Book Reviews  マイブック評

View book reviews from 2008 – 2012.

北条政子  永井路子 講談社 3/18/13

March 18, 2013

久しぶりの歴史もの。それも、歴史作家のご本家が書いた本だ。政子の本質、そして女性としての視点に迫る、とても面白い本だ。歴史上の話しを、分かりやすく、かつ重厚に書くのは難しいと思う。この本は、その点において、大成功していると思う。次に何が起こるかが楽しみで、ページをめくりながら、平家と源氏の攻防、鎌倉幕府の内情、北条家のしたたかさ、政子の子供たち、孫達をめぐるどろどろとした戦い、などの、史実が明確に書かれている。この辺の物語は、NHKの大河ドラマでも良く取り上げられるテーマで、皆様もよくご存知と思うが、こうして本を通して読み解いて行くのも、面白い。本、大好き。

目醒め   藤堂志津子  講談社文庫 1/25/13

January 25, 2013

藤堂さんのご本はしばらく前に、結構読んでいる。そして、久しぶりに手に取った一冊。アメリカ在住20年を超える私には、悲しいかな、ほとんど共感出来る箇所がなかった。日本に住んでいたら、共感出来たのか、と聞かれると、「そうです」とも言い切れないのが、正直なところ。文章として、又ストーリーとしては、確かにおもしろい。でも、日本の女性って、こうなんだっけかなっと、今更ながら思ってしまった。もう20年くらい前に書かれたということもあると思うけれど。という事は、私がまだ日本に居た頃だから、気分的に分かるはずなのだけど・・・。何だか、トンチンカンな事を言っていますね。しかし、文章の流れはスムースで、美しい。藤堂さんの、新刊も手に取ってみなければ。

魂の自由人  曽野綾子  光文社文庫  1/20/13

January 20, 2013

ふウ・・・。曽野さんの語り口は、昔からとても一環している。断固としていて、揺るぎがない。どうしたら、こんなに、一徹にものが語れるのかなあ、と、私などは思ってしまう。おっしゃっていることは、どれも素晴らしく、そして正義に則っている。はすに構える風情も、中々堂に入っている。でも、素直でない私は、こう思ってしまうのだ。才能に恵まれ、美貌に恵まれ、素晴らしいご主人と息子さんご一家(再三書いていらっしゃるお母様との心中未遂とお父様のことは存じています)、聖心で幼稚園から大学まで学ばれ、そりゃー、怖いものなしだなあ、と。私など、図々しく、鈍感なくせに、どうしてもおどおどしてしまうのだ。「堂に入る」ことが出来ない。信者として、長年に渡って、沢山の方々に尽くして来ていらっしゃることは、本当に素晴らしいと思うし、私は、曽野さんの小説も大大好きだ。でも、と又、おどおど虫が顔をもたげてしまう。何とか、「威風堂々」と生きたいものだ。

A2Z 山田詠美  講談社文庫 1/12/13

January 12, 2013

筆者の大きな才能が発揮される作品。ぞんざいな言い回し、いわゆる若者言葉でざかざか語られる物語。でもとっても繊細で美しい。読んでいる最中も、これはやっぱり空想の話だなあ、と思うのだけど(だってやっぱり登場人物の設定が出来すぎているからね!)、でもどこかで共感しながら読んでいる感じ。山田さんが持っている、計り知れないエネルギー。これが、本の中にも爆発的に閉じ込められていて、登場人物の夏美が、成生が、とても生き生きしている。元気いっぱいの、それでいて、でも物悲しい、純な恋愛小説です。

仮面山荘殺人事件  東野圭吾  講談社文庫  1/5/13

January 5, 2013

どんでんがえしの推理小説。1990年に発表された作品で、東野さんの初期のものだ。文体が最近のものと大きく違い、ちょっと戸惑いを感じる方もあるかもしれない。この20年くらいの間に変化して来たのかなあ、と思いつつ、この本の後に、2010年に発表された「白銀ジャック」を読んで、文体に共通点を感じ、東野さんは沢山の抽斗を持っていることに納得。様々な抽斗から、その場にふさわしい文体、語り口を選ぶんですね。どちらも、舞台が絞られていて、一箇所の狭い人間関係の中から、事件が起こり、そして解決へ。割と、シンプルなストーリー展開だけど、読者を惹き付ける力はすごいです。ぐぐっと、引き込まれますよ。

Artur Schnabel “My Life and Music” 8/8/12

August 8, 2012

This is a book review on Artur Schnabel’s auto-biographical book. Schnabel  (1882-1951) is a legendary figure and he has been one of pianists I always respect and admire. I have studied his famous edition on Beethoven sonatas, and heard his recordings mainly on Beethoven and Schubert sonatas. Whenever I play Beethoven or teach Beethoven to my students I think of Schnabel.

One day at Los Angeles Public Central Library I wanted to check out the music of Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas brasileiras No.4 which is not easily found. After the excitement of having Villa-Lobos in my hands I went on to browse books in different isles. I always have a great time looking through different books in the library. To me the library is a treasure island! My eyes caught this book, Artur Schnabel “My Life and Music”.

I deeply enjoyed reading this book consisting part 1: the 12 sessions of  his autobiographical speech he gave in 1945 to the music students at the University of Chicago, part 2: the questions-answers after each speech, and “Reflections on Music” address delivered by Schnabel at the University of Manchester (translated to English).  Schnabel is a fantastic story teller (he quotes himself that his stories are all true!). He makes his experiences (mostly unfortunate ones) fun to tell. Of course he had to go through very difficult time in Europe as a musician and a human being, and we could learn many aspects from his book. He has amazing humor!!! I wish I could quote everything—.

From this book I went on to search how he taught, and found the very interesting videos on YouTube by Eunice Norton on “teaching of Artur Schnabel”. The series of sessions were organized at the University of Pittsburgh in 1987. Eunice Norton was one of most celebrated American pianists in her generation, and studied with Schnabel. She describes his teaching and principles so well with great demonstrations on important works she chose. She is a very colorful musician too! The video was made when she was around 80 years old. Evidently she had lost some of her ability on piano, but her phrasings and musicianship is greatly worth watching in this video (For instance her crescendo-piano in measure 82-83 in Waldstein’s first movement is so natural, organic and effective! Of course the repetitions of this phrase as well.)

It has been my big summer discovery to read this book, to learn Schnabel’s experience and philosophy around music, and to enjoy his HUMOR. During reading this book Gregor Piatigorsky’s autobiographical book came to my mind. Both of them are legendary musicians and have playful humor! And they played together in piano trio settings. I hope they don’t mind my comparison!

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot 2/17/12

February 18, 2012

I usually write about books in my Book Reviews, but this book is so strong that I decided to write in my blogs. This book has been Bestsellers for weeks, and I was very excited to start reading it. It is a documentary, a science history, a racism in America, a family history, humanity, poverty, education—-. The advancement of cell science goes with the Lack’s family history in this book. She was a poor black tobacco farmer. I am still stunned to learn that the high advanced cell science is from Henrietta Lacks who died in 1951 with cancer and her cells were collected during the test, and her family had no idea how her cells have been used in important part of science experimentation and advancement. For instance polio vaccine was discovered thanks to her cells. Her cells have been called HeLa, and most of scientists have no idea where those cells are from.  They take HeLa as their experimental tools, and actually cells have generated millions of dollars.

She had 5 children, 3 boys and 2 girls. One girl, Elsie, had mental difficulty when she was very young, sent to the mental institute and died there. Another girl, Deborah, takes a big role in this book. She takes her mother’s cells spiritually. She can’t help thinking her mother abused in those experiment. She does not remember her as a person because Henrietta died so early. Some of her brothers have had criminal behavior, and have difficulty holing their angers. All of them don’t have much education. They can’t afford insurance to go to doctor–.

The author concludes into more spiritual ending. Deborah and her cousin say God chose Henrietta to be an angel to save us. As a Japanese I did not much of American history in racism and medicine I learned a lot and I am moved by the humanity.

An Article on Vladimir Horowitz in Grove Dictionary (1980) 8/22/11

August 22, 2011

I was reading the book “the Danger of Music and Other Anti-Utopian Essays” by Richard Taruskin, and found a very interesting essay about Horowitz and Tchaikovsky. In this essay, he quotes an article on Horowitz in Grove Dictionary from 1980. I am lucky to still own this old version of Grove Dictionary (Paper Copy!!). 20 valums of Grove Dictionary were my very good friends when I was doing a doctoral program at Rice University. I did not need to go to the library every day. I guess I never knew of this extreme article of Horowitz. His article is in pages 722 to 723 in volume 8 written by Michael Steinberg. Throughout the article, we can sense the author’s bitterness toward this great pianist. The article ends ” Horowitz illustrates that an astounding instrument gift carries no guarantee about musical understanding.” I could not find a proper way to respond to this article. What is this!! How Horowitz stands in our music and piano history is amazing. His contribution to the music world is beyond we can think. All of us have a preference to the music and the musicians, but that should be different from writing biography in the trusted music dictionary. I understand when the new version of Grove came out Horowitz article was re-written by a great music author Harold Schonberg.

A Positive and Encouraging Quote by Gregor Piatigorsky from “Hitler’s Emigres and Exiles in Southern California: A Windfall of Musicians” by Dorothy Lamb Crawford 8/9/11

August 9, 2011

I have been reading a book ” “Hitler’s Emigres and Exiles in Southern California: A Windfall of Musicians” by Dorothy Lamb Crawford, and found a wonderful quote from a great cellist, Piatigorsky. This is from P. 64 to P. 65 in this book.

-You don’t have to be a genius to know your shortcomings, because there are so many of them. But you have to be a mighty intelligent person to know your strong points. That is your obligation to know what is good. And if possible to enjoy. And everything that you don’t like, to convert into something that is likable. That is the only way I know. Otherwise you will live in the negative all your life. You can’t live in that, you can’t prosper in it… I never met a really, truly conceited musician. Because they know what they don’t know – especially before the concert… Music remains above you: you are just striving to reach it. And the better you become at it, the music moves higher, so it becomes unreachable. –

Growing up in the family with blaming and criticizing manner I am easily too negative about me. It is a great quote for me, especially as a performer myself. So this book led me to read the book “The Great Cellists” by Margaret Campbell to learn about Piatigorsky more, and I am reading his autobiography. I understand there will be a big cello conference next spring in LA under the name of Piatigorsky. I am looking forward to attending seminars to learn about Piatigorsky’s pedagogical method and personality.

Violin Dreams by Arnold Steinhardt 11/15/10

November 15, 2010

I am reading a book “Violin Dreams” by Arnold Steinhardt. He writes about his parents as Jewish. It is very touching, and the music in their lives has been deeply attached to their long history. Mr. Steinhardt writes “Jews believed that only music could give these prayers wings strong enough to deliver them to God.” When he first played Ernest Bloch’s Nigun from Baal Shem Suite, his father told him “Two thousand years of Jewish suffering are in those notes. The Nigun is a cry to God himself.” And I started to think about my own heritage, Japanese. What do we believe? What have we been expressing through our emotions? During the WWII, when American troops invaded into Okinawa, located in the south part of Japan, fathers killed their own children and wives, then they killed themselves. What were they thinking? How about Hiroshima and Nagasaki after the nuclear bombs?

In the long history, Japanese have been admiring our beautiful four seasons. Haiku and Tanka (poems) have been our ways of expression, using Kigo(seasonal words). We don’t express emotions like Westerners, but we express ourselves through poems and often unspoken words. We don’t cry out and speak loud. We have a court music “Gagaku”, but it was not for civilians first. We don’t have music like Nigun. We have folk songs composed during the Meiji period (1868 – 1912), and we sing those folk songs with melancholy and sentiment. “Unspoken” could be a key to understand Japanese culture.