Patriotism, Christianity, love, and lust complicate the lives of some very likable young people in Japan in the last years before Pearl Harbor. Deford, NPR commentator, novelist (Casey on the Loose, 1989, etc.), and sportswriter, tackles the Japanese and Japanese-ness in this consistently interesting story about two friends who are sucked into the heart of the plans for the attack on Pearl Harbor. Cotton Drake and Kiyoshi Okuno have known each other most of their lives. Cotton is the son of Episcopal missionaries whose Japanese education and childhood friendships have made him truly bicultural. He and Okuno go off to Yale and Harvard, planning to go into business together, and they make a successful start in Hawaii in the late 30's. But Cotton's religious leanings get the better of him and he returns to Japan as a missionary. At the same time, a friendship with the great Admiral Yamamoto draws the disappointed Kiyoshi into a job spying on the Americans, whom he knows so well and whom he so admires. Yamamoto thinks an attack on Pearl Harbor will keep the Americans out of a Pacific war, and Kiyoshi believes him enough to help. As Kiyoshi scouts out the US Navy, Cotton tries to save Japanese souls while his own is imperiled by a most un-Christian attraction to Kiyoshi's wife, Miyuki, who has her own fascinating history. Meanwhile, intimations of Yamamoto's designs lead Cotton to intrigue with a Tokyo prostitute and put his friendship with Kiyoshi to test after frightening test. There's a lot of business with a treacherous American diplomat who wants the war to start and a Japanese general who shares his eagerness. Everything boils down to a desperate race to warn the Yanks. Always interesting, occasionally affecting: Deford's ambition to show the run-up to the war from the Japanese side is largely fulfilled. There's no wretched translato-speak; the coincidences that are the convention of the genre don't distract; and the scenery fascinates.

Pub Date: Dec. 7, 1993

ISBN: 0-670-82995-1

Page Count: 514

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1993

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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