MY LIFE BETWEEN JAPAN AND AMERICA by Edwin O. Reischauer

MY LIFE BETWEEN JAPAN AND AMERICA

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The reminiscences of a scholar/diplomat who, through his dedication to international understanding, helped shape US attitudes toward the Far East for more than half a century. Potentially absorbing but ultimately disappointing. Born and raised in Japan, the son of American missionaries, Reischauer early on found himself in the unique position of having twin loyalties--to the country of his birth and to the land of his forebears. Upon completing college, he expressed this personal duality by helping to create Harvard's East Asian Studies program and, during the 1930's, by involving himself in efforts to avert the coming war between Japan and the US. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, he assisted in breaking the Japanese battle code and supervised American propaganda campaigns. After the conflict ended, first as a State Department policymaker and later as Ambassador to Japan, he was responsible in large measure for the rapprochement between the two countries. During his career he met with many of the leading figures of his time, including at least three US Presidents, the Japanese Emperor (with whom he apparently had an especially warm relationship), various heads of state, as well as such movers and shakers as Douglas MacArthur (""grandiose"") and Robert and Ethel Kennedy (""unconsciously demanding""). Plenty of material here, one would think, for a compelling autobiography. Unfortunately, in telling his own story, Reischauer seems unwilling or unable to view the details of his life objectively and to shape them into a cohesive narrative. Too often he becomes bogged down in the minutiae of his life and loses his forward momentum--and the reader's attention. What could have been an engrossing examination of the workings of an original and wide-ranging mind becomes instead a rambling and unfocused account of classes and conferences, diplomatic dinners and domestic dislocations, speeches and seminars, good-will missions and governmental mix-ups. Reischauer would have been better advised to entrust his story to a writer or editor who could winnow the chaff from the material and give it direction and point. As it stands, Looking Both Ways leaves the reader lamenting ""what might have been."" 60 halftone photographs (not seen).

Pub Date: Aug. 27th, 1986
Publisher: Harper & Row