Sayonara Amerika, Sayonara Nippon

The Current Reading List

Posted in Books,Fiction,Japanese literature by bourdaghs on the March 20th, 2012

George Eliot, Silas Marner (1861). My first time to read this since ninth grade English class with Mr. Sanborn. My vague memories of the story revolved around the child Eppie and her sunny influence on the title character; I was surprised to realize she doesn’t appear until halfway through the book. The seemingly realistic depictions of daily life in small-town England before the Industrial Revolution are charming–and the brief visit to a darkened factory city near the end suitably haunting. I’d like to sneak this onto the syllabus for a seminar I’m planning to teach next year on the philosophy of money and literature. Eppie’s angelic golden locks release Silas from his evil worship of gold, leading to (quite literally, the last line tells us) the happiest of possible endings.

Kira Morio 北杜夫, Yurei: Aru yonen to seishun no monogatari_ 『幽霊・或る幼年と青春の物語』 (1954). Kita’s debut novel, a lyrical collage of fictional childhood memories. It has highly comical moments, but at other times is quite melancholic–death always hovers in the background. With hardly any plot to speak of, the charm comes primarily from polished depictions of a child’s sensibility. A passage early on about how the spines of books on the shelves in the father’s study seemed like faces looking down at the hero brought memories of my own childhood flooding back: I’d forgotten how vividly I could recall the books that sat on my own father’s shelves.

Greg Robinson, After Camp: Portraits in Midcentury Japanese American Politics and Life (2012). Most histories of Japanese-American life focus on the wartime internment camps and the developments that led to them. Robinson’s welcome new study takes up the relatively unexplored question of what happened next. He traces the process of release from the camps, one driven by an ideology of “assimilation” that sought to prevent the reappearance of concentrated pockets of Japanese-American populations on the West Coast. (with the surprising result that Chicago briefly boasted the largest population of Japanese-Americans in the continental U.S.). He also provides very interesting material on the relations between postwar Japanese-Americans and other minority ethnic groups, in particular African-Americans and Mexican-Americans. Fascinating.

Leela Gandhi, Affective Communities: Anticolonial Thought, Fin-de-Siecle Radicalism, and the Politics of Friendship (2006). A remarkable study of late nineteenth and early twentieth century nonconformist radical movements in Britain (vegetarianism, aestheticism, spiritualism and homosexuality, among others) as experiments in alternate, explicitly anti-imperial, forms of relationship–as, in other words, experiements in “friendship.” Since writing my dissertation on, among others, Upton Sinclair, I’ve had a strong interest in such movements in the U.S., and Gandhi’s insightful analysis finally helps me make sense of their specifically geopolitical stakes. I now see why The Jungle necessarily includes condemnations of the imperialist Russo-Japanese War alongside its more famous exposé of the horrors of meat-eating.

One Response to 'The Current Reading List'

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  1. autoescuela gandia said,

    on March 26th, 2012 at 10:00 pm

    Another very entertaining post. Ive been reading through some of your posts and finally decided to drop a comment on this one.