A revealing portrait of a writer who deserves a new audience.

A biography of one of the most celebrated writers of modern Japan.

Novelist Natsume Soseki (1867-1916) is beloved in his homeland but not very well known beyond. Nathan (Japanese Cultural Studies/Univ. of California, Santa Barbara; Living Carelessly in Tokyo and Elsewhere, 2008, etc.), an Emmy Award–winning documentary filmmaker, hopes to change that with this comprehensive and discerning biography. Adopted twice as a child, Soseki’s early years were difficult, and Nathan suggests that this contributed to the “misanthropy that darkens his writings.” A bright student, he did well in school and began teaching English after college. In 1900, his success earned him a position to study in England, where he immersed himself in reading all the English writers of the time, especially Henry James. Soseki then replaced the fired American writer Lafcadio Hearn at Tokyo Imperial University and began a prolific writing career. At 38, despite severe physical and mental illness suffered throughout his life, Soseki struck out on his own to fashion a new kind of literature, one that bears comparison to the works of Balzac, Dickens, and Proust in its scope and attention to the human condition. His first novel, I Am a Cat (1904), a “self-lacerating portrait of the author,” was serialized in a newspaper, a common practice in Japan. Nathan argues that this “mordantly comic,” satirical, featuring a cat as narrator, clearly shows the influence of Tristram Shandy. In 1907, The Poppy was serialized in Japan’s largest newspaper, with “a potential audience of 500,000 readers.” Newsboys would press papers into people’s hands and shout, “Soseki’s Poppy in these pages!” The 700-page Light and Dark, his final, unfinished novel, about “urban life among the emergent bourgeoisie on the eve of World War I,” is a “landmark in twentieth-century Japanese fiction.” The book features all-new translations by Nathan.

A revealing portrait of a writer who deserves a new audience.

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-231-17142-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018


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

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



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

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