Have You Read…?

6 Jan

It’s a sunny 75 degrees in Palm Springs today and if we were sitting by the pool, we’d be talking about books and writing. No doubt that the subject would turn to one of my favorites. And if you haven’t read it, I would send you home with a copy… But since we can’t do that, read my review below. And why don’t you become my friend on Goodreads and we’ll share books. (The link is on the list to your right.) And don’t forget to add my newest mystery novel, The Stand In to your “To Read” list. I can’t wait to hear what you think.

DECEMBER 6:  A Novel by Martin Cruz Smith

In his various “Gorky Park” novels, Mr. Smith is an expert in writing about = odd-men-out, and his Harry Niles in prewar Japan is perhaps his greatest protagonist.  The son of missionaries, Harry is raised by a Japanese nanny and goes to Japanese schools.  His favorite haunt is the theatrical and geisha district, Asakusa, where he mingles effortlessly with Japan’s raffish bohemians.  But however close he gets to them, he is always “gaijin” to the Japanese, forever picked to be the target in gym class because of his white skin and round eyes, and treated almost like a trained monkey by the geishas and show girls whom he worships.  At home, he actively despises his clueless parents and considers Japanese culture to be superior in every way to the crass, blundering America.  In short, he is the ultimate outsider while living an insider’s privileged life.  Like Rick in “Casablanca”, whose world weary cynicism hides a tender romantic, Harry’s inamorata is Japan herself.  And, having lived in America as well as Japan, having seen America’s prodigious natural resources compared to the barren rocks the Japanese live on, he desperately attempts to save Japan from committing suicide by attacking Pearl Harbor.  Harry is a grifter and a gambler, and the stakes grow ever higher as the hours march inevitably to December 7.  It is Harry’s terrible fate to be understood exclusively by a mad Samurai whose only aim is to separate Harry’s head from his shoulders.  Effortlessly shifting between his youth and present day (December, 1941), Mr. Smith has created nothing less than a fragile portrait of an entire culture as seen through the eyes of the last romantic in a militaristic age, leaving us lost in awe at the creative powers that conceived and wrote it.   The best measure of a successful novel, to me, is that I want to know what happened to Harry after Japan collapses on him.  I wish Mr. Smith would write a sequel because I know that Harry, with all his guile and resourcefulness, would survive even that.

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2 Responses to “Have You Read…?”

  1. Kellie J. January 6, 2012 at 2:32 pm #

    I loved his Arkady Renko series, so will have to check this one out. Thanks for the recommendation. 🙂

  2. cravingpages January 11, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

    Thanks for visiting my blog! It gave me a chance to look through your recent posts, and this book has intrigued me! I’ll give this a look-see. As a graduate of Japanese studies, it’s always interesting to read books with a historical/cultural background I understand something about. Thanks!

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