Marvelously nuanced reflections on a nation “in constant motion.”



The accomplished journalist and author, who has lived in Japan for more than 30 years, pursues the elusive Japanese character.

With an elegant, understated manner, Iyer (Autumn Light: Season of Fire and Farewells, 2019, etc.) offers poignant reflections on his adopted country and its maddening contradictions and shifting parts. He moves from the public to the private realms, ambling among themes such as travel, dress, animism, language, role-playing, and playing ball. He often inserts a quote that has nothing to do with Japan but that sizes up the place and sense perfectly—e.g., he cites Oscar Wilde, who “saw the folds within emotions and knew that social life was a theater where the emotions are very real.” Iyer’s subtle observations reveal a great deal about what is beyond the surface of how some Westerners view the Japanese—“as robots,” which the author explains to be “less because the Japan are so machinelike and dependable than because inanimate things in Japan possess so much spirit and life.” Iyer marvels at the “culture of shared obedience” and service; at the country’s astonishing number of vending machines and every imaginable kind of convenience store; and at the company called Family Romance, which employs 1,400 actors “to be family members for clients who are going through hard times.” Being in Japan reminded the author of his time visiting West Point Military Academy: “the courtesy, the sense of order—held up by an unbudging sense of hierarchy—the devotion to tradition,” and also how the cadets “were brought together into a unit…that spoke for a commitment to something larger than themselves.” Iyer also sees the troubling flip side to this “streamlined” and cooperative society, such as its exclusivity and insularity, which keep it “out of step with the larger global community,” especially in its treatment of women, outsiders, and minorities.

Marvelously nuanced reflections on a nation “in constant motion.”

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-451-49395-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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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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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.



Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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