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Mark Ledbetter (Japan)

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A Short History of Peckers, Long and Short
A Short History of Peckers, Long and Short
Price: £1.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Even if you're a prude..., 24 Jan. 2012
Yes, the subject at hand is a bit unorthodox but history should include everything of importance, right? And the male organ of procreation has certainly moved history dramatic ways.

Ok, I'm a prude. I would normally not even look at a book titled as this one is, despite my interest in history. But I'm recommending this book anyway. I've followed this author ever since I discovered his novel The Revised Kama Sutra. Now that's a book I really want to recommend, the author's masterpiece. You can find it here:

The Revised Kama Sutra: A Novel

Maya Noise
Maya Noise
Price: £2.22

5.0 out of 5 stars No Big Deal, or Cutting to the Essence, 5 Nov. 2011
This review is from: Maya Noise (Kindle Edition)
The author says he became enlightened on a certain day in 1996.

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

At least he doesn't make a big deal out of it. He doesn't even find a slippery way of making a big deal out of not making a big deal. Nor does he think enlightenment is particularly wonderful (though I doubt he'd trade it for anything).

The book is about how it happened, what it means, what he's learned, and how simple it would be for the rest of us.

I have doubts about that last, at least for myself. Still, all in all, this is a great story. It's not pretentious, pious reverent, or silly. And it's funny.

One more thing. This book is really well written. Unless I'm off the mark, this is a guy with real talent for writing who carefully put together the book with much thought and countless rewrites that give the illusion of simplicity.

I've extracted just one example of simplicity, of Dalton cutting to the essence on religion. While so many people get so worked up about side issues like, for example, the existence of God, Dalton advises us that,

"...you don't have to believe in God to experience God. You just need to look with an open heart."

Dalton works into his story his take on...
What's real? What's God? What's enlightenment? Why do people and countries fight?
...and gives us a few non-preachy suggestions on each of those.

In the mood of the book, I've written a rather restrained review with no "wows." But this is a wow book. The wows are in the content and the skill of writing rather than in the author trying to find wow-inspiring rhetoric.

And it's only about one dollar/pound/euro if you have a Kindle. Can't beat that.

EATEN BY THE JAPANESE: The Memoir of an Unknown Indian Prisoner of War
EATEN BY THE JAPANESE: The Memoir of an Unknown Indian Prisoner of War
Price: £2.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A War Memoir That Should Be Ranked With The Best, 28 April 2011
Unknown to the author when he wrote it, this book would become two things. First, as intended, it is an unembellished memoir of life as a P.O.W. of the Japanese written by a non-elite Indian from Mangalore. Second, it is an unintended companion to the semi-biographical novel written decades later by his son. The father wrote his book at a time when non-elite Indians simply did not write books. The son, unknowingly emulating his father, wrote a book at a time when non-elite Indians STILL did not write books. Or get them published and recognized, anyway. Another decade or two passes and the son would find his father's book, handwritten (no typewriters for any but the rich in southern India) on old and yellowed paper, the paper itself a borrowed luxury. The book was written before he was born, and then consigned to storage, where it would languish nearly forgotten for half a century.

In Eaten as a memoir, you see the horror of war, without a trace of artifice, through the eyes of one who was there, the writing a simple act of catharsis with no reasonable expectation that anything would come of it. You see the writer as soldier in the British Empire's Indian army arrive at his plush assignment in Singapore, the quick collapse of Singapore to the onrushing Japanese army, the vicissitudes of life doing slave labor for the Japanese war effort, the final Japanese defeat, and his release and return to India. Too bad this memoir was discovered so many years after the event. It deserves to be ranked with the best.

Then, there is Eaten as a companion to the son's book, Revised Kama Sutra. In Kama, you see the father as a side character in the son's search for meaning, the son catching only those distorted and one-dimensional glimpses of a parent's past that are generally allowed to the child. In Eaten, you see that same father when he himself was a young man, with his alluded-to past made central and explicit. Finally, in the postscript to Eaten, written by the son, you see the son discovering and publishing his father's book so many years after publishing his own. The son, now a father, too, has a new understanding of his own father. Taken together, these two books make a pathos-filled and powerful multi-generational work of art.

As an American and thirty-year resident of Japan, I would qualify some of the son's conclusions on the meaning of his father's work. Japan should apologize for its war crimes!, he says. Well, yes it should. Just like America should apologize for the atomic bombing of civilians, like both America and Britain should apologize for the fire-bombing of civilians. Ain't gonna happen. In fact, I personally find more recognition among the Japanese intelligentsia for Japanese war crimes than I do among the American or English intelligentsia for theirs. The writer is neither American nor English, so this may not be a valid criticism of his thinking. But I just can't let the winners of war off the hook on this point.

Anyway, personal recognition and contrition are probably more important than official apologies. The son points out that Japan is deficient in recognition and contrition compared to Germany. True, but partly that's a reflection of Japan's culture of shame. Such cultures have different ways of assimilating past sins and making sure they don't happen again. And besides, Japan's recognition and contrition are certainly superior to America and England's. More important than the national apologies, I think, because it leads to recognition and contrition, is giving books such as Eaten By The Japanese a wide audience.

The Revised Kama Sutra: A Novel
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 30, 2015 7:46 AM BST

The Revised Kama Sutra: A Novel
The Revised Kama Sutra: A Novel
Price: £3.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Catcher In The Rye meets Confederacy Of Dunces, 27 Aug. 2010
Affected by the Western rationalism and science of his school books, the poor but brilliant Vijay rejects the rigid code of South Indian Catholicism, giving up God, religion, and his dream of becoming a saint. From there, Vijay's story becomes a search for meaning in a godless material world.

To borrow a bit from a perceptive review on American Amazon, Revised Kama Sutra is an exuberant Catcher In The Rye, a South Indian Confederacy of Dunces, spiced with the author's indefatigable love of hilarious word play. Unlike Catcher and COD, though, Kama is auto-biographical (if not, my apologies to the author!).

So far, so good. You might want to read it. But if I add it's a story about obsession with sex (not that Vijay gets much), will you change your mind? Can't be helped. It's the gut-busting hilarity of Vijay's quest to lose his virginity that keeps the story moving.

We are all obsessed. The difference between most of us and Vijay is that we hide away our obsessions or sublimate them under something more suitable for public viewing.

So there it is. That's what the book's about. But good stories usually have something more. A Western reader learns: what Pax Brittania and Pax Americana look like from the other side; about grinding third world poverty seen not through the eyes of Western pity but as a normal everyday reality; how traditional power structures dominate traditional societies despite a veneer of outside Western values; the way the English language permeates everything, is pursued by everyone, and becomes something new in the process (this last, fascinating to me as a linguist).

Revised Kama Sutra is not your standard novel by a long shot. For those who want to avoid such things, there are sections in which it is x-rated in content and vocabulary. But, ultimately and thankfully, this story is uplifting and powerful at the end when the author realizes, in spite of himself, there must be something more.

Threads: The Reincarnation of Anne Boleyn
Threads: The Reincarnation of Anne Boleyn
Price: £3.15

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Disciplined, spare, evocative, and occcasionally quite moving, 8 Aug. 2010
Threads is one of my great Kindle discoveries. It's not exactly about reincarnation. Rather, it uses reincarnation to expand the possibilities of the story itself and the meaning within the story. Most of Threads centers on the tempestuous relationship between Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII. There's not really that much "jumping around" to other times and places, and what jumping there is, is done with a purpose. My favorite jump was the longest, a chapter about a troop of jongleurs in the 14th (?) c. I'm an amateur historian, but this was a fascinating depiction of a segment of medieval life that was new to me.

Speaking of which, you can also read Threads as historical fiction. Within the confines of making a good story (always job number one), the history is spot on.

I judge from a few (only a few) of the reviews at the U.S. kindle site that the first half of this book, for some, is a bit long on speculation and soul-searching, short on action. Fear not. There's more action in the second half.

And oh yeah, the writing is there, too - disciplined, spare, evocative, and occasionally quite moving.

A Brief History From the Founding of the City
A Brief History From the Founding of the City
Price: £2.30

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rome Through the Eyes of a Roman, 8 Aug. 2010
This is an elegant easy-to-read translation of a classic work of Roman history written by Eutropius around 370 AD. The book calls itself a history of Rome but it's actually a history of Rome's rulers from the mythical founding in 753 BC up until the time the author is writing.

The book is a nice review for someone like myself, who has a slightly deeper than average but quite patchy knowledge of Roman history. It's fascinating to see Roman history through the eyes of a true Roman, rather than through the eyes of modern interpreters. Eutropius has a knack for getting to the essence of the ruler in short pithy phrases, a necessity if he's going to outline the full 1,100 years in a hundred pages. My favorite example of brevity might be this. He said of one emperor's reign:

Aemilianus was of very obscure birth and ruled even more obscurely.

That's it. Nothing more to say about poor ol' Aemilianus. Note also, in the phrase "obscure birth," the Roman concern with lineage. This is an example of the little details that you get from someone who was actually there.

For me, the most interesting parts were the Punic Wars and also the events and personalities during the era when the Republic became an Empire: Marius, Sulla, Caesar, Pompey, Cleopatra, Mark Antony, Augustus. Once the empire is firmly in place, the personality of the emperor becomes all-important. Some were diligent and sincere, though invariably flawed. Many were incredibly degraded. Maybe it's only because a long history is compressed into a few pages, but civil wars and border wars, some of unbelievable ferocity, are incessant, making me wonder if this was really Pax Romana.

Anyway, this is a great translation and exciting read for anyone interested in Roman history.

Recollections: A Baby Boomer's Memories of the Fabulous Fifties
Recollections: A Baby Boomer's Memories of the Fabulous Fifties
Price: £2.23

5.0 out of 5 stars A Window on the 50s, 7 Aug. 2010
"Recollections" is a nice, friendly, unpretentious ride through the 50s told by someone who has been there, one of the original boomers. Obviously, he has sharpened his memory with extensive research (I mean no one can remember all of that!). The author says it's not a memoir. Only half right. He wisely inserts quite a few of the events from his own life, memoir style, but in the service of a larger goal: depicting a particular world and giving it a personal feel. He sticks to what he knows first hand, his experience of the era. So the book does not cover the totality of 50s America, nor does it reflect everyone's experience. But it does reflect the experience of quite a few of us. For those who grew up in the new suburbs of post-war America, this will be a refresher course in their own life. For those who came later, it might be a window on that world. Good work Jim!

Kafka's House
Kafka's House
Price: £4.43

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Author: "Nineteen Eighty-Four? I lived it.", 7 Aug. 2010
This review is from: Kafka's House (Kindle Edition)
Kafka's House will not knock you out at the beginning. The story moves slowly in this short novel, at a 10-year old girl's pace. Through the girl, you live a life of poverty in 1968 Romania. But there's no self-pity. She's no different than anyone else. EVERYONE is poor, and all have Big Brother watching in the background.

Until Russia invades Czechoslovakia.

Romania goes on alert and Big Brother comes out of the background. The tentacles of absolute state power slither across everything, strangling the dreams of children and twisting the dreams of adults into something sinister.


8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting page-turner with a point, 7 Aug. 2010
This review is from: 2184 (Kindle Edition)
Up to about the 80% marker on my Kindle, this was an exciting page-turner. Not exactly great literature, but a fun read. The characters and especially the world of 2184 are well developed, insuring that you enter the story and want to find out what's going to happen next, even if you can pretty much see where it's all leading

Thing is, you are wrong. You can't see where it's all leading.

There is a fundamental moral dilemma driving the story and the hero. Doing the right thing will require courage. We want the hero to muster the courage and believe the author will give it to him in the end.

But then something happens. Courage is given a new look. It might be something different than what we thought. Because the author understands that, the story soars and inspires.

This book is more than an exciting page-turner. It's a book worth reading.

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