Sunday, April 01, 2007

Finished some books

I've been addicted to Twitter recently (see widget at top right), and have neglected my blog. I like Twitter's immediacy, and its diary-like feel. I have an awful memory, so this will be a record of my life (including the meaningless little things I do every day) that I'll be able to refer to when I need to. (Until of course, Twitter blows up and all my data is lost. I'll have to check for an archive function but I don't think there is one yet.)

Anyhow, I've finished a few books recently, and wanted to jot down some words about them. First, the somewhat inappropriately-named "Adult Manga" by Sharon Kinsella. This is not about "adult" manga - rather, it's about manga written for adults, a quite different thing. I sometimes felt a bit self-conscious reading the book on the bus. In any case, it was an interesting introduction to Japanese manga. There were a few annoying spelling and grammar mistakes, and sometimes the book felt a bit disorganized. However, if you're interested in the history of manga, how it's produced, how its production has evolved over the years, and what the future holds for the manga industry, then you should enjoy the book. There are a few black and white panels here and there, but don't expect much in terms of illustrations.

I was initially hesitant about reading this book. I read a review at Amazon written by a Japanese person, which criticized it heavily, and without thinking, I took the side of the Japanese person. The reviewer of "Inventing Japan" by Ian Buruma, wasn't happy about the manner in which Japan was portrayed. However, upon reading the book, I see that it falls squarely in the realm of books that I typically read about the United States and Canada. I read Chomsky, Barlow, and McQuaig, authors who are typically critical of government and big business. Buruma points out numerous flaws in Japan's governments and armies from the time of Perry's black ships to the Tokyo Olympics in the 60s. But he doesn't directly criticize Japanese culture or the Japanese people. He possibly criticizes a certain class of Japanese people (the same people who get a finger pointed at in Chomsky's books) , namely the ruling class, which all too often is much too susceptible to bad ideas and rampant corruption. I enjoyed this little book (the main text is just under 200 pages) and would recommend to anyone with a mild interest in Japan. Quite a turnaround from my initial reaction. But it just proves that we shouldn't judge something until we've consumed it, no matter what our first impression.

The last book that I finished is a science fiction novel by Cory Doctorow, "Down and out in the Magic Kingdom". It's hard to know how to describe the book; the premise is so bizarrely original. Most of the book takes place in and around Disneyland in California. People are able to backup their minds and memories, and duplicate bodies are easily regrown. So, if you get into a car accident, you can have your backup "self" imported into a new body. You can also "dead-head" to any particular date in the future. This is not time travel; this is going into some form of suspended animation until 100, 500, or 1000 years from now. If you don't like what you wake up to, you can dead-head for another century. These ideas get a light treatment by Doctorow in this book, but that's what makes it enjoyable. Science fiction is often much too pedantic and drawn-out. Doctorow's writing makes his futures seem palpable and believable. I read this book via email using the DailyLit project.

There. I've finally written another blog post. As I'm frantically trying to finish my math project, I'm also reading some great books: Crypto by Steven Levy (which covers the modern history of cryptography), and The Plot Against America by Philip Roth (an interesting alternate history of the second world war.)

Heading off to Japan in a few weeks! The flavour of my posts will no doubt change quite a bit. Stay tuned!


Mike said...

I really enjoyed this post. Good book reviews! Hai, your posts will no doubt change quite a bit, especially once you are in Tokyo. Some exciting new photos too, I hope. Now, you must encourage Yuu to compose a goodbye blog entry!

Mike said...

that was not Mike! sheesh!

Kathleen said...

Which of the 3 would you most recommend to me? I need a good book! (><)

Sean O'Hagan said...

I think you'd like Inventing Japan. It was a quick interesting read. Shall I bring it to Japan?

Kathleen said...

Yes, onegaishimasu~!