A best-seller in Japan, Mizumura’s essay is likely to find only a narrow audience here, but that does not diminish its...

THE FALL OF LANGUAGE IN THE AGE OF ENGLISH

Are these the last days of writers writing in Finnish, Catalan, Japanese and other languages? This slender book finds reason to worry that with English as the “universal language,” national literatures will disappear.

Some may find it puzzlingly meta to translate into English a book that complains, to a Japanese audience, that English is swamping the world. The idea of the hegemony of English is not new, of course; George Steiner was writing about it half a century ago. The idea that monoculturalism is undesirable is similarly old. What is new is novelist Mizumura’s (A True Novel, 2013, etc.) insistence that at least some of the blame lies with the Japanese government’s willingness to roll over, in the case of the Japanese language, before the invader. Defending a national language, after all, is the business of the nation, and in a nation whose educational system is centralized, she finds “astonishing…the meager content of junior and senior high school textbooks for courses in Japanese language arts.” A move toward increased substance, she adds, is essential, as is a commitment to the establishment and presentation of a “modern literary canon.” It is perhaps uncharitable to wonder whether there is a self-serving element in that call, but one understands Mizumura’s frustration that a great artist such as Soseki Natsume should be represented by only six lines from a single novel. Readers of this book would be well-served by some background in the Meiji Restoration and its politics, but Mizumura’s unhappiness with things as they are and her unwilling status as intermediary needs no cultural glossing. She wonders whether she is invited to important cultural conferences abroad only because she speaks English, not because of her status as a writer of Japanese literature.

A best-seller in Japan, Mizumura’s essay is likely to find only a narrow audience here, but that does not diminish its urgency in the least.

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2015

ISBN: 978-0231163026

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Columbia Univ.

Review Posted Online: Oct. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2014

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...

THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE

50TH ANNIVERSARY EDITION

Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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IN MY PLACE

From the national correspondent for PBS's MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour: a moving memoir of her youth in the Deep South and her role in desegregating the Univ. of Georgia. The eldest daughter of an army chaplain, Hunter-Gault was born in what she calls the ``first of many places that I would call `my place' ''—the small village of Due West, tucked away in a remote little corner of South Carolina. While her father served in Korea, Hunter-Gault and her mother moved first to Covington, Georgia, and then to Atlanta. In ``L.A.'' (lovely Atlanta), surrounded by her loving family and a close-knit black community, the author enjoyed a happy childhood participating in activities at church and at school, where her intellectual and leadership abilities soon were noticed by both faculty and peers. In high school, Hunter-Gault found herself studying the ``comic-strip character Brenda Starr as I might have studied a journalism textbook, had there been one.'' Determined to be a journalist, she applied to several colleges—all outside of Georgia, for ``to discourage the possibility that a black student would even think of applying to one of those white schools, the state provided money for black students'' to study out of state. Accepted at Michigan's Wayne State, the author was encouraged by local civil-rights leaders to apply, along with another classmate, to the Univ. of Georgia as well. Her application became a test of changing racial attitudes, as well as of the growing strength of the civil-rights movement in the South, and Gault became a national figure as she braved an onslaught of hostilities and harassment to become the first black woman to attend the university. A remarkably generous, fair-minded account of overcoming some of the biggest, and most intractable, obstacles ever deployed by southern racists. (Photographs—not seen.)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1992

ISBN: 0-374-17563-2

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1992

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