"The Japanese say it's because America has become a land without substance. We let our manufacturing go. We don't make things anymore. When you manufacture products, you add value to raw materials, and you literally create wealth. But America has stopped doing that. Americans make money now by paper manipulation, which the Japanese say is bound to catch up to us because paper profits don't reflect real wealth. They think our fascination with Wall Street and junk bonds is crazy."
What strikes me is that this was written in 1992-1993, and even then it was evident to all those with rudimentary knowledge of macro economics that it was an unworkable situation that would one day come crashing down on us. Fifteen years later, in 2008, several large banks and investment firms are in trouble and are all saying ich habe es nicht gewusst.
A long time ago, I saw Rising Sun, a rather good film with Wesley Snipes, Sean Connery, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa and Harvey Keitel. It's an early 90's film based on an early 90's book by Michael Crichton, whom I've grown to appreciate more and more over the years. He's proved to be a suspense fiction writer who bases his work on pretty solid research (or defined assumptions) and manages to tell a technically compelling story while at the same time managing to write a very compelling story. He can be deep without losing his ability to write stories that read easily. Anyway, he's my one of my go-to fiction writers when I'm in the mood for something that doesn't require me to feel bad about my own intellect.
The book deals with the Japana-fear that was sweeping the world late eighties and early nineties, based mostly on the economic powerhouse Japan had become, especially with their trade-surplus at the time. Basically, Japan was the China of the early nineties. I've only read the first chapter so far, but it's very sharply written, painting a clear picture without getting lost in detail. It's a very sleek and minimalistic book in the way that it doesn't use more words than necessary. It comes across as very Japanese, where the emptiness in a story is almost as important as the parts that are filled in.
So I liked the film a lot, and had always been curious about the book especially considering my fascination with Cyberpunk, in which corporate controlled dystopia usually has a strong hint of Japanese dominance. (Mostly because at birth of Cyberpunk it looked as if Japan was going to take over the world, economically and then culturally.) I wanted to read some easy fiction, after having read a ton of non-fiction lately. I also wanted an easy read, as the last fiction I read was Nick Harkaway's Gone-Away World, which is great, but meanders so much that it's hard to stay focussed on the main storyline which is hardly even there.
My last thought on the book and the film; having seen the film first, I have preconceived notions of the characters and the casting of the characters, and I find myself agreeing with many choices, especially Sean Connery and Harvey Keitel. I'm not sure of Snipes' casting yet, but it might be a little early to tell.
Thanks Eva for this wonderful birthday gift. :)