Featuring two books, read during the week of November 23-29, 2009.1) Catching Fire - Suzanne CollinsCatching Fire
is better than the vast majority of young adult novels on the market, but even it could not avoid the sophomore slump...and the saddest thing of about it is that it wasn’t a foregone conclusion. The first half of the book, with its focus on Hunger Games
heroine Katniss in her native element and the post-game trials she faces upon her return, is stellar, as are the many subtly-dropped hints that all is not well for the leaders of Panem.
Unfortunately, Collins stumbles by sending Katniss and Peeta back into the arena. To be sure, the internal logic of this development is sufficiently explained, and the action scenes tense, but I can’t help but feel a bit shortchanged by it all: Haven't I read this book before?
Don’t get me wrong: Catching Fire
is a great book. It’s just that, had it not rehashed so much of the first volume, it could have been truly excellent. 2) 韓流熱風 - VA
The Hot Winds of Hallyu - VA
I'll start this review off by stating that this volume's title doesn't sound nearly
as cheesy in Japanese. At any rate, The Hot Winds of Hallyu
is an anthology of essays on the Korean Wave (in Asia generally, and Japan in particular) written by Joong-ang Ilbo
journalists. Some are interesting, while others have only the vaguest of connections to the purported topic of the book. None of them can be said to contain much in the way of critical thinking, let alone much scholastic value.
At their best, they're entertaining human interest pieces (e.g. interviews with Vietcong veterans who have become fans of Kdrama) with an over-reliance on purple prose. (I hope I never have to read the phrase "although they'd once stared down the barrels of each other's firearms" again for the rest of my life.) At their worst they're exercises in unwarranted self-congratulatory wishful thinking (e.g. the Korean Wave has nothing--no siree--to do with government-led marketing initiatives mixed with the herd mentality underlying most Japanese trends; the Korean "early adopters" who purchase new cell phones or mp3 players every few months are cutting-edge, not mindless, consumers).
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the book is the authors' blindness to the prefabricated product that is much of the Korean Wave--witness the chapter on the creation
, from the ground up, of BoA, or better yet, the chapter on Bae Yong-joon, where the actor is presented as a model of stoic thrift for not purchasing new running shoes...never mind the fact that he happened to be renting a Big Sur mansion for 100 days of splendid isolation with his personal trainer, watching movies and having organic groceries delivered to the front door, when he somehow found the courage within himself to desist from buying that second pair of Reeboks.
Which is just a longwinded way of saying that in its uncritical analysis of the Korean Wave, this volume is closer to being part of the phenomenon itself than it is to dissecting it.
That will be all.