Book: Dragon In Ambush

Dragon in Ambush by Jeremy Ingalls is a critique and new translation of the first twenty poems of Mao Zedong’s published poetry. This seminal work stands out from previous translations of Mao’s poems in seeing them as an expression of his core political beliefs, rather than for their poetic effect. Instead, Dr. Ingalls shows in consummate detail that Mao was careful and deliberate in employing imagery in his poetry to lay out procedures for political supremacy in which the central drive was his will to psychological domination. That is, domination of the minds of others is the unifying theme of Mao’s verse-sequence.

The crux of Prof. Ingalls’ work lies in her focus on the symbolism in the poems. The poems are, in Mao’s use of them as a means of communication, meaningless on their surface. No image, however seemingly commonplace, is ever employed for merely lyrical or aesthetic description. Every image functions as a factor in an entirely political calculus. According to Dr. Ingalls, “When Mao mentions streams or mountains, suns or moons, clouds or winds or icicles, horses, elephants, snakes, tigers, leopards or bears, specifies kinds of trees or birds or fish, flies, brooms, mats or bridges, these and all his other images have, as their primary function, neither happenstance descriptions nor whimsical metaphor. They all have politically symbolic functions in Mao’s algebra of versified political discourse.”

Furthermore, in her analysis, Prof. Ingalls downplays the significance of Marxism-Leninism in the Thought of Mao Zedong. She shows that throughout his career, Mao regarded Marxism-Leninism as a political convenience, not as a doctrine permanently essential to his master-plan. Just as Mao used the Nationalists of Chiang Kai-shek and Stalin’s Soviet Union as means to further his own political ambitions, so did he manipulate Marxist-Leninist ideology to hoodwink and attract, at home and abroad, professional revolutionaries to help do his bidding. Mao’s aims express, in their worldviews, an entirely Chinese tradition. In his poems Mao’s dialectics, his materialism, and his authoritarianism all take their points of reference from within the Chinese cultural order. Dragon in Ambush is a thoroughly unique and revolutionary approach to understanding the Mind of Mao Zedong.

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Book: The Defiance of Reiko Murata

Reiko Murata is shocked and dismayed when she receives a haiku poem from her late husband, an admiral in the Japanese Imperial Navy, suggesting she follow his example in committing seppuku, ritual suicide, an appeal she strongly resists.

It’s 1947, and Reiko lives a solitary and uneventful life. As she grieves his death, and struggles to deal with her loneliness, she feels torn between her desire for autonomy and the rigid customs that define Japanese society.

In her search, she encounters a younger man, Akira Kusano. They begin an affair, but she is wary of a deeper relationship, especially when she discovers he is connected to the yakuza. She’s drawn into the crime syndicate’s orbit when Akira introduces her to Kazuo Fujita, the yakuza godfather. Despite her misgivings and warnings from Akira, she begins working with Fujita, and finds herself at the center of a mystery involving secret maps to a hidden fortune called Golden Lily.