So, I read Trevanian's Shibumi because I found it cheap, a lot of it is about Japan, and the Washington Post apparently called it "one hell of a pleasure to read", but I'm really not sure what to make of it. At first I thought it was a ham-fisted spy novel by a guy with a bit of a tin ear for dialogue, then I thought it must be a parody of spy novels like that, but by the end I wasn't sure what to believe. (There might be spoilers in this post, by the way.)

For example, here is a line of dialogue attributed to an American intelligence agent named Starr:

"Shit-o-dear! Looks like he went to Fistcity against a freight train!"

I initially thought this was pseudo-American jibber-jabber, but then I checked, and (a) Trevanian is American; and (b) Google suggests that there are people who use this exclamation "shit-o-dear". So is the rest believable too, from a cowboy type? USAians, what do you think?

The main character, Nicholai Hel, is a Marty Stu of exquisite perfection. He is a Russian, Chinese, German and Japanese assassin. A master of go*, he lives with a concubine in a mountain castle, speaks Basque, is psychic, and can kill a man with a piece of drawing paper or even his bare hands, knowing as he does the martial art "Naked/Kill".

He can have sex -- mindblowing sex! -- simply by waving one hand in the air from across the room. Military codebreaking is a mere annoyance to him. Oh, and his eyes are a mysterious color that, like, no-one has ever even seen before! All through the novel I was expecting his soulbonded dragon to fly down from the sky and gently nuzzle him while delivering thought-dialogue ::formatted like this::.

So, you can see my dilemma. Am I just missing Trevanian's protracted literary joke, or is all this goofiness serious?

* Though Trevanian insists on spelling it <gō> throughout.

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I've been living in the US since '91, North and South and I've never heard "Shit-o-dear"... or Fistcity.

On top of the dubious slang, the guy (and his publisher) might've done well to look up the definition of a Mary Sue. ;) I hope it's parody, but it seems like an awfully extended one. No hints on the jacket?


I've never heard it either.

I've also never read Trevanian; these guys seem sure it's a send-up, but every time I've flipped through one of his books at a bookstore the writing has looked so awful I couldn't bring myself to find out (or care).


One should never underestimate the possibilities for bizarre phrases in various dialects of American English (Google turns up fewer hits for a common phrase from my area--"ain't much punkin"--than it does for "shit-o-dear", which is a surprise to me). But the rest of it sounds a bit like some fake film noir dialogue or an impersonation of a "tough guy"; in other words, it sounds like pseudo-American jibber jabber. Hey, Americans can do it too.

...I don't reckon it's a reference to the Loretta Lynn song.


If the Dictionary of American Regional English is up to S yet, you could check it for "shit-o-dear". I'm pretty sure the dictionary of American Slang is a little short of S, alas alas.

What do you suppose the game of gou is? (If the kanji show up) 豪?剛?業? And what would the rules be?


Honestly, that is the dumbest exclamation I have ever seen. It's like someone muttered a curseword and then realized he's supposed to be polite.

I've never heard it, but as Morgan said, never assume that you've already heard the most ridiculous slang.


No hint on the jacket... the jacket makes it sound like a sophisticated, intellectual spy thriller. (That might be irony too, but in that case I give up.)

I can only hope that the game was 吽.


I've never heard "shit-o-dear," either, having lived in the USA my entire life and have traveled about the country for work these last five years. If I was assured it was real, I would probably think it was an antiquated Southern expression. That doesn't fit at all with the hard-boiled parody of the rest of the line, which is the sort of thing Garrison Keillor would put in a Guy Noir script.


It's a "hatsu-meme" for me, too. Have never heard it used, either.

(I do seem to recall having seen the book but deciding to pass on it. Some of your description of Hel's powers reminded me of Pynchon's Vineland, oddly enough.)

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