California Literary Review

Japan

Book Review: Revenge: Eleven Dark Tales by Yoko Ogawa

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February 11th, 2013

Ogawa begins by showing her readers the apparently boring, normal face of human society, and then slowly lets this face of normality slide back to reveal decomposition, death, and emptiness.

100 Greatest Gangster Films: Drunken Angel, #56

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October 4th, 2012

This one, we know, is a tough sell. Drunken Angel is a 60-plus-year-old, black-and-white, subtitled Japanese movie with virtually no action and not a single gun shot. It focuses on the mercurial relationship between a cranky, alcoholic doctor and a brazen young yakuza dying of tuberculosis.

Book Review: The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng

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September 10th, 2012

The Garden of Evening Mists is set in three inter-linked time frames. Past and present struggle to reconcile Yun Ling’s memories of wartime suffering and loss. But Yun Ling is faced by a cruel dilemma. Soon she will no longer have a future. Her brilliant, sensitive mind is slowly deteriorating from an incurable neurological disease. Oblivion will settle Yun Ling’s efforts to find inner peace if she does not achieve it first.

Art Review: Encounters: Conflict, Dialogue, Discovery Princeton University Art Museum

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August 6th, 2012

Zhang transformed Mr. Quaker into Chairman Mao five years after he emigrated to the United States. The birth of Chinese “Political Pop” took place in his New York studio. This is an ironical state of affairs, all the more apparent in Six Pack of Kekou Kele, created in 2002. Is Zhang commenting here on the way that China’s millennia-old civilization is being crassly mass-marketed to enhance its leading role in the global economy? Or is it a subtle indictment of the West’s heedless consumerism, so oblivious to culture that it can appreciate nothing unless it is a familiar brand product beckoning from the supermarket shelf?

100 Greatest Gangster Films: Sonatine, #82

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April 5th, 2012

As the men wait it out at the secluded beach house, they play Frisbee, dress up as geishas, practice sumo wrestling and engage in a bizarre version of rock-paper-scissors in which the winner gets to shoot a beer can off the loser’s head. The point, as far as we can see it, is to show the banality of passing time. But Kitano’s directing style—which verges on slapstick at times—becomes campy and occasionally downright silly. As Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly wrote, “The picture ricochets from random urban mob hits to horseplay in the sand that wouldn’t have looked out of place on The Monkees.”

Blu-Ray Review – Battle Royale: The Complete Collection

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March 26th, 2012

Quentin Tarantino proclaims ”My favorite movie of the last 20 years! I wish I had made this movie.” That is as perfect an endorsement as a film distributor could hope to have, especially when selling a film like Battle Royale to a hungry cult audience.

The Weekly Listicle: Worlds Of Fancy And Other Wondrous Places

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November 19th, 2010

A cleverly rendered fantasy world has the power to make us believe astounding things, and to transport us to places we may never have imagined ourselves. In the history of film there have been countless attempts to take real-world places and performers outside the realm of what has been seen before, and into far-off lands where the amazing, the terrifying, and the marvelous lurk around every corner.

The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War by James Bradley

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December 8th, 2009

James Bradley doesn’t like Theodore Roosevelt. Let’s get that clear from the get-go. Nor does he have much time for William Howard Taft, the gargantuan gourmand, Roosevelt’s right-hand man and his successor as president. And after reading The Imperial Cruise: A Secret History of Empire and War, I have the sneaky suspicion that there’s not much love lost for George Bush, either.

Einstein in Japan

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June 9th, 2008

The cult of Einstein reached the point where university officials in Fukuoka preserved the blackboard on which Einstein had scribbled during a lecture and forgot to erase. Shikanogi Masanobu, a professor in the humanities who sat in on Einstein’s lectures for six days, recalled: “I heard the quiet, serene sounds of his spirit. His thinking progresses steadily, quietly, like the melting of spring snow, without running, while sprinkling the meadow of knowledge with his jewels of mathematical equations.”

Parag Khanna Discusses The Second World

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March 4th, 2008

“Around the entire world what I see is Europe and China investing into and buying greater shares of foreign economies—and thus gaining significant political and even military leverage over them—at our expense. Power has to be a fair balance among a range of tools, including the military, in order to be used effectively. We’re not doing that now, and I don’t see a good strategy coming out of Washington as to how to do it better.”

After Dark by Haruki Murakami

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June 25th, 2007

This relationship — Mari, plain and studious; Eri, “gorgeous” and shallow — is our first intimation of where After Dark is really looking. Takahashi addresses the question to Mari this way: “I wonder how it turns out that we all lead such different lives. Take you and your sister, for example. You’re both born to the same parents, you grow up in the same household, you’re both girls. How do you end up with such wildly different personalities?” Here is After Dark‘s central preoccupation: different lives and different states of being, this side and the other side, within ourselves and between ourselves and other people.

A Grand Tour of Asia – by Hania Tallmadge and Beverley Jackson

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May 27th, 2007

I’m not sure what category A Grand Tour of Asia by Hania Tallmadge and Beverley Jackson should be put in. It’s certainly not a novel or narrative non-fiction or even a coffee table book (unless a downsized model). Other than the fact that it has a hardcover and pages inside, I’m not all that sure this one is really a book.

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