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Book Recommendation: Shibumi (1979)
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Tengen Away
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Smile Book Recommendation: Shibumi (1979)
Been meaning to share this gem for a while. Though it was written, and based on, the 70's i find a lot of the content regarding Westernisation relevant today.

The best way to approach this book, I feel, is as a parody - it's a humourous exercise in the spy-thriller genre, with some anti-western overtones.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shibumi_(novel)

Amazon Page

Here are some choice quotes:

Quote:In time, and somewhat to his surprise, Nicholai arrived at a kind of emotional truce with the Americans among whom he worked. This is not to say that he came to like them, or to trust them; but he came to realize that they were not the amoral, depraved people their political and military behavior suggested they were. True, they were culturally immature, brash and clumsy, materialistic and historically myopic, loud, bold, and endlessly tiresome in social encounters; but at bottom they were good-hearted and hospitable; willing to share—indeed insistent upon sharing—their wealth and ideology with all the world.

Above all, he came to recognize that all Americans were merchants, that the core of the American Genius, of the Yankee Spirit, was buying and selling. They vended their democratic ideology like hucksters, supported by the great protection racket of armaments deals and economic pressures. Their wars were monumental exercises in production and supply. Their government was a series of social contracts. Their education was sold as so much per unit hour. Their marriages were emotional deals, the contracts easily broken if one party failed in his debt-servicing. Honor for them consisted in fair trading. And they were not, as they thought, a classless society; they were a one-class society—the mercantile. Their elite were the rich; their workers and farmers were best viewed as flawed and failed scramblers up the middle-class monetary ladder. The peasants and proletariat of America had values identical to those of the insurance salesmen and business executives, the only difference being that these values were expressed in more modest fiscal terms: the motor boat rather than the yacht; the bowling league rather than the country club; Atlantic City rather than Monaco.

Quote:It was not their irritating assumption of equality that annoyed Nicholai so much as their cultural confusions. The Americans seemed to confuse standard of living with quality of life, equal opportunity with institutionalized mediocrity, bravery with courage, machismo with manhood, liberty with freedom, wordiness with articulation, fun with pleasure—in short, all of the misconceptions common to those who assume that justice implies equality for all, rather than equality for equals.

Quote:It’s not Americans I find annoying; it’s Americanism: a social disease of the postindustrial world that must inevitably infect each of the mercantile nations in turn, and is called ‘American’ only because your nation is the most advanced case of the malady, much as one speaks of Spanish flu, or Japanese Type-B encephalitis. Its symptoms are a loss of work ethic, a shrinking of inner resources, and a constant need for external stimulation, followed by spiritual decay and moral narcosis. You can recognize the victim by his constant efforts to get in touch with himself, to believe his spiritual feebleness is an interesting psychological warp, to construe his fleeing from responsibility as evidence that he and his life are uniquely open to new experience. In the latter stages, the sufferer is reduced to seeking that most trivial of human activities: fun. As for your food, no one denies that the Americans excel in one narrow rubric: the snack. And I suspect there’s something symbolic in that.”

I studied arts/sociology, so this one struck a chord

Quote:“What did you major in,” Hel clarified.
“Oh. Sociology.”
He might have guessed it. Sociology, that descriptive pseudo-science that disguises its uncertainties in statistical mists as it battens on the narrow gap of information between psychology and anthropology. The kind of non-major that so many Americans use to justify their four-year intellectual vacations designed to prolong adolescence.

On New York:

Quote:“How long did you live in America, Nikko?”
“About three years, just after I left Japan. In fact, I still have an apartment in New York.”
“I’ve always wanted to visit New York.”
“You’d be disappointed. It’s a frightened city in which everyone is in hot and narrow pursuit of money: the bankers, the muggers, the businessmen, the whores. If you walk the streets and watch their eyes, you see two things: fear and fury. They are diminished people hovering behind triple-locked doors. They fight with men they don’t hate, and make love to women they don’t like. Asea in a mongrel society, they borrow orts and leavings from the world’s cultures. Kir is a popular drink among those desperate to be ‘with it,’ and they affect Perrier, although they have one of the world’s great waters in the local village of Saratoga. Their best French restaurants offer what we would think of as thirty-franc meals for ten times that much, and the service is characterized by insufferable snottiness on the part of the waiter, usually an incompetent peasant who happens to be able to read the menu. But then, Americans enjoy being abused by waiters. It’s their only way of judging the quality of the food. On the other hand, if one must live in urban America—a cruel and unusual punishment at best—one might as well live in the real New York, rather than in the artificial ones farther inland. And there are some good things. Harlem has real tone. The municipal library is adequate. There is a man named Jimmy Fox who is the best barman in North America. And twice I even found myself in conversation about the nature of shibui —not shibumi, of course. It’s more within the range of the mercantile mind to talk of the characteristics of the beautiful than to discuss the nature of Beauty.”

I would love to try this as a pickup line:

Quote:"You’re alone, lonely, confused. You want to be cuddled and comforted. You don’t know how to ask for that, because you’re a product of the Western culture; so you negotiate for it, bartering sex for cuddling. It’s not an uncommon negotiation for the Western woman to engage in. After all, she’s limited to negotiating with the Western male, whose concept of social exchange is brittle and limited, and who demands earnest money in the form of sex, because that’s the only part of the bargain he is comfortable with."

Feel free to PM me for wine advice or other stuff
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(This post was last modified: 05-12-2012 10:39 PM by Tengen.)
05-12-2012 10:02 PM
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Tengen Away
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RE: Book Recommendation: Shibumi (1979)
Another one I've recalled, due in particular to the "abstraction of justice", although I can't quite put my finger on why. I'm not as academic or well-read as Quintus, for example, but this quote feels relevant...

Quote:Hel might have told her that, in the long run, the “minor” virtues are the only ones that matter. Politeness is more reliable than the moist virtues of compassion, charity, and sincerity; just as fair play is more important than the abstraction of justice. The major virtues tend to disintegrate under the pressures of convenient rationalization. But good form is good form, and it stands immutable in the storm of circumstance.

Feel free to PM me for wine advice or other stuff
ROK Article: 5 Reasons To Have Wine On A Date
RVF Wine Thread
01-08-2015 03:32 AM
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