Friday, January 09, 2004


I'm interested to see that McSweeney's recommends The Master of Go, by Yasunari Kawabata. I read that! It was captivating.

The book comes from a series of newspaper reports Kawabata wrote on the Go match of the century. McSweeney's gets it right to finger the tension between tradition and modernism, in the opponents' style of play, but also in the sociopolitical context of their lives. It's a passing of the torch.

I've been trying to "master" Go for some two decades now. No success. Very few manuals are written on the game. Those that are available are often reprints of very old work and written in a style that can't be called user-friendly.

For example, The Game of Go: The National Game of Japan, by Arthur Smith, was first published in 1908. My sister gave it to me for Christmas in 1985 (every 16-year-old girl's dream). Smith includes a few sample games, and for one he comments at move 202 (of a possible 361 play positions) that "all the rest of board is practically finished." In fact, the published reports of most games stop at about move 250 or so, intimating that the rest is obvious. I am mystified.

I think there must be some zen aspect to grokking Go that is simply beyond me.

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