=======Book Reports (2003)---------------------Back to Home

The Crow Road, (written by Iain Banks)

This was the first book that I'd read by Iain Banks, so I wasn't sure what to expect.
However, I found his descriptiveness so powerful that even though I had a hard time getting used to his style (especially the first one third of the book), I could enjoy the Scottish scenery. The locations were described wonderfully, and he made me feel as though I were really there.

"It was the day my grandmother exploded. I sat in the crematorium, listening to my Uncle Hamish quietly snoring in harmony to Bach's Mass in B Minor, and I reflected that it always seemed to be death that drew me back to Gallanach."

This is how the story starts. The narrater Prentice McHoan, a college student, returns to attend his grandmother's funeral.

My immediate reaction was, what does he mean, that his grandmother exploded? This was my first encounter with the author's black humor. But I dare not explain now why she did explode...

At the funeral he meets his relatives and his old friends, one is Ash, a boyish but devoted friend and another is the beautiful Verity a woman he has secretly loved for years. Prentice sees Verity at the funeral but misses his chance to talk to her, because his uncle keeps talking to him.

The story is told from the Highlands of Scotland in the setting of the 1980s. Prentice describes his unfortunate life, how his elder brother marries Verity, his own heart's true love.
He tells of his poverty that results from his disagreements with his father and, being too stubborn to accept his father's money etc. He also describes his childhood at the same time so that the readers get good insight into the characters' background.

Prentice introduces The McHoans (his own family), the Urvills (the owner of a glass factory, living in an old castle) and the working class the Watts, describing their complicated relationships and past events. There are some sinister happenings, like his uncle Rory's mysterious disappearance, his father's and his aunt's death.

Finally, the tempo of the story changes and there's no more jumping backwards and forwards between the present and the past, at last leading the readers to the stunning climax.

(Jan. 11, 2004)

My Brother Jack, (written by George Johnston)
George Johnston is one of Australia's leading literary figures. My Brother Jack is his most important work that was first published in 1964.

The story is written as first person monologue, narrated by Davy. As I had read the author's personal history, roughly written on the back of book, before reading this story, I felt as if this was his autobiography. Since this story is heavily tinged with his experiences, I think, and with his extraordinary expressiveness, Johnston made the story very real.

The story starts as David looks back his childhood, just after the end of the First World War. Davy and his brother Jack's life, after his father (a soldier) and his mother (a war nurse) returned from the war, isn't very happy. Since his father, Mr. Meredith, was back from the cruelest of war's, he is violent and aggressive to his family. Through incidents of their childhood and adolescence, the atmosphere of
Melbourne in those days is dramatically described.

Davy looks up to Jack because Jack has certain characteristics that Davy didn't have as a boy. But Davy is intelligent and talented in writing and eventually he becomes a journalist, then a successful war correspondent when the Second World War broke out. He even witnesses the signing ceremony of the end of the World War ll on the war ship Missouri. While Davy is making a success of his work as a war
correspondent, his brother Jack, who wanted to go to the war badly, can't make his dream come true because of an accident.

Even though he becomes a famous war correspondent, Davy doesn't have his place in life, and feels a lack of meaning and purpose. Though he got married to Helen (before World War ll), soon he realized that he didn't love her. Beautiful but wanton, Helen becomes a lover for many military men when the war goes on and Davy is out to the battlefields. Davy says 'there are many many Helens all over the world during the war.' And he himself becomes comfortable with those Helenns and spend nights when he visits as a war correspondent.

Then Davy meats former coworker, a Special Writer at the Morning Post,
Gavin Turly, who deeply influenced Davy when they worked together.

The story is slightly sad and ironic and very much moving. All the characters gain universality as human, though they are highly typical Australians.

(Nov. 26, 2003)


Tandia, (written by Bryce Courtenay)

This story took place in South Africa during a time when apartheid was at its worst.
I learned a lot about what South Africa was like in those days for blacks and colored people. The author weaves a story of how oppressed people worked together with those who sought justice against the inhumane dictators of the country and those who supported it. They fought the injustices of the system with great courage.

Tandia, whose parents were an Indian (Mr. Patel) and his house worker (a black woman), is raped by the police officers at her father's grave the day after his funeral. With Mr. Patel's death Tandia knew things were going to be very hard for her. But after Mrs.Patel kicks her out of the dark corrugated-iron shed in the back yard, her only house, her situation has been changed more drastically than her expectations.
she is arrested by the police and meets the police who brutalised her in her father's grave and becomes her life long enemy, Jannie Geldenhuis.

While Peekay and Hymie go to Briton to become law students in Oxford, they want to conquer the world boxing field, Peekay as world welterweights champion and Hymie as Peekay's manager. They also want to pursue justice for the country they love, South Africa. When they are back in South Africa, they meet Jannie Geldenhuis and he is to be their enemy in both boxing and political antagonist.

And Tandia, who grows beautiful and intelligent, meets Peekay, who is a white man, in the country where mixed relationships are outlawed, their growing love can be very dangerous and it can lead them into the most fearful consequences.

While i was reading the story, I got to know that ' The Power Of One' was the story whose main caractor is Peekay. So Tandia is the sequel of The Power Of One, then we can expect the trilogy, can't we?

(Sep. 27, 2003)------------------------



The Vampire Lestat, (written by Anne Rice)

It is the first time I have read a book of this genre. When I was first introduced to Anne Rice's web-site, i was very impressed with the beauty of it and the music. Tchaikovsky's music "Violin Concerto" is a favorite of mine so I decided to read this book. Ann Rice succeeded in creating her own world of vampires. Some parts are disconcerting to read; the vampire's world.

In the last decades before the French revolution, Lestat is twenty one.
Lestat was born and brought up as the youngest son of a marquis, under the roof of a castle but poor. Ann Rice tells of Lestat's troubled younger days
with his mean father and brothers and taciturn but warm and loving mother.

Lestat runs away with his childhood friend, Nicolas de Lenfant, to Paris. There they start a life together in the theatre, (Lestat as an actor and Nicolas as a violinist.) As he is becoming a successful actor, he is captured and made into a vampire against his will by Magnus who wanted to end his own life as an immortal vampire.

With the enormous wealth that Magnus left him, Lestat starts the life of an immortal vampire, clandestinely going out, only after sunset until dawn. He wants to help his beloved Nicolas and his dying mother, as it turns out he makes them vampires as well.

After struggling with other vampires, Lestat gets to know the name of the ancient vampire Marius. Through Marius, Lestat learns the meaning and the history of immortal vampires. Then, in Marius's remarkably beautiful hiding place, Lestat is
taken to see 'Those Who Must Be Kept'.

Anne Rice used ancient tales of Egypt and other places, combining them to create a vampire's story. Not only that, she also successfully combined in the tale, present age America, it's culture and rock music.

Aug.19, 2003



The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy,(Douglas Adams)

This book is interesting as well as funny and easy to read. However I needed longer time to finish it, because it was sent to me by my friend through e-mail, and reading on my computer was quite hard for me.

The book was full of irony and had intelligently funny writing style. From start to finish, the book never bored me once. The author, Douglas Adams's satirical style reminded me of Gulliver's Travels written by Swift.

The story goes like this, A local radio worker Arther Dent finds one morning that his house will be demolished to make way for a bypass. Then his friend Ford Prefect (in realty he is a creature from another planet) comes and tells him that the earth itself is about to be destroyed to make way for a hyper space bypass. Ford persuades Arther to join him and takes him on to the spaceship which was sent to destroy the earth. They can manage to escape in time from the earth's destruction as hitchhikers. But unfortunately they are thrown out of the air lock into deep space.

Then they are picked up again in time by a stolen star ship of which name is Heart of Gold that is totally improbable, traveling around the galaxy using 'the Improbability Drive which is as zany as it sounds.'
In the star ship they meet Ford's semi cousin, Zaphod, (a two headed being who was the president of the galaxy with stole Heart of Gold), the only heroin in this book, Trillian, (another earth survivor with her two white mice, Frankie and Benji) and Marvin, the paranoid android, (the only manic depressive robot in the universe.)
Then they reach a planet called Magrathea ....

The title of this book,"The Hitchhiker's Guide for the Galaxy" is the title of an electronic book of Ford's research. In fact Ford was sent to do a report on the earth for the book, which crams a couple of buildings worth of information into its book-sized form.

Aug. 8, 03



News of a Kidnapping, written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Gabriel Garcia Marquez is a Colombian author and one of the Nobel Prize Laurels. This book was his first nonfiction.
This is the third of his books, I have read.

There were two terrorists groups in Colombia. One was a political terrorists group, which was accepted as one of the political parties because they stopped the violence that was occurring at that time. The other terrorist group was the cocaine cartel led by the notorious Pablo Escobar.
Marquez chronicles the kidnapping of ten people, (9 were journalists) by Pablo Escobar in 1990, just after President Cesar Gaviria took office.

Eventually Escobar surrendered to the government, however Marquez shows how Escobar and his men, fearful of being sent to the United States to trial, began to pressure the Colombian government. They demanded not to be extradited, but to receive special protection, in a special prison in their own country if they were to surrender.

They were called "Extraditables," since Colombia and the USA wanted to extradite them from Colombia to put them on trial in the USA. In the US, they would be given sentences longer than their lives and could never escape.

In order to pressure the government and the press, the Extraditables began by kidnapping nine journalists, including: Diana Turbay, publisher of a news magazine and daughter of former President; Francisco Santos, news editor of Colombia's best-selling newspaper, El Tiempo; and Maruja Pachon, a former television producer and wife of the politician Alberto Villamizar.

Marquez uses a journalist writing style in this book, but his wonderful descriptions make readers fully able to imagine the victims' ordeal. Their despair, depression and unhealthy lives in a dimly lit stinky room of a rented house, really grab your emotions. In the middle of a busy city, where ordinary people live, these journalists were prisoners, unable to escape. It is so sad.
He also describes the pitiful situation of the guards, some of whom developed relationships with the victims, who they knew they would be force to kill, if police raided the house.

Furthermore he describes how the families of captured, anguish and tells of their efforts to set their loved ones free. Especially Maruja's husband Alberto Villamizar, who at last succeeded in arranging a meeting with Escobar and a priest. And then, finally, he was able to arrange a meeting for himself and Escobar, which eventually led Escobar and his followers to surrender to the government.

JUl. 17, 03



The Valkyries, (written by Paulo Coelho)

This is based on the true story of Paulo Coelho's experience. The story begins in Rio de Janeiro when Paulo Coelho gives his magic master, J., the only manuscript for his book The Alchemist. Paulo has a dark past which he has to overcome. This mysterious master, J., gives Paulo the task to go to the Mojave Desert, in order to break the curse. He must find and talk to his guardian angel. J. says, "It's for love. For victory. And for the glory of God."

Paulo takes off for the desert with his wife, Chris, for a forty-day journey. They meet the young wise master of the tradition, Gene, who lives in a trailer out in the desert, several miles from Borrigo Springs. Through him, Chris gets her initiation into the world of magic, being taught "the second mind" and "channeling."

And then, they encounter the Valkyries- a band of bold, leather-clad women who travel the desert on motorcycles, spreading the word of angels- led by a woman warrior named Valhalla. Travelling with them in his car, Paulo, at last, manages to talk to his guardian angel, who shows him how to conjur the gates of heaven whenever he wants.

I was intrigued by Paulo's depiction of the beautiful but dangerous desert and it's enchanting secret.

Jul. 10, 03



Veronika Decides To Die,wriiten by Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho is the world famous author of The Alchemist, currently living in Brazil.

The story goes like this.
Veronika, a twenty-four-year-old and on the surface a seemingly happy girl, attempts suicide due to feelings of emptiness in her life. But her suicide attempt fails, and she finds herself lying on a bed at a mental hospital 'Vilette'. She is told that she will live less than a week, because the sleeping pills, which she took to sleep forever, affected her heart.

She meets two women and a young beautiful man, Zedka. Mari and Edusrd there. They have been in Vilette, because they cannot adjust to the social structure or cannot live up to their families' expectations.
While struggling with her desperate desire to die, she starts to realize what life is and wants to live her last few days happily. There is an interesting psychiatrist Dr. Igor, who intends to cure Veronika in an interesting way!!

Paulo Coelho explores the idea about the meaning of madness and how a person should live his/her live, if the person can't conform to others. The story, narrated in a simple but ironic style, makes the book more interesting. I think this is a worth reading book.

Jun. 22, 03



True History of The Kelly Gang, (written by Peter Carey)

This is about a real guy, who was the most famous outlaw, named Ned Kelly, in Australia. He was captured by police and was later hanged. The story was told, as if he had handwritten 13 parcels worth of letters to his daughter. The words and sentences are quite funny, as if he (a poor uneducated Irish boy) is talking. At the beginning, the author gives some explanations about how Kelly was captured (also told as if from the perspective of a firsthand witness to the incident). However, while reading, I couldn't forget that I already knew Kelly's outcome, which made it hard to keep reading.

The memoir depicts Ned as a goodhearted, loyal, and basically honest young man. (He saved the life of his friend who was nearly drowned in a river.) However, he came to blows with the law, partly because of his bad companions, and partly through the characteristically malice police. Ned could have escaped to America with his wife, but chose to remain in Victoria because he hoped somehow to free his mother, who was serving a jail sentence in Melbourne. Even if his life was harsh, he was a devoted son and warmhearted person.

Jul. 10, 03



Left Behind, written by Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins

This story begins with an unnatural happening. In a jet plane 747, at night flight to Europe more than hundred people disappear, leaving their clothes and everything. In a great confusion the pilot decides to return to Chicago, where they find that so many people disappeared all over the world, and the rumor about the last day of the earth.

Why so many people disappeared all over the world? There are roughly two speculations. One is alien theory, the aliens that live somewhere over there in the universe took the people to invade the earth. And the other is the last day theory, since those who disappeared were innocent children, baby (even in their mothers wombs) and very religious people. People think the disappeared people went to heaven before the last day of the earth, so that they don't have to suffer to see the distraction over the earth.

Anyway the people who are left behind have to face difficulties physically and emotionally. Physically, because anywhere are now in a mess especially big cities. Any kinds of trance potation are thrown into in confusion, a lot of drivers disappeared while driving, and train motormen and pilots disappeared--you can imagine what happened, can't you?

Rayford Steele, who is the pilot of the 747 which he managed to land Chicago, is suffering from loss of his wife, Aileen, and younger son, Ray Jr. He regrets how he neglected Aileen who was very religious. Therefore he searches for answers of disappearance, visits the church, where he had never before enjoyed attending with his wife. There, he finds the assistant pastor, Bruce Barnes, who has been left behind. Bruce gives Rayford a video recorded by the church's pastor which tells of the disappearances predicted in the Bible, the path to salvation, and foretells of the events to come, according to the Bible.

Alongside of this, another story is being told, that is, an able journalist, Cameron Williams (nicknamed Buck), who was one of the passengers on the 747, grapples with some people who are planning a certain plot: making one government , one currency, maybe one religion what so ever in the world.
Buck gained fame and renown by covering a massive air assault in Israel in which all of the enemy forces attacking were killed by a strange firestorm, and yet no casualties resulted on the Israeli's side. That coincides with an event predicted by the Bible.

Buck also searches for answers. While he watches a charismatic Romanian leader rise quickly to the head of the United Nations, Buck meets Rayford, his daughter Chloe and Bruce Barnes, learning from Bruce's teaching that this leader is predicted in the Bible, and in the video tape.

I am, as a typical Japanese, not at all religious. And not at all familiar with Bible. I was a little shocked to know that there is such a notion, that only the Chrischans would be saved at the end of the world.

Furthermore, I thought, that if the United Nations became strong enough to make all the world unite as one country, there would be no more wars. Of course, in that case, U.N. must recognize diversity of the religions, currency and languages, unlike this story.

May 19, 03



Covenant,-- written by Raymond J. Andrews -------

After 80 years of listening to the beacon from Pluto, humans decided to launch a sophisticated spaceship, Ambassador, to detect the origin of the beacon. Ambassador, itself, was built as a kind of tiny planet, able to travel for long years. It was February 29, 2012, when at last Ambassador, in which there were fourteen crew members, left Mother Earth. It took them seventeen years to reach Pluto, where, unfortunately, something went wrong. They had to crash-land on the planet, enabling Ambassador from taking off again. Actually, they did succeed in landing (they succeeded because most of the crew survived), but not in the manner they had intended to.

With so much difficulty they decided to stay on Pluto, waiting for a rescue ship from the earth. Even if they had managed to take off from Pluto, it wouldn't have reached the earth. After one crisis, one member discovered that it was a little warmer in the rock under the thick ice, if they dug it enough, it would be much warmer than the inside of Ambassader. Since the crash, it had been very cold inside, except for the vagetant chamber. If they could provide oxygen, then they could have a chance to survive without their space suits outside Ambassador, underneath the rock.

While they were working hard to maintain their lives, and digging the rock with a special device of laser beam, one female member wanted to have a baby, so that she could have a purpose or a hope to live.
Then they had babies one after another, using in vitro and incubator. The first baby was named 'Hope.'

As time goes by, Hope takes the role as a mother to other younger children. All the children are educated to be able to succeed the works which the older members are carrying on. The original members, getting older and older, pass away one by one. Parish, who is now the last original member, knows that his last day is approaching. As a result, he calls the eldest child, Hope, to ask her to accept his dying wish.
He wants to name the place, where they are living now deep down under Pluto's surface, Covenant. Covenant is a promise which should never be broken. Covenant was the promise that a ship would come from Mother Earth to rescue them, in case of an emergency. He wants to name the place Covenant, so that Hope and other children will never forget the promise that people from Earth will come to rescue them.

Then half-way through the book, we encounter the community which we guess is Covenant deep down under the Pluto's surface. However, it seems quite different from the Covenant we know. It looks systematically organized but very inhumane. No citizen has a personal name. They are called by their places of duty and grade. All of a sudden, the story becomes more exciting and compelling. At the same time, it brings about a bizarre atmosphere. I'm amazed at the author's imagination and powerful descriptive ability .

Furthermore, I'm interested in his analogy of the earth and heaven.
Is he loathing the real situation of the earth where we have never stopped fighting? Is he trying to suggest that we are like the citizens, who are living in the maze under Pluto's surface?

Perhaps he is suggesting, that we should be happy on this beautiful planet, Earth, where we have a solar blessing, unlike Pluto. What does the author has to say in his Book 2 of the Horizon Trilogy? I can't wait.

May 4, 03



Song of Solomon --written by Toni Morrison

I read Song of Solomon written, again, by Toni Morrison.
In the beginning of the story, a baby boy was born the day after a man stuck silk cloth wings to his back and tried to fly off the roof of the hospital. Of course the man failed to fly, but the baby was the first black born in the hospital.

While I was reading, I felt a strong impression that the hidden theme of this novel might be Icarus. For example, from the beginning, Morrison describes, one, how a man tried to fly off the hospital where the baby boy, nicknamed Milkman later, was born. Two, she focuses on the relationship between he and his father, to whom Milkman has ambivalent feelings. And third, she talks about how the father's sister, whom Milkman meets in spite of his father's prohibition, sings this song:

Sugarman done fly away
Sugarman done gone
Sugarman cut across the sky
Sugarman gone home

This is just my impression. Maybe Milkman will fly from the labyrinth of the black society or something, or maybe he will fly from his father.

However unlike Icarus, Milkman doesn't die. He flies at the very end of the story. Milkman, while working for his father, feels a strong craving to fly to somewhere far from his father and his environment. His father, Macon Dead, is the rich owner of a lot of property、which he lends to other poor black people. Milkman finds his chance to fly (in a real plane) to the South, to find gold. However, it turns out what he is searching for is not the gold but his identity. He finds his ancestral place and his people in the South. And most importantly, he finds the original song which Pilate sang, the song, which is now sung by children as a play-song in this ancestral place.

Jake the only son of Solomon
Come booba yalle, come booba tambee
Whirled about and touched the sun

Left that baby in a white man's house
Heddy took him to a red man's house

Black lady fell down on the ground
Threw her body all around
O Solomon don't leave me here
Cotton balls to choke me
Buckra's arms to yoke me

Solomon done fly, Solomon done gone, Solomon cut across the sky, Solomon gone home.

The lyrics of the song tell Milkman's great-grandfather Solomon's story. Solomon flew to Africa from the hard work of the cotton fields with the last baby-boy , Jake (but failed in taking him), leaving his wife and twenty children behind. Jake, having fallen from his father's arms, somehow survived and was raised by an Indian woman. Here again is a father-and-son relationship, but Jake didn't die.

Milkman finds out that his own father and Pilate's parents (Milkman's grandparents) are Jake, (officially Macon Dead--the same name Milkman and his father also officially share), and an Indian girl named Sing (originally Singing-Bird).
Through knowing his family history and accepting who he is, he learns to understand others, like Pilate. Pilate is strikingly different from her brother, that is, Milkman's father. She doesn't care about owning material things. Pilate posseses many gifts such as: understanding, generosity, sympathy for people who are in difficult conditions, and the gift of song.

I wonder what Morrison was trying to imply, with the male peacock? When Milkman tells his friend, Guitar, that he is going to the South, both he and Guitar are amazed by the mysterious appearance of a peacock on a car in the used car lot where they are standing. Milkman mistakes it for a female, but Guitar says to him, "He. That's a he. The male is the only one got that tail full of jewelry. Son of a bitch." Milkman asks why the peacock can fly no better than a chicken, and Guitar, who wants to catch and eat the bird, answers, "Too much tail. All that jewelry weighs it down. Like vanity. Can't nobody fly with all that shit. Wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down." Morrison adds metaphorical meaning to flying. Interesting, isn't it?

Furthermore, I think one of the most important themes of this novel must be the relationship between men and women. Women are mistreated by men, and women are left behind by men. For as Milkman becomes aware of his mistreatment of his girlfriend, Hager, Pilate's grand-daughter, he grows into a man in a strict sense.

Apr. 13, 03



Beloved -----------------written by Toni Morrison

----------Beloved is the third Morrison's novel for me. This book is also very hard to read. It is not only because of Morrison's writing style but also because of the story's severeness. The story starts with a woman named Sethe, who was once a slave but ran away from the severe situation. She lives in a haunted house with her daughter, Denver. Sethe has a scar shaped like a chokecherry tree on her back. At the very beginning of the story, a man named Paul D, and later a mysterious girl, Beloved, join Sethe's life.
Through their lives, Morrison reveals little by little why she has such a scar on her back and why she lives in a haunted house. It also shows the history of black people in the U.S.

----------I think there are a few themes in this novel. One of the most important themes is the issue of race and effects of slavery. Morrison shows a community of ex-slaves and how they manage to get on track with their lives after being set free. Portraying their lives vividly, Morrison tells us they are just like every other people. But they had to endure injustice of white people who had unfeeling. There were of course some warm-hearted white people who treated their slaves well. However it was difficult even for them to avoid the mindset of slavaly. There were only a few exceptions, such as a white girl, Ann, who helped Sethe to be delivered of a baby (later named Denver). Without Ann's help Sethe would have lost her life. Sarcasticaly Ann, who was on the way to go to Denver alone, was in the lowest class of whites' society.

--------- Each of the characters in the novel has endured a furious past. Sethe has been raped and has a scar of chokecherry tree on her back, which is the remains of an operation schoolteacher performed in an effort to determine how much she resembled an animal. Later he forced her to murder, that is because of such a painful experience, when schoolteacher and other whites came to catch them, Sethe chose to kill all her children and herself, rather than make themselves to become slaves again. However she only managed to kill her second younger daughter. Paul D had been imprisoned in a cube in a ditch. Stamp Paid was forced to give his wife away to be a sex toy to white people, and many more sad stories are introduced. Almost all of these men and women have to choose to repress their past.

--------- The question for Moral Certainty also plays an important role in the novel. "Was the murder right or wrong?" occured to me many times.
Sethe didn't want her children to be slaves because she loved her children so much. If she had not murdered Beloved, she and all her children would have been sold back into slavery. Even so, did she have the right to do it?
I don't know the answer for it, but when she committed the murder, she was shunned by an entire community for eighteen-years then placed at the mercy of a vengeful spirit of Beloved.

----------It is such a sad and painful story that I felt as if my own back was aching. But I am pleased to read the last part, where the human warmth of the community's people to Denver and love of Paul D toward Sethe are shown. Is this the answer for her murder, I wondered. I mean, Sethe didn't have the right to kill her daughter, whatever reason she had, yet they can have compassion on her situation. Paul D says to Sethe that her love is too thick and "For a used-to-be-slave woman to love anything that much was dangerous, especially if it was her children she had settled on to love. The best thing, ,, was to love just a little bit; everything, just a little bit, so when they broke its back, or shoved it in a croaker sack, well, maybe you'd have a little love left over for the next one"
Mar. 29, 2003



Paradise ----------written by Toni Morrison

-------------The story is at first terrifying. Unlike its title, Paradise begins by describing how a group of men conduct a mass slaughtering of a group of women. The women had been living in an abandoned mansion/convent near the all black town, Ruby, in rural Oklahoma. Then the story backtracks to show why the tragedy happened.

------------Ruby was founded by ex-slaves who traveled from Louisiana after the Civil War. They originally founded the town, Haven, however, the next generation moved away from it and founded a new town, Ruby. Since these people were oppressed by whites and even turned away by the light colored of their own people, their community had become solid and didn't like outside people and the outside world. To protect their community, they despised change. It seemed like they segregated themselves to create their own paradise.

---------- But the change came from the outside world in the wake of the citizens' movement for black people. Inwardly, they also changed themselves. The younger generation was changing, as is often the case in any community. Another change occurred when some unhealthy babies were born, because some marriages were against the "blood rule" of such a small community. Being threatened by changes that they were unable to cope with, they needed something to blame.

-----------In the convent (which use to be a school for Indian girls), several women with traumatic pasts caused mainly by men, came to stay one by one from the outside world. They were very different from Ruby's people, for they were from the modern world of the 1970s. The men in Ruby decided that those women were the cause of their misfortune, so they decided to evict them from the convent. So, they found scapegoats. Even though those women were oppressed by society, the same as the original founders of Haven and Ruby, the men became their new oppressors.

---------With this terrible tragedy, Morrison starts to talk about the lives of the women of the convent, one at a time. Alongside of it, she introduces the complicated history of Haven and Ruby and the conflict of the people in the community. "They shoot the white girl first," is the first line of the novel. But in the convent, women didn't care about the color of their skin. They were battered women, that was enough for them. Morrison describes when one girl reached the convent, "The whole house felt permeated with a blessed malelessness, like a protected domain, free of hunters but exciting too."

--------- While reading I often felt I was lost and later found what the author was talking about. Her writing style is an unusual one, more like verse than ordinary sentences. So I had to concentrate on reading, or I'd be lost.
But reading this novel is rewarding, though it is a little hard.
I like the author's intellectual and warm attitude toward people, and I felt her deep understanding for humanity.
Mar. 17, 2003



John von Neumann-----------written by Norman Macrae

--------The author, Norman Macrae is a worshipper of Neumann. It is no problem if an author of a biography warships his protagonist. I feel it even fair that he declared it. But I feel it is nonsense to criticize Neumann's opponents to lift the image of his idol.

---------Noumann was the first son of a Jewish banker in Budapest. He was brought up in this town. When he was a child, he was regarded as a prodigy of mathematics. Later, he studied chemistry and mathematics in the university in Switzerland and Germany. When Nazis gained power in Europe, he escaped from Europe to the United States with his wife, and obtained U.S. citizenship.

---------He was given a post with the Princeton University as a professor and contributed greatly to the progress of US scientific and military domains. In the period of World War II, he began to engage his mathematic genius in the calculations of the military activities, and then he took part in the development of A-Bomb. He needed a new and powerful calculating device for this purpose, and he supported inventers of ancestor computer with his outstanding ideas.

---------His political stance was hawkish. After the victory of World War II, he engaged himself in the development of H-Bomb and missiles to counter the threat of Soviet Russia in the Cold War period. Because of it, he politically opposed many of his co-workers like pacifist Einstein and Oppenheimer. But individually he kept good relations with these refugee scientists and supported them as a friend.

---------The advent of electric computer enabled us to use Mathematics to the extent that we have never dreamed of. Neumann devoted his effort to apply Mathematics to more practical fields such as Meteorology, Economics, etc, by fully utilizing electric computer.

---------He intended to control the weather of the earth by dying arctic ice so that it would melt with solar energy. Terrible idea! But he believed that it was feasible according to the calculation result of the computer. His economic theory based on the mathematical analysis of real economic activities stirred up the world of economics. Late in his life he stepped into biology. He had an idea to create a new and more accurate language for mathematics through the study of the communication system of the human brain.

---------In 1957, he died of cancer, which was probably caused by his attending experiments of nuclear explosions. He calculated, acted with convictions and succeeded in almost all battles. But he could not cope with his own fatal illness, and returned to Catholic faith he had accepted at his marriage with his first wife.

---------Although the author says that" He also admitted jovially to Pascal's point; so long as there is the possibility of eternal damnation for nonbelievers it is more logical to be a believer at the end". His return to Catholic may be rather the result of his pragmatic calculation than the result of his sense of awe in God's presence.

--------This book is recommendable for those who are interested in Jon von Neumann's brief personal history and various episodes that describe how he was a lovable semi-God.

March. 7, 03     by Naoko



The Autograph Man--------------written by Zadie Smith

-------The story begins with the painful recollections of Alex-Li's father's sudden death, which happened when the father took Alex-Li and his two friends to a wrestling match. There they met a boy who fantasized about collecting autographs. He befriended them and their friendship continued throughout their lives. This episode is written as a rather long epilogue (more than 30 pages).

-------And then we meet a young adult Alex-Li (27 years old), who comes to his senses from a drug slumber and finds that he crashed his car while driving with his girlfriend in it. And now he is an autograph man, selling and buying autographs, inspired by the boy whom he met at the wrestling match.

-------Alex-Li is half Chinese and half Jewish, struggling through the 'Kabbalah'.This part was pretty difficult for me to understand, but at the same time I was interested in his categorization of things 'goysh and Jewish'. When young I had similar tendencies, trying to divide things into two categories, good or ill, shallow or deep etc. Even though I don't know anything about Judaism as a religion, I could understand his feeling, I think. And the author's writing style, intelligent and witty, made me continue to read.

-------Then halfway through the story it becomes more interesting, when Alex-Li goes to New York. There he happens to meet aged film star, Kitty Alexander, whose autograph he badly wanted to have. The story becomes so compelling that you can't put down the book. I realized what the author wants to tell in the last chapter.

Jan.9, 2003 (Back)


Pilgrim------------written by Timothy Findley -

-------Pilgrim is the story of a man who was placed in the Zurich mental clinic where Carl Gustav Jung worked. Even though Pilgrim tried to kill himself again and again, he never succeeded to die and was diagnosed as a schizophrenic. The story begins with Lady Quartermaine, who is Pligrim's friend, bringging him to the clinic. She dies mysteriously and leaves Pilgrim's journals to Jung. Then Jung, with his wife Emma's help, tries to solve Pilgrim's problem.

-------In his journals Pilgrim says that he lived many lives as both males and females and met some historical people such as Henry James, Leonardo da Vinci and Oscar Wilde etc. The story is like a panorama that goes round dramatic scenes, being told alongside descriptions of Jung's life as a psychiatrist. Jung's enlightenment of the collective unconscious, his private life and his depression and so forth are presented in this book. 

-------Also the author uses some symbols such as butterflies and cologne that smells like moss , lemons, or ferns, creating an enigmatic atmosphere. But does these symbols have anything to do with Jung's theory? I doubt it. And I don't like the part about the white butterfly, which is in a picture taken by Jung. The butterfly, which cannot be in the picture for no one has seen at the spot because it was winter. I think that kind of episode makes the story undignified.

-------What is Pilgrim? Is he just a schizophrenic or,,,,?

You can take it as you like, I think.

Jan. 19, 2003(Back)


Man And His Symbols-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- by Carl G. Jung and M.-L.von Franz, Joseph L. Henderson, Jolande Jacobi, Aniela Jaffe---------------------------------------

Part 1------Approaching The Unconscious---------Carl G. Jung

------It took me such a long time to read. Even if this book was written for ordinary people, it is still difficult for me to grasp. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this book, and to some extent I agree with Jung's theory. The reason I said 'to some extent' is because we now have some knowledge about the physical state of our brain that became clearer after Jung's death. I feel some of Jung's expressions are kind of out of date. At the same time, I think his longing for the human primitive life, when people still believed in gods and the spirits of trees, mountains, rivers, etc. is poetic.

-------Jung used some words such as subliminal or archetypes to explain unconscious. We find the term subliminal is used quite often still now. Subliminal is one of the reasons how we get the personal uncnonscious and archetypes for the collective unconcious. I agree to his explanation of strata, or different kinds of the unconscious, though it cannot be proven by science. When I think of those stories, that are told by the people who recovered from the verge of death, stories that are almost the same but different depending on the countries or cultures, I think that is a good example of the collective unconscious.

-------I like the comment that John Freeman writes in the introduction ", , ,as Dr.von Franz points out, there is no such thing as a typical Jungian analysis. There can't be, because every dream is a private and individual communication, and no two dreams use the symbols of the unconscious in the same way."

Part 2-----Ancient Myths And Modern Man------Joseph L. Henderson

-----Jung says that there are two kinds of unconscious (layers of unconcious) , one is a personal and the other is the collective unconscious, as I mentioned before. The personal unconscious is made up essentially of contents that have once conscious (thought or felt), but have disappeared from consciousness and have stayed in unconsciousness. The contents of the collective unconscious have never been in consciousness but owe their existence to heredity, made up essentially of archetypes.

-------In part 2, Joseph L. Henderson explains how arcyetypes; ancient myths and religions (pagans and Christianity) appear in dreams.

Part 3-----The Process of Individuation---------M.L. von Franz

------In this part M.L.von Franz discusses on the ego and the Self, mainly on the 'soul-image', which is one of the archetypal images. For a man this is the 'anima; for a woman, the animus. The anima is the feminine aspects of a male psyche: for example, gentleness, tenderness, patience, receptiveness, closeness to nature, readiness to forgive, and so on. The animus is the male side of a female psyche: assertiveness, the will to control and take charge, fighting spirit, and so on.

-------M.L.von Franz explains the Self such as 'the self can be defined as an inner guiding factor that is different from the conscious personality and that can be grasped only through the investigation of one's own dreams.' Both anima and animus can appear bad or good images depend on one's attitude.

Part 4 Symbolism in the visual arts--------------Aniela Jaffe

-------In this part Aniela Jaffe shows and explains many kinds of symbolisms in the visual arts.

Part 5 Symbols in an individual analysis---------Jolande Jacobi

------ In this part Jolande Jacobi dipicts deciphering some of dreams. Even though I support the theory of the collective unconscious, I don't think any analysis of dreams can be an example for others. Or maybe I should say I don't believe in the analysis of drems itself.

------After reading this book I felt the things that Jung has left for the fields of psychology such as the concept of the collective unconscious or extrovert and introvert character etc. are big.

-------Furthermore, I like his atitude towards patients, he says "Learn your theories as well as you can, but put them aside when you touch the miracle of the living soul. Not theories but your own creative individuality alone must decide." The patient is there to be treated not to verify a theory.

Feb. 17, 2003(Back)


The Summons------------ written by John Grisham

ーーーThis book is what we call a page turner and easy to read.
A professor of law at the University of Virginia, Ray Atlee receives a letter from his father. The letter is ordering Ray to come back to Clanton, Mississippi, which is his hometown, where his very sick old father lives alone.
Ray's father, Atlee, had served as a judge and was loved by many people. He always worked very fairly, dedicated his life to others, and donated a lot of money to those who needed help. However, he spent very little of his time and gave very little of his money to his own family.

ーーーRay goes back to meet his father, following his father's instructions, only to find that his father has already died.
Judge Atlee left his two sons, Ray and his worthless younger brother Forrest, an old estate and a little money. But Ray finds more than three million dollars in cash hidden below Judge Atlees' bookshelves. Why did he have such a large amount of money? Ray guesses that the money is dirty, otherwise the judge would have left some explanation.

ーーーRay keeps the secret to himself and tries to find out exactly where the money came from. Being stalked by someone, he explores all angles, trying to locate the source of the money.

ーーーThis story doesn't have any vicious violence, which I like, and made me keep reading. At the very end of the story, I was puzzled by Forrests' words, "Give me a year. When I get out of here, then we'll talk."
Is Forrest's statement referring to the money or to a newfound bond with his brother?

ーーーFurthermore, I liked the author's stance on depicting two kinds of lawyers: very greedy, mammonistic ones, and others content with honesty and poverty.

Feb. 19, 03(Back)