From Publishers Weekly
Ross (Tunnel Visions
) pursues the life and especially the violent suicide by seppuku
, or hara-kiri
, of the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima, at age 45 in 1970. An English journalist who studied martial arts and later worked in Japan and learned Japanese, Ross was intrigued by overlaps in Mishima's life and his own, in terms of wondering how to make one's life more worthwhile and productive, and one's death "magnificent." Mishima's novels harked back to the heroism of samurai warriors of early eras, and during his life he assiduously mastered the code of the knightly class and conditioned his body in ritual sword fighting. In fact, Ross learns that the famous sword Mishima used on himself in Tokyo's Eastern Army Group Headquarters was made by Seki no Magoroku in the 16th century, and has subsequently vanished. In between a visceral blow-by-blow account of Mishima's last hours, Ross alternates his detailed, gently meandering narrative with fascinating research into the art of Japanese sword making. Ross's journey is wonderfully elucidating, not only of the writer who wanted to ensure he lived forever but of a holistic history and culture of Japan. (Nov.)
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In his time, Yukio Mishima was Japan's best-known and best-selling novelist, but he will always be remembered for his spectacular death, when he committed seppuku after a spectacularly unsuccessful coup attempt. Ross (Tunnel Visions
, 2001) wanted to know what happened to Mishima's sword, the one that was used by a cohort to lop off his head as the coup de grace. What follows is an -utterly unique journey, part travelogue, part biography, part history lesson, and part philosophical treatise. Mishima was a complicated, contradictory man, and Ross explores his mind and his work through the lens of Japan's challenging culture. Though the search for the sword impels the journey, this is no archaeological thriller. The sword as object is less important to the book than the sword as symbol, of Japan's militaristic past, of Mishima's desire to reinvent himself from effete aesthete to virile man of action. Does Ross find the sword? Who cares? As with all great journeys, the most memorable moments lie en route to the final destination. Keir GraffCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved