by bourdaghs on the October 25th, 2010

Ernest Hemingway, The Torrents of Spring (1926). Written as a rather wicked caricature of the work of Sherwood Anderson, this early Hemingway had me pondering the ways in which his style borders on being a parody of itself: the more he makes fun of Anderson, the more he sounds like the mature Hemingway.

Tokunaga Sunao 徳永直, Taiyo no nai machi 『太陽のない街』 (The town with no sun, 1928). Classic proletarian literature novel that depicts an extended printing plant strike in a Tokyo slum. Crown Prince Hirohito makes an unlikely cameo appearance in the opening pages, and with the modernist, montage-like structure to the work, it has a very cinematic feel overall.

John Lewis Gaddis, The Cold War: A New History (2005). A quite readable popular history, with Gaddis determined to produce a version of the events of 1945-1989 that will appeal in particular to a younger audience that possesses no direct memories of the period. He strives to remain even-handed, yet there are some rather striking blind spots: Gaddis depicts the Cold War, for example, as America’s moment of emergence from naive isolationism to internationalism, which only works if you ignore things like the Spanish-American War, the annexation of Hawaii, etc.

Natsume Soseki, 夏目漱石 Mon 『門』 (The Gate, 1910). The core text for my current graduate seminar, which focuses on questions of Soseki’s relation to imperialism and to the concept of world literature. I’m fascinated by, among other things, the multiple economies that intersect in the work: we meet dogged salarymen, eager investors, crafty retailers, landlords, colonial adventurers, etc., all of them trying to make a living under the rapidly changing conditions of urban modernity.

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