Ex Libris Kirkland

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First Written 2002
Genre Fiction
Origin US
Publisher Miramax
ISBN-10 0786866683
ISBN-13 978-0786866687
My Copy first edition hardback!
First Read November 11, 2013

The Last Samurai

Man, I love this book. Top 10? Maybe. Was there ever a book so perfectly suited to my weird interests? A literary novel PLUS kurasawa PLUS dabbling in languages PLUS oxford PLUS london PLUS education / pedagogy PLUS parenting PLUS avoidance of parenting PLUS icelandic sagas PLUS PLUS PLUS PLUS.

Noted on October 24, 2016

This was really an amazing read: it's a tour de force of languages and cultural critique disguised as a novel.

Or so it seemed at first. The plot is about a brilliant single mother raising her even more brilliant son, and the first act is all about how brilliant and advanced he is. How she teaches him (or rather encourages him to learn on his own, mostly unattended) Greek and Japanese, Icelandic and Swahili, and how they pick apart the wonderful Kurasawa film The Seven Samurai. This seems like a lark, just an excuse for De Witt to show you the basics of Greek (no seriously, you'll find yourself reading some Greek alphabet transliterations ) and Japanese (yep).

But the second act brings the emotional context of that story into focus: Why isn't that kid at school? What kind of parent does this? And most importantly, where's this kid's father? This takes, shall we say, a depressing turn.

But the third act is AMAZING, and picks up the boy's perspective as he searches out and interviews - candidates for fatherhood. This is another excuse for De Witt to spin out fun short stories, but this ends up being a really satisfying fulfillment.

Noted on November 12, 2013

She's not really pretty, I said. She's beautiful. When she's excited. When she's bored she looks like someone who's got two weeks to live. Someone who's got two weeks to live & is going to spend it begging the doctor for a mercy killing.

He shrugged. You could say that of any woman.

Quoted on October 24, 2016

We're such cowards in front of a piece of paper these days - my mother was an Egyptian, and my father was from Hungary, both countries with a particularly impressive tradition of bureaucracy, and it gave me an indescribable frisson to cock a snook at the official channels. Once you've tried it you realize how easy it is! Half the time no one bothers to challenge you - if you say you're the Danish consul it won't even occur to most people to doubt it. I felt ashamed, really ashamed of all the times I hadn't claimed to be a partipotentiary of some foreign power or other.

Quoted on October 24, 2016

Here was a man who'd learned to write before he could think, a man who threw out logical fallacies like tacks behind a getaway car, and he always always always got away.

Quoted on October 24, 2016

He was a linguist, and therefore he had pushed the bounds of obstinacy well beyond anything that is conceivable to other men.

Quoted on October 24, 2016

I would like to strike a style to amaze. I think I am not likely to discover the brush of Cezanne; if I am to leave no other record I would like it to be a marvel. But I must write to be understood; how can formal perfection be saved?

Quoted on October 24, 2016

A good samurai will parry the blow.

Quoted on November 12, 2013

If you were at school they would not let you read a book like this, they would keep you from reading it by involving you in sport.

Quoted on November 12, 2013

I got home and I thought I should stop leading so aimless an existence. It is harder than you might think to stop leading an existence, & if you can't do that the only thing you can do is try to introduce an element of purposefulness...

Quoted on November 12, 2013

There are people who think contraception is immoral because the object of copulation is procreation. In a similar way there are people who think the only reason to read a book is to write a book; people should call up books from the dust and the dark and write thousands of words to be sent down to the dust and the dark which can be called up so that other people can send further thousands of words to join them in the dust and the dark.

Quoted on November 12, 2013

Ex Libris Kirkland is a super-self-absorbed reading journal made by Matt Kirkland. Copyright © 2001 - .
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