By the four balls of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

50-100 pages into Shibumi, by Rodney William Whitaker aka Trevanian, I realize that I’ve been duped. This isn’t the light and retarded spy thriller the first pages gave me reason to expect. It’s ..

.. I don’t know what it is. Shibumi is one of the oddest books I’ve read. A work of mad genius, flawed in unique and interesting ways.

It opens with your standard CIA conspiracies and PLO assasinations and tense conversations about dangerous secrets, then .. jumps to the World War 2 backstory of a European orphan who grows up in Japan and spends most of the war playing Go. Armed with Japanese philosophy he becomes one of the world’s greatest assasins, and lovers, a period of his life the novel skips entirely in favor of his middle-aged cave climbing exploits.

The novel burns with rage against American culture and everything it touches, against the mediocre, and the common. The author and/or his spokesperson Nicholai Hel likes the French, British and Spanish little more, and he despises Arabs in particular. Only the Basque and the pre-1945 Japanese meet his standards of manly sophistication.

Putting it like that, I’m not sure why I liked it so much. But liked it I did. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it good. It’s possibly even a failure. But it makes me grin. Just keep it away from impressionable youths.

One Response to By the four balls of Jesus, Mary and Joseph

  1. Petter says:

    Geez,I’d forgotten Trevanian. I read The Eiger Sanction, Shibumi, and The Loo Sanction and maybe another one, back in the day. I thought he was great.
    It got me flashing on other high thriller-crime way above average novels can’t put em downers from that time – Day of the Jackal, Gorky Park and Made in America are a few that come to mind.

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