A deeply satisfying immersion into modern Japanese history that also serves to warn against facile approaches to the...

HIROHITO AND THE MAKING OF MODERN JAPAN

A lengthy exploration of the role of Emperor Hirohito in 20th-century Japanese politics that draws on an impressive array of fresh sources.

Bix (Social Sciences/Hitosubashi Univ.) has written what is essentially a 700-page indictment of the Japanese emperor, arguing that he should bear more blame, responsibility, and consequences than he has for Japan’s aggression in the first half of this century. Far from being a detached figurehead and tool for Japan’s militarist factions, Hirohito was closely involved behind closed doors in all facets of Japanese politics, especially its military forays. “From the very start of the Asia-Pacific war, the emperor was a major protagonist of the events going on around him,” Bix writes. In this portrayal, Hirohito played no small part in the rise of nationalism, Japan’s aggressiveness in Manchuria, the disastrous prolongation of the war against the Allies (leading to the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings), and Japan’s ongoing struggle to display adequate repentance to the rest of the world. The author has intentionally made his subject complex to debunk “the myth of Japan as tightly unified and monolithic state.” Though the writing is glib, the result is a trying puzzle of multitudinous pieces that requires some fortitude on behalf of the reader. Bix’s research is thorough, but, as he points out, Hirohito left little documentation behind and his peers have been loath to write badly of him. The author, therefore, had to rely a great deal on reading between the lines. For example, Bix immediately comes to surmise that Hirohito’s abilities had been doubted when his teachers went out of their way to priase the emperor’s speaking abilities. He nestles his speculations firmly between facts, however, and in the end is very convincing.

A deeply satisfying immersion into modern Japanese history that also serves to warn against facile approaches to the machinery of states.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-06-019314-X

Page Count: 784

Publisher: HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2000

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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