Stone Bridge Press, pb, 264 p.
This definitive new collection of essays by the writer Time calls "the dean of arts critics in Japan" ranges from Kyogen drama to the sex shows of Shinjuku, from film and Buddhism to Butoh and retro rock ’n’ roll, from wasei eigo (Japanese/English) to mizushobai, the fine art of pleasing. Spanning some fifty years, these thirty-seven essays—most never anthologized before—offer cross sections of Japan’s enormous cultural power. They reflect the unique perspective of a man attempting to understand his adopted home.
Donald Richie first came to Japan in 1947 as a merchant seaman. He became fascinated with Japanese culture, and especially Japanese cinema, of which he is now regarded as an authority. He has lived in Japan for many years, and during that time he has written over forty volumes of fiction and nonfiction, as well as many essays, speeches, and hundreds of book and film and arts reviews. He has been described, by author Tom Wolfe, as: "the Lafcadio Hearn of our time, a subtle, stylish, and deceptively lucid medium between two cultures that confuse one another: the Japanese and the American."*
I always enjoy reading about Japan from the perspective of other foreigners. I've lived in Japan for about 10 years now, and in that time, have come to understand a little about Japanese culture, but certainly not in the same depth and variety as a long-time resident like Donald Richie. I've just read the first couple of essays in Viewed Sideways so far, and I'm looking forward to reading the rest of them. To reinforce some of my own observations, and hopefully to gain some new insight as well.
The copy I'm reading is a galley, many thanks to Stone Bridge Press for the opportunity. This anthology will be published in September but I wanted to mention it now since it ties in nicely with this month's Hello Japan! theme: Non-Fiction. It seems like a nice book for Japanophiles or anyone looking to learn a little about Japanese culture. The short essays make it easy to dip into, and I'll be doing just that over the next few weeks.
For more information about the book and the author, visit the Viewed Sideways website.
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*Author Information, including quote, taken from Stone Bridge Press, and Wikipedia.
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