Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Quick Reviews

Wrong About Japan by Peter Carey
Peter Carey tells the story of how he and his twelve-year-old son become fascinated by manga and anime. In an attempt to see how these reveal the Japanese psyche they go to Japan to meet some of the creators of various famous works. In the process, they discover that it is practically impossible to really discover the REAL Japan (or the real Japanese psyche). However, this is a completely charming and light read, fascinating for anyone who is interested in either anime or manga, even fairly peripherally as I am. The most interesting part of the book for me was when Carey and a Japanese friend begin watching My Neighbor Totoro. The friend's conversation showed in a fascinating way just how many unspoken Japanese cultural markers are in even the beginning of that seemingly open children's tale. Recommended.

Little Miss Sunshine
I was completely disinterested in this tale of beauty pageants for children until Hannah, a friend, and my mother all recommended it. As all three appreciate very different styles of movies, I was intrigued. No one told me that this actually was an indie movie (with a Hollywood advertising budget) about a road trip taken by a dysfunctional family to get the youngest (and most normal) family member to a beauty pageant that she has qualified for by a fluke. Not as complete as it could be (as is the case with many indie movies) this is still a charming movie with many funny moments that become even funnier when discussed later (much the same as The Castle in my experience). Recommended.

The Devil in a Forest by Gene Wolfe
I have been defeated several times trying to read Gene Wolfe books. His style is not easy, as you can hear in a recent Starship Sofa discussion. However, so very many St. Blog's Parish readers have recommended him that I keep trying, feeling that it is my problem. Finally, victory! This is a deceptively simple tale of a simple village long ago that has a peaceful life torn apart by a ruthless bandit and a band of king's men. The reader is kept wondering who the "good guys" really are. This is a story whose focus spins into a completely different viewpoint with the last line of the story.

I realize that this is one of Wolfe's older works and that is probably the answer to my problem ... to go back and start towards the beginning, working my way forward. This may also be the answer to my Tim Powers problem, which is similar, although it is not that I don't get Powers books. It is that I lose interest about halfway through them. Enough with the teasing, let's get to the meat of the story. Based on Amazon comments about "simpler than usual" stories, I am going try earlier Powers' works also to see if that helps.

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