A fascinating glimpse into the inner workings of publishing.


A lively account of the many people involved in bringing Haruki Murakami’s writings to English-speaking readers.

Literature originates with an author’s imagination, but the final product is the work of a team of professionals, from agents and editors to marketing staff and cover designers. The task of bringing the work of an author who writes in another language to English-speaking audiences is even more complex. In this admiring work, first printed in Japanese in 2018, Karashima travels “back in time to tell the stories of the colorful cast of characters who first contributed to publishing Murakami’s work in English.” The vibrancy of those colors varies from person to person. Among the subjects are Murakami’s first translator, Alfred Birnbaum, an American who came to Japan with his family at age 5, got a job translating for Kodansha International, “one of the leading publishers of Japanese literature in English translation,” and translated A Wild Sheep Chase in 1987, when Murakami was unknown outside Japan; Elmer Luke, a Chinese American editor who, in Murakami’s words, “started the engine” when he sold his work to the American market; editors at the New Yorker, including former editor-in-chief Robert Gottlieb, who, Karashima argues, “may have been pivotal to Murakami’s career” by publishing his early stories; and later translators such as Jay Rubin and Philip Gabriel. Parts of the book are extraneous; there’s little point in quoting someone whose response to a question about the U.S. publication of A Wild Sheep Chase is to say he doesn’t recall any details. But readers interested in Murakami will enjoy learning about the challenges and trade-offs involved in translation, from the different styles of his translators to his philosophical acceptance of the changes the New Yorker made to his work because that publication “has a large number of readers and they also pay really well.”

A fascinating glimpse into the inner workings of publishing.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59376-589-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Soft Skull Press

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.


Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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