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Star-Bulletin Features

Monday, December 6, 1999


The word on gift books


Coffee-table and cook books are the kind of gifts that keep on giving. We offer a few reviews to help lighten your holiday load and take some of the guesswork out of the array choices of the shelf:

Bullet Sumo: by Makoto Kubota (Chronicle Books); softcover; $29.95.

AS one of three official photographers for the 70th anniversary of the Japan Sumo Association, Makoto Kubota was given uncommon access to the rikishi, or wrestlers, in competition and in training. The result is this book of black-and-white and full-color photographs capturing the rituals of this 1600-year-old sport.

The minimal text is illuminating for those unfamiliar with sumo. The ideal apprentice, we are told, "is well built, taller than average, and has a deep chest and large broad feet, but is not noticeably fat." We are told of the preparation of the chanko-nabe, or stew consumed to gain weight, and led from basic training to the sacred grounds of competition and judging of matches.

In contrast to the text aimed at the novice, no captions accompany the photos, as if the photographer assumed readers' knowledge of the cast of characters, including Hawaii's Fiamalu Penitani, or Musashimaru.

Nadine Kam, Star-Bulletin

Bullet Sam Choy's Kitchen: Cooking Doesn't Get Any Easier Than This: by Sam Choy and Lynn Cook;
Bullet Sam Choy's Poke: Hawaii's Soul Food: by Sam Choy and Randall Francisco (Mutual Publishing) $24.95 each, hardcover

THERE'S no mistaking a cookbook by Sam Choy. The chef's image dominates the cover, always flashing a huge smile and a shaka -- or the OK sign. "Sam Choy's Kitchen" and "Sam Choy's Poke" are his sixth and seventh cookbooks. The first is based on his KHON-TV cooking show, the second on the annual poke contest staged on the Big Island during the Aloha Festivals.

As always, the cookbooks are beautifully designed, with photographs that make you hungry and recipes laid out for easy use. Notations on where to find exotic ingredients or what can be substituted for them are placed with the recipes, instead of foot-noted at the back. A bit of "Sam" kicks off each one, in the form of introductory notes on the dish or how to serve it.

Betty Shimabukuro, Star-Bulletin

Bullet John Young: The Sketchbooks: by Susan Yim (John Young Foundation in association with University of Hawaii Press); 159 pages; $55, hardcover

John Young: The Sketchbooks" is not likely to appeal to anyone who is not already a fan of the artist's work, so I don't feel too bad about the fact that this is not an objective review.

I did not know Young personally, but I fell in love with his dancing children, powerful horses and evocative strokes of brush and pen at an early age.

"The Sketchbooks" reproduces works made on many types of paper using many different media and illuminates Young's love of experimentation. It takes the reader into Young's Diamond Head home and along on many of his travels.

Published last year for the John Young Foundation and its supporters, the book is now available in local bookstores.

Stephanie Kendrick, Star-Bulletin

Bullet Travelers Tales Guides: Hawai'i: True Stories of the Island Spirit: edited by Rick and Marcie Carroll (Travelers Tale Guides); 394 pages; paperback; $17.95.

AS much as I loathe the idea of other people having fun while I am office-bound, I do love the transportive ability of a good travel adventure and this book is full of them.

In the very first chapter, you slip into the consciousness of newcomer Rick Bass who imagines the islands "would be overrun with game-show winners and lit up with the terrible smiles of newlyweds" before growing to respect the islands as a living entities as he tests his bearings on the crunchy, twisted lava fields of Kilauea.

From the land you are next whisked into an adventure by sea with Sue Halpern as she braves an arduous five-day kayak trip along Kauai's Na Pali coastline.

Contributing to the volume are 44 writers from here and abroad including Maxine Hong Kingston, Paul Theroux and Robb Walsh.

Nadine Kam, Star-Bulletin

Bullet The Art of the Hula: by Allan Seiden (Island Heritage Publishing) 119 pages; hardcover, $24.99

THE Art of the Hula" is beautifully illustrated look at one of Hawaii's most cherished art forms.

Historian Allan Seiden chronicles hula's near death at the hands of New England missionaries and its revival under King Kalakaua and beyond. He describes the eras and styles of hula and offers many of the chants and legends behind the dance, often in both Hawaiian and English.

A glossary of hula terms and suggestions for further reading complete this well-crafted book.

The only section that seemed shortchanged was the last, which looks forward at the future of hula. While the explosion of interest in hula on the U.S. Mainland was mentioned, Japan, already home to more hula halau than Hawaii, was not.

Stephanie Kendrick, Star-Bulletin

Bullet The Life of a Geisha: by Eleanor Underwood (Southmark Publishers); hardcover; 64 pages; $9.98.

WITH Arthur Golden's "Memoirs of a Geisha," soon to be a movie, Jean-Paul Gaultier designing kimono-inspired garb and Madonna dressing Japanese, now you can read all about the real "Life of a Geisha."

The text traces the rise and fall of these "arts persons." The geishas' predecessors were the 7th century saburuko, women forced to become wanderers as a result of social displacement who traded sexual favors to survive. During the Golden Age of the geisha, beginning with the opening of Japan's ports to trade in the mid-1800s, these women came to embody the spirit of modernization.

Today, the geisha have come to be respected as the standard bearers for Japan's traditional arts.

The art work here is stunning. The images range from 18th century woodblock prints to contemporary photos of geisha in traditional kimono using a phone in the back of a limousine.

Nadine Kam, Star-Bulletin

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