Poignant, at times heart-rending. A novella's sensibility within a novel's scope, Ishiguro's first published book is a small gem, a beautiful set of mPoignant, at times heart-rending. A novella's sensibility within a novel's scope, Ishiguro's first published book is a small gem, a beautiful set of moments.
Really just a conglomeration of impression and memory, the narrative in A Pale View Of Hills slips inobtrusively between Japan in the aftermath of nuclear war, and placid, green postwar England. But gently, and without capital-D Drama.
Ishiguro had made it the business of his telling to obscure or imply major narrative developments, and keep the consciousness of the reader on the momentary or fleeting impressions, surfaces, and small talk. So that the significance of the bigger things is felt, not said or told. In spite of its mostly Japanese fundamentals, it is really a very English manner of conveying the emotional undertow in the lives of the characters.
Can't really go too much in depth without reducing what is a very substantial work-- the manner of the telling here does a pas de deux with the arc of the story, and it is well worth being in the audience as the lights go down and the curtain-- quietly, almost unnoticeably-- rises. Five stars....more
I kind of liked this in spite of itself. And by itself I mean the unnecessarily self-loathing bits about bondage and humiliation.
Ogawa has a writerly,I kind of liked this in spite of itself. And by itself I mean the unnecessarily self-loathing bits about bondage and humiliation.
Ogawa has a writerly, palpable sense of the physics of things, the tone, texture and color things that we absorb but don't necessarily process.
And uncharacteristically, for fiction that can manage that kind of understanding of things, this also has an unerring sense of pace and timing that unfolds naturally, with perfect ease and conviction.
That the conception here required those in-spite-of-itself aspects-- left this reader feeling that 'should I just close the book here' impulse, in passages where the proceedings were overly violent, overly self-destructive. I'm not sure that the story really, really required those extremes. ...more
This is a very difficult read, not as in 'dense' but as in 'unpleasant'. And made no easier by the author's resolve to lead the narrative to the mostThis is a very difficult read, not as in 'dense' but as in 'unpleasant'. And made no easier by the author's resolve to lead the narrative to the most intentionally uncomfortable places he can imagine; there is to be no outlet or uplift at any point in the novel, and we can tell from the first few pages. For the rest of the book we will be encircled by fear, constraint, control, fate and deep mood swings.
We're led down the emotional plumbing along with a kind of numb / punchdrunk narrator, whose brief time describing his life to us comprises a chamber of horrors and an unending set of even-worse consequences. A list of same would be too much in a review, but pick a form of violence, a human failing, a deformity of nature, an offense against society, against family, incest, suicide-- it's here, but meant in a broader, umbrella sense. His concerns are the philosophical structures of the Japanese national persona, and the inherited national flaws he sees.
The Japanese in 1967 were still trying to make sense of the links between the hyperloyalist shogun tradition, the authoritarian cult of empire, and the cabin-fever shock and guilt that made the postwar era so unstable. We feel the infantilized shame and post-fascist surreality of Witold Gombrowicz in the proceedings. And maybe some Beckett, as well; there is a sleepwalker's logic to the course of the book, in fulfillment of what can only be said to be pre-ordained. The failures here, though, are the inability to balance the shock of the distasteful with the familiarity of the obvious, in the way that Beckett was able to do, at once deft and disarming. Mr. Ōe wants no such pretty 'balance' in his attack on the senses. ( Also on the negative side of the equation, there is plenty here that is kind of wifty-cosmic ala Vonnegut, or deliberately obtuse, grotesque in a way we'd now recognize as the tactic of director David Lynch.)
The onslaught of intimidation and dread the narrator feels bounces back and forth from an internalization of events to the formation of a complex analogy of those same, or similar, outside occurrences. The string of disaster and violence our author observes from day to day becomes a kind of personal 'disgrace loop' for which he blames himself. And in analyzing and agonizing about that blame, the dishonorable flaws of the society are reflected. And in taking the blame, back around the loop again.
There are worlds within this novel that this reader can't claim to know about; the rebellions & disturbances in Japan in the 60's were different from other places, and so was the nation. It must also be noted that the author's own biography mirrors at least some of what goes on. A disabled child wasn't just a fiction for this book; the author was father to a similar case. Ōe knew Henry Miller and Sartre, and aspects of their viewpoints appear throughout. He met with Mao Tse Tung. A thorough study of the novel would include at least some familiarity with the author's intriguing biographical details.
There is a desolate sense here that the more reasonable the man, the worse and more relentless the nightmares he must internalize. And Hiroshima towers blackly above the entire conception here, mentioned only once or twice, but crackling like an electric current at the edges.
Closing the back cover on this book, emerging from the 'disgrace loop', feels like walking out of a prison. A prison of blunted, hurtful ambiguities. Aaarrgh. ...more
Begins as a plausible Japanese mystery novel, on a dark and stormy night. The normal elements start to fall into place-- the protagonist is a newsmanBegins as a plausible Japanese mystery novel, on a dark and stormy night. The normal elements start to fall into place-- the protagonist is a newsman who hasn't had luck in love, sleeps little, and is trying to quit smoking for the fourth time. Fine, ultra generic, but let's go; maybe some cultural wrinkles will appear to make this different...
Atmosphere is gritty and the story unfolds mysteriously enough, but all isn't well. After a bit, we're treated to an unusual character who is both teenaged and psychic. Worse still, there are signs that his family tree has also been home to other, gifted practitioners. The first dealbreaker in the book appears when we find our original psychic teen has a friend. And unfortunately for us, the author has opted to make the friend a psychic as well. A sidekick psychic.
The uncanny and the seemingly impossible do battle for the next few chapters, and finally the dagger is plunged in, to the hilt. The Sidekick Psychic can do tricks. Major tricks, even beyond the usual mindreading hijinks. The sidekick can teleport.
And this is the moment, on page 132 of 301, where this book ends. At least for this reader, and anyone else over the impressionable age of about twelve. What was most annoying about all this is the tell-tale presence of that staple of Young Adult writing, the sensitive, emo-loner teen with paranormal powers. I'm a mystery reader, I've read hundreds of detective novels --- why didn't I detect that ?
When you have misunderstood, hyper-intuitive teenagers mooning all over the place, and then someone teleports ... make no mistake-- you're in a YA Pulp Novel. And if you're beyond middle school age, you'd better get out of there instantly. Your brain is at stake. I did, but I could use a cigarette. ...more
Tight, understated mystery that does what a lot of mysteries seem incapable of-- staying internally coherent, keeping up intensity while narrowing in Tight, understated mystery that does what a lot of mysteries seem incapable of-- staying internally coherent, keeping up intensity while narrowing in on its goals. So much else is really optional if the author can keep the story travelling along as he has launched it, at the right tempo and pitch... Landing at unforseen but inevitable places, moments of brief certainty in an uncertain world.
This is one of those first person stories where the author doesn't quite concede the character (or maybe the integrity) of the protagonist, until things are well underway. Definitely influenced by outsiders ala Bowles, Simenon, and Camus, our hero here verges on both darkness and light, so there's an internal hierarchy at work. The confidence tricks and scams that are the day-to-day operations here are the baseline of the story, but the real clash is way overhead, in the realms of morality and, ultimately, meaning itself.
With that double set of primary concerns, what suffers in the book is the atmosphere; the clean, pared-away prose has not enough room for rendering locale, and that is unfortunate. For Japanese readers, it is presumed that they can imagine a clandestine chase through the Tokyo underground, or the environs of Shinjuku at night. For the reader who can picture the detail and rush of modern Japan, there are signposts enough-- but as an investigation of that world, for the unfamiliar westerner, we are left more or less alone.
What makes this such a great book, though, is not what is abbreviated in the description of locale; after all, rendering an intriguing, taut narrative is much more difficult than describing location. By keeping to a spare and almost dreamlike prose, Mr. Nakamura delivers what many western mysteries seem to miss. Which is that the story must follow not just a character as he makes his way through a crisis, but the logical extremes of that character's persona as those sensibilities navigate, perhaps even predict, the way through the inferno. This can be seen as a direct inheritance from pulp and noir; wherein the tragedy, the discontinuity of the environment is mirrored in the tragedy of the character, who reflects that struggle in his misadventure, in a life on the bent side.
What I can't wait to see is what Nakamura does next; this is so nearly-perfect in the basics, that the sky's the limit on how much further he may go. The Night sky, of course. ...more
The average lifespan of buildings in Japan is only about twenty years or so. (It says so, right here, in this book, which may itself last hundreds ofThe average lifespan of buildings in Japan is only about twenty years or so. (It says so, right here, in this book, which may itself last hundreds of years, if certain other books are any gauge of success). The authors of New Japan Architecture credit this unreasonable circumstance to high land prices, a hyperactive construction industry and "a preference for the new".
At first blush this survey/ coffee-table book looks to be leaning a little hard on the necessity of The New, with buildings that are more performance art and flash than substance, but a more in-depth look reveals that there's more here than just the attention grabbers.
There is a sense that grasping for Monumentality, the Iconic and the Disconcerting .. design-- is taking over, though. "Brandtecture" for Prada, Tod's, Dior, and other Shibuya-Ku denizens outlandishly reaches for unattainably distinctive results. And results that may well shout "2003", and perhaps sooner than later, in as little as ten years hence.
Buildings that quietly carry the Dna of the place, conservatively suit their purpose, and aren't so stuck in a millennial timeframe-- are the rarities here. But they're here. The MVRDV firm's Gyre Building, a dark presence in the Shibuya-ku, conveys the confidence and modernist impulse better than the super-transformer structures elsewhere in the neighborhood, it seems. The renovations documented here by Kengo Kuma & Associates also have the look of being ageless and yet still very modern.
On the senseless-corporate-gigantism tip, we have the Tokyo Midtown Project, a kind of Rockefeller-San plaza and office complex overseen by Skidmore Owings Merrill, that seems to have employed every last architect and contractor from several continents for years. Jury's out on this without a more elaborate case study, but it looks like another mega-cluster of anodized alloy and uv-treated glazing from the glimpses here.
Not every entry here is an epiphany in three dimensional form; still it would be fair to say that nothing here is filler or simplistic. An interesting standout is the International House Of Japan, a nice renovation of a 1955 design by Junzo Yoshimura, Junzo Itakura, and Kunio Maekawa, the last of whom was a student of le Corbusier and a teacher of Kenzo Tange, a founding father of Japanese postwar architecture. This massive building and garden has earmarks of the International Style, of course, but with all the harmonious aspects of the Japanese sense of flow, interval and, what to call it -?-- horizontality ? A low center of gravity, maybe.
A culture that condenses it's building to twenty-year spans-- and voluntarily, as an expression of its vitality and spirit-- isn't the average climate for designers and architects. Absolutely worth a look, if only for the fact that as Architecture becomes more and more borderless and international, east is still east.