The Last Samurai is an exceedingly long and complex novel, and I don’t want to try and attempt a full and rigorous reading of it here, but I do think I can say a number of useful and interesting things about the book without going quite that far. I think it’s worthwhile to consider how Samurai might be a variant of the quest novel. That’s what I’m going to explore right here. . . . continue reading, and add your comments
I just finished up with The Last Samurai today, and I was tickled to see the composer Charles-Valentin Alkan make an appearance toward the end. While I’d disagree that Alkan is quite as obscure as DeWitt makes him out to be (or maybe his reputation has grown in the 10 years since TLS was published), it’s very true that he gets nowhere near the acclaim of his more celebrated contemporaries (e.g., Chopin) even though he did compose some remarkable music. . . . continue reading, and add your comments
I was out of action for half of last week, but I’m hoping to finish up The Last Samurai today and get together some concluding thoughts on the book in short order. In advance of that, here’s something that I can’t quite reconcile: I’m struck by the fact that Ludo compares declaring a man is his father to an elegant samurai cutting down a man with one awe-inspiring blow of his sword. . . . continue reading, and add your comments
“We don’t do anything.” We said this to our parents, and now we hear our children saying it all over again. Ludo’s complaint is plastered in the most obvious place imaginable: chapter headings at the beginning of the novel. Think back: . . . . . . . . . .
As the novel grows, the situation gets better, for Ludo at least. He starts doing things. Not just turning around in circles on the Circle Line. . . .
. . . continue reading, and add your comments
I’ve been thinking a lot about the story of Hugh Carey this week, which comprises roughly the last half of this week’s reading. I like the story a great deal, but the way it relates to the rest of The Last Samurai remains elusive. . . . continue reading, and add your comments
We’ve pulled into the nice, fat middle of The Last Samurai. Here are a few notes I found for this section–add yours in on the comments.
Tyrone Power school of acting. Now hat Sibylla has mentioned the “Tyrone Power school of acting” more than a few times to deride certain individuals, I thought I’d pull up an image to we can see what she means when she says, for instance, “and he did change, but only in the way that someone from the Tyrone Power school of acting would show maturity: mouth set, furrowed brow, this is someone . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Now that we’re into the meat of this book, I think it’s time to talk about a theme I’ve been tracking for a while and that has really taken center stage in our third section. That would be cultural literacy. . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Last Samurai-ers–you know what to do. And here’s a thought that occurred to me from last week’s section. . . . continue reading, and add your comments
For instance, the section starts out with the piano-playing dreams of the narrator’s mother (and I like how each of our sections has begun by narrating the life history of each of the narrator’s parents). It turns out that when her mother goes for an audition at Julliard, she’s essentially told that though she is a pianist of talent, she is nowhere near prepared to explore that talent. So she is instructed to perform a set of exercises ever day for two hours for a year, after which she may be prepared to begin. . . . continue reading, and add your comments
Inevitably, we’ve already had a couple of references to Helen DeWitt’s gender in the comments to the first week of The Last Samurai discussion, so I’d like to toss this point out there to everyone. I’m not one of those readers who thinks that an author’s biography is irrelevant to her work, and the fact is that several aspects of The Last Samurai make DeWitt’s gender germane to a discussion–in particular, the postmodern novel of information tends to be a boy’s club, so it is noteworthy that DeWitt is a woman; also, the plot of Last Samurai deals in no small part with fathers, sons, mothers, and parents in general, all things that will be seen in very different ways depending on which gender’s perspective you are looking from. . . . continue reading, and add your comments