urban literary-knot

De Minnaar Van China March 1, 2009

The China Lover

 

“By the end of the three different memoirs that make up The China Lover, Shirley Yamaguchi, aka Li Xianglan, aka Ri Koran, appears to be unknowable after all — and that is just right. Our heroine is far less interesting as a person than as a personification. She is, as one of her admirers describes her, “a typical portable shrine”; and revealing how it is made has never been the point of a portable shrine. In a rare departure from his books and critical essays on film, politics, culture and current events, Buruma, a distinguished journalist-scholar and Japanophile, has crafted in The China Lover a fascinating fictional biography — not only of an iconic film star, but of film as an expression of a nation’s culture and psyche. How fitting that he has put into practice at least two of the techniques of Japanese movie-making he mentions: “keeping a distance even in scenes of great emotion” and leaving things “open-ended, like life.”     -The Washington Post