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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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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