A little book with a large agenda: to describe the uniquely interdependent relationship of Nobel Prize—winning Japanese novelist Kenzaburo Oe and his severely brain-damaged son, Hikari, scrutinize the fictionalized representations of Hikari that are central to Oe’s novels, appraise Hikari’s musical compositions, analyze the nature of creativity, and delve into the workings of the human brain. Cameron (The Prospect of Detachment, 1988), who writes about Asian art and culture, draws on Oe’s own writings and interviews with the Oe family, music reviewers, and brain specialists for this account, portions of which have appeared in the New Yorker and other publications. She explores Oe’s decision to have life-saving surgery performed on his infant son’s herniated brain even though it meant raising a severely handicapped child in a society strongly prejudiced against the handicapped, and she recounts the Oes’ efforts to stimulate their mute son first with birdsong recordings and later with music. In a culture where fathers may have little to do with raising children, Oe was extraordinarily involved in caring for Hikari, and they remain unusually close. Oe has said that his motivation in writing fiction was to speak for Hikari, who could not speak for himself, and Cameron examines how Hikari-like characters have been a constant theme of his work. Hikari became a celebrity in his own right with the release in 1992 and 1994 of two CDs of his classical compositions. That these are not masterpieces seems clear, but that they are astonishing accomplishments is indisputable. Cameron, who has researched the world of musical savants, finds Hikari to be the only known savant composer, and she looks for clues to his remarkable abilities in both his genes and his upbringing. In the end, the mystery remains a mystery, perhaps because Hikari is unknowable, but Cameron’s engrossing account seems likely to arouse interest in the works of both father and son.

Pub Date: June 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-684-82409-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1998

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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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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

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