Kurosawa – Webster’s Timeline History 1910-2007 is a book published in 2008 as part of a “Webster’s Timeline History” series, which includes several dozen other books on various subjects. Very little information is available readily about the series, so I pretty much ordered the book blindly, expecting the worst.
Having now had a week with Webster’s Timeline History, my verdict is that this is indeed just about the most useless book that I have ever had the displeasure of opening.
Basically, what we have here is an automatically generated list of entries containing the keyword “Kurosawa”. These are copy-pasted from Wikipedia, WordNet and some other unnamed sources. To give you an idea what this means, here is a totally random entry from page 67:
Kaneko, T., et al.: “Preparation of mouse-human chimeric antibody to an embryonic carbohydrate antigen, Lewis Y” appears in Journal of Biochemistry (Tokyo) written by T. Kaneko, Y. Iba, K. Zenita, K. Shigeta, K. Nakano, W. Itoh, Y. Kurosawa, R. Kannagi and K. Yasukawa. Published in January 1993.
And here is another one from page 100:
Hirosi, Kurosawa: Translator of “Three cheers for Tacky” by Helen Lester and Lynn Munsinger into Japanese (“Takki wa tiarida”). Publisher: Bunkeido (Tokyo). Published in 1997.
This is what the 232 page book is filled with, entry after entry, some ten of them on each page. I cannot for the life of me think what purpose this book might serve to anyone – except for the publisher, someone called Philip M. Parker, who is probably happy with my $22.
Furthermore, the title of the book is deliberately misleading. For one thing, it uses the non-trademarked name Webster, which probably leads many to think about Merriam Webster, the well-known publisher of reference materials that has absolutely nothing to do with this book. Secondly, the time frame “1910-2007” in the title is clearly chosen to make it look like this would be an Akira Kurosawa book. The first year coincides with Kurosawa’s birth, and that is the only reason that I can imagine for it being in the title – the earliest entry in the book is actually from the 13th century. The first 8 pages take us to the 1980s, leaving the remaining 220 pages to cover the last 28 years (the last entries are from 2008, not 2007).
Much would, of course, be forgiven if among its seemingly random selection of entries the book would contain something useful, like for instance publication dates for a good number of Kurosawa essays, in which case the book could function as a bibliography. Sadly, this is not the case, as all the Akira Kurosawa related entries that I could find had to do with release dates of his films, either on the big screen or home video, mixed with a few totally randomly selected book publication dates. And even these are neither comprehensive or verified, making the data completely unusable. The index is near useless as well, having also been automatically generated. And I don’t really see how this random mess of entries could serve any other field of research, either.
In short, Webster’s Timeline History is the closest to a publishing fraud that I have ever seen. There really can’t be any reason for anyone to get this book. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a similar waste of ink and paper in my life.
16 August 2009
Sounds like a surefire bestseller.