A minor work by Mishima, whose Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea and Death in Midsummer remain classics of modernist...


Mishima, the would-be samurai who committed suicide nearly half a century ago, turns to modern pop culture in this sardonic novella.

Rikio Mizuno is in his early 20s, but in some ways he’s still a child; he needs constant care and feeding and attention, in the way of—well, a pop star, in this case a budding film idol. Mishima, who had tried his hand at film acting and evidently didn’t think much of the experience, opens this slender story on a note of complaint on Mizuno’s part: “The fans were relentless. They leaned with all their weight over the rope lines, reaching to get just a little closer to me, cheering and screaming to catch my attention.” What’s a fellow to do but retreat into the willing arms of his assistant, who isn’t so very good-looking, her ankles “like knots in old wood,” but who’s always on hand? In Mishima’s world-weary view, the political power on a film set runs downhill from producer to director to star to supporting actors like snow melting into the sea, the players interchangeable features on a landscape; Mizuno would be disgusted at the sight of those ankles were he able to feel disgust, but, he says, he’s abandoned “that sort of reflex to the real world, the world I had forsaken.” Mizuno may live in his own world, “all hollow, all façades and make-believe,” but the others on the set are grounded enough in the here and now to keep him hopping—the director, for one, who is a master of filming scenes out of order but with the same set: “When we’re tight on time, he has no qualms about burning through shots from completely different sections of the movie." Time, Mizuno learns, is not a star’s friend. If Mizuno’s problems are of his making, Mishima’s stance seems merely ill-tempered, and the weightless story is mercifully brief.

A minor work by Mishima, whose Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea and Death in Midsummer remain classics of modernist Japanese literature.

Pub Date: April 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-8112-2842-8

Page Count: 80

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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