14 September 2004

More New Non-Fiction Reading

I mentioned ghosts and samurai last time. Here they are.

  1. The Sword of No-Sword by John Stevens. This is a biography of a sword-master in the late feudal period of Japan. Erm. Around the end of the Tokugawa shogunate and the Meiji Restoration. It was most interesting for its depiction of how sword-schools work and the way this one man, Tessho, mastered three different arts--the sword, calligraphy, and zen--and made them all one in his personal practice. Er. That was a bad sentence. Anyway, the structure of the book was kind of odd. It jumped all over the place in time so that, although I think I got a pretty good idea of Tessho's character, I never had any idea what happened when in relation to anything else (well, I had ideas, but very little was clear, time-wise). Also, the writing was fairly mediocre. Not bad, just not especially good. This is really a book for people strongly interested in sword arts or Japanese history, and not really something most casual readers would like.
  2. A Gathering of Ghosts by Robin Skelton and Jean Kozocari. I've had this book on my shelf for probably ten years or more, and never got around to reading it. I kept it because I like Robin's writing, but I've been thinning out the shelves (a long, painful process that will continue all year, probably), and thought maybe I might sell it. But I thought I should read it first. It's definitely well-written. Everything Robin wrote was (well, everything he published) (that I've read so far). It's an interesting insider look at ghost exorcism, and I enjoyed it, but it's not a topic that interests me so much anymore. I mean, I still like ghost stories and ghost folklore, but the paranormal investigation of ghosts and its accompanying pseudoscience really isn't something I intend to spend much time on. Still, it was a nice, quick read, and fun, but the book is now listed on eBay. I need to save money if I intend to go to art school next year.
  3. The Samurai Sword: A Handbook by John M. Yumoto. More Samurai. I must confess, one of the reasons I signed this out was because I wasn't sure which way to put on the tsuba ("hand-guard") on my little 1/6 scale Shinsengumi Samurai swords. It's the fancier side close to the hilt, in case you're wondering, which makes sense as it what would be most visible when the sword is sheathed. The other reason I signed it out is because swords are one of my minor obsessions. Anyway, it's not a brilliant piece of writing, but it isn't supposed to be. It's a useful handbook. With cool pictures.

Now I'm working on a library book on the Silk Road (one of my random browsing finds). Then I really will get to some of those science books on my own shelves. Really.

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