John Hodgman
May 19, 2006 at 04:00 AM EDT

John Hodgman recommends Trevanian’s ”Shibumi”

Shibumi is a bizarre, beautiful, overwrought spy-novel-of-ideas by the one-named author Trevanian. (He passed away last year, which I think about does it for mysterious, one-named authors of novels of international intrigue, a fact I consider to be a shame.) Shibumi was first published in 1979 and like so much of that era’s pop-cultural product, it was ashamed of neither its lowbrow conventions (super-assassin Nicholai Hel is a Stage IV lover and ultra-bachelor who can blow a woman’s mind from across a tatami-matted room) nor its highfalutin philosophical ambitions (Hel’s passion for attaining the state of aesthetic grace known in Japan as shibumi is matched only by his contempt for the pervasive mediocrity of modern life). Essentially, it’s what would happen if Ayn Rand wrote a spy novel, but with amazing, unnecessary digressions and flashes of true, humane humor.

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