ducers’ struggle to stay in business innspite of the challenges of television)nrather incidentally changed the ecologynfor books, for which, automatically,nthere was a literacy test to limit theirnaudience. A decade later, and the to-donabout Lolita would hardly have beennnoticeable. Nabokov was amused by it,nonly mildly distressed, and always wonderfullynbalanced.nI remember going up to Ithaca inn1958 to interview him for Newsweek,nDOWN THE UP STAIRCASEnH.L. Mencken said that there is reallynonly one economic law worth worryingnabout, that what goes up must comendown, and vice versa. This, in essence,nis the thesis of Bill Emmott’s The SunnAlso Sets: The Limits to Japan’s EconomicnPower (New York: Times Books/nRandom House; 292 pp., $19.95), antimely book written in a style that owesnnothing to Hemingway and still less, ifnthat were possible, to Ecclesiastes.nMr. Emmott — who spent threenyears as Tokyo bureau chief for ThenEconomist and is presently working innLondon as the business affairs editor ofnthat publication — in his penultimatenchapter does, however, recapitulate hisnargument with an admirable brevitynthat bears quoting. Against all whonpredict that Japan is the coming worldnpower, garishly illuminated by a rising’nsun that is destined at the same time tonthrow both the United States and thenWestern European countries into shadow,nEmmott argues that:n”[T]he metaphor of the ever-risingnsun, does not really work. Suns do notnjust rise. They also set. That is the newnera in Japan, the era of the setting sun.nIt was already under way in the mid-n1980s, even as Japan’s exports of capitalnwere prompting speculation and concernnabout the emergence of Japanesenpower. The factors that characterizednJapan’s rise have changed, under theninfluence of the rise itself: that is, ofnaffluence, international exposure, then46/CHRONICLESnthe terms of my assignment being tondetermine whether either town orngown now thought of him — to use myneditor’s words — as “a dirty old mannwho played with himself in the shower.”nWhat Nabokov told me, and whatnhe wrote shortly thereafter to WalternMinton, the president of Putnam’s, thenbook’s publisher, was that “the university’snattitude toward the Lolita matternhas been above reproach.” On thenother hand, during the HalloweennREVISIONSncapital surplus, and the now-strong yen.nJapan is becoming a nation of consumers,nof pleasure-seekers, of importers, ofninvestors and of speculators. Abundantnmoney and free financial markets risknturning this new nation of speculatorsninto one of boom and bust. Morencertainly, time and the maturing of thenbaby-boom generation will make Japanna nation of pensioners.n”What this means economically isnthat Japan’s trade and current-accountnsurpluses will disappear, not forevernnecessarily, but for a significant period.nWith them will go Japan’s role as annexporter of capital. . . . Moreover, ifnthe capital surplus does continue onlynfor these few years, then Japan’s candidacynas a top power would have to benconsigned to the dustbin of history,nalong with that of the oil producers ofnOPEC, whose 1970 surpluses lasted fornless than a decade.”nThere is a sense in which this talk ofnwhich nahon is to be — or is to benregarded as — the Number One Powernbelongs not just to the realm of thenspeculative but even to that of thenunreal, and Bill Emmott is plainlynaware of it. Ultimately, of course, wenare dealing with questions of relationnand relativity, so that, “Only if Americanfails to lead will Japan have to initiate;nonly if Japan becomes more powerfulnthan America will Japan really begin tonset its own international agenda. Thenstory of Japan’s sunrise and its eventualnsunset is really a tale of two countries, ofnJapan and of America.”nnntrick-or-treating the week before ourninterview, Nabokov said that a youngngirl had appeared at his doorstepndressed in tennis whites and wearing ansign around her neck that proclaimednher identity as “Lolita.” He shook hisnhead and explained, “And I don’t thinknthey knew I was the author of thenbook. Frankly, I was shocked.”nDavid R. Slavitt is a writer and poetnliving in Philadelphia.nLike the serendipitous forces thatnhave converged to produce the socalledneconomic miracle of Japan, thosenothers that have combined to createnAmerica’s contemporary economic malaisenneed not, as Emmott reminds us,nprove to be either lasting or determinantnones. Decades of inflahonary democracy,ncompounded by the well-meaningnbut frequently ill-advised economic policiesnof the Reagan administration, havenresulted in an American economynwhose undeniable strengths are underlainnby systemic weaknesses; accordingnto Emmott, “This remedying of macroeconomicsnerrors is the basic task facingnthe United States.” So far, so good;nbeyond this point, it should come as nonsurprise that, for the editor of a magazinenfounded originally to uphold thenprinciples of Free Trade, “The greatestnworry after the Reagan era is that thenUnited States could turn protectionist”n— that, “In parhcular, America [couldnclose] its borders to trade, investment,nand immigration.”nGiven the source of this heartfeltnopinion, it is probably futile to arguenwith its wisdom, beyond observing thatna) the United States is unlikely ton”close” its borders against anything,nincluding cocaine from Columbia, andnb) there is always the possibility that thensort of (relatively minor) economic inefficienciesnthat Bill Emmott believesnprotectionist policies always causenmight be more than compensated for byndomestic felicities lying well beyond thenpurview of the dismal science. (CW)n