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I like big books.

The Nobility of Failure: Tragic Heroes in the History of Japan

The Nobility of Failure: Tragic Heroes in the History of Japan - Ivan Morris A great book with a good overview of Japanese history explored through it's cultural myths and legends. Morris is eloquent and concise, and his work is thoroughly researched (almost half of this study's pages are notes and references - truly a treasure trove for researchers). I find a lot of the myths really compelling, and the conclusions Morris draws are right on the money. His thesis is relatively simple: Japan idolizes and remembers it's historic failures much more than successes. There's something about being committed to an ideal or a cause to the bitter end, even if it's wrong, that resonates strongly with the warrior culture of Japan. But not just there, I think that in contemporary American culture, with its attraction to whimsy, instantaneous gratification, and billion channel satellites, there can be found a certain respect for people who can commit themselves solidly to a cause. There's something romantic about lost causes in general that I think people identify with, the almost types of stories get embedded in our culture as well (here I'm thinking of Rudy).

A good read for a piece of dense and thorough scholarship.