REFLECTIONS IN A GLASS DOOR: Memory and Melancholy in the Personal Writings of Natsume Soseki, by Marvin Marcus. Honolulu: Hawaii University Press, 2009, 268 pp., $49 (hardcover)

Author of a well-received study of the biographical writings of Mori Ogai ("Paragons of the Ordinary," 1993), Marvin Marcus now turns to the man widely regarded as the most important novelist of the Meiji Era, Natsume Soseki (1867-1916), author of "Wagahai Wa Neko de Aru" (I Am a Cat), "Kokoro," and "Botchan."

Marcus uses the author's personal writings as the framework for this major work of literary detection. His goal is to provide us, through Soseki's personal documents, with "a view of the author's private and public faces and illuminate his larger concerns as a novelist and culture critic," presented in "a predominant and personal voice." His materials are Soseki's various essay collections (of which one, "Reflections in a Glass Door," lends its title to the present work), diary entries, poetry, published interviews and the more autobiographical of his novels.

With these, Marcus succeeds admirably in his goal, though he concedes that "memory does not always cooperate, and can never offer up the unmediated past . . . (We live) confined within our small, private spaces . . . mainly we sit and think, and wish to be left alone."