Old Moon

Friday, June 20, 2008

Critic again

Another wonderful book has come my way. It was published in 2002. I can imagine it becoming an English teacher's standby, especially where a school combines the courses termed "humanities." When the Emporer Was Divine by Julie Otsuka. As you can guess from its title, it deals with the internment of Japanese during World War II.

The opening section has about as much emotional impact as I'm usually willing to endure without a struggle. Perhaps the most artful thing is that no one who figures in the story is given a name. They are "the woman, the girl, the boy." The implications of how effectively Otsuka's characters were dehumanized by their experiences is brought home to the reader on every page. Because the style is as simple as a third grade reader, as unembellished as a laundry list, a story that could become maudlin (especially at this distance in time from the events) with a single misstep has the impact of...I can't think of an appropriate metaphor. Perhaps a blow over the head with a slap stick. In fewer than 150 pages of lyrical understatement, the reader is taken to a place most of us would rather not go and made to keep turning the pages anyway. It's a $10 paperback. Look for it.


Tipper said...

I've read those before-one that are hard to read but impossible to put down. Nice review.

JLC said...

Thank you, Tipper. Just for reading!