This is the seventh book of Murakami’s I’ve read (I’m missing a couple smaller ones from my collection,) and it seems to naturally fit almost as a preThis is the seventh book of Murakami’s I’ve read (I’m missing a couple smaller ones from my collection,) and it seems to naturally fit almost as a prewriting exercise to Kafka on the Shore, which I believe to be his best. It is distinctly Murakami: an observant but somewhat lost male narrator, meaningless affairs, Western music (pop, classical, and jazz,) dissociation from the family and society at large, gender roles, the midnight phone call, parallel worlds of a mystical sort, a few cats, simple but beautiful women, cooking, and a dream-like quality to reality, all of which culminate in an unsolved puzzle that is distinctly metaphysical, but no less real as a result. I admit a personal bias in favor of his style, although a detractor could reasonably call him repetitious. All of his novels do seem to be different facets to a single gem, but it is a beautiful gem indeed.
The quasi-nameless narrator, referred to once as K, is a more interesting narrator than some others. He admits to a passion for literature and music, while many of the other narrators appear to merely use these two to fill an empty and apathetic life. While others (I’m thinking specifically of the narrator from The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which I admittedly haven’t read in a while and didn’t much care for,) spend a fair amount of time waiting around for the plot to happen, deep in their own thoughts, K takes a more active role. Yes, he does still spend a lot of time thinking and waiting around, but he is driven by a purpose that is quite believable. His love for Sumire feels natural and unforced. She is the blazing flame he wishes he could be, even though we know from page one that she will be consumed and he won’t. And her asexuality feels equally natural.
The sudden love she falls into with Miu somehow feels organic as well. I don’t know much about homosexual romances in literature, but this one rang true for me. The attraction that Sumire feels for Miu is described in sexual terms, but I get the sense that that is only because Sumire doesn’t know how else to put it. Sure, it is sexual, but it seems to go much deeper. We, the reader, learn about the strange event that tears Miu in two toward the end of the novel, not long after Sumire learns it herself, but I think she knew it from the beginning, in a way. Miu, the Miu of this world, is distinctly asexual, just as Sumire has been. The Miu of the other world is a sexual being, as Sumire has become, or at least desires to be. This makes them a natural metaphysical pair. Sumire parallels Miu in a way she senses but does not understand for a long time. I find it very unsurprising that her disappearance into the other world comes after her attempt to show her sexual side to the asexual side of Miu. Her wholeness has interacted in both ways, sexual and asexual, with one of Miu’s sides. Perhaps her journey was undertaken with the purpose to do the same to the other Miu. Perhaps by showing her wholeness to both split sides of Miu, she too can be made whole. There is a definitive yin and yang theme going on here. Murakami makes frequent use of light and darkness throughout the novel, which can only support this crazy idea of mine.
I admit a certain sense of frustration with Sputnik Sweetheart that I have felt with most of his novels: the metaphysical puzzle is really hard to put together. I think that idea I just proposed about Sumire being a whole version of Miu is a piece to the puzzle, but only one. This novel has quite a few stray pieces though, again very indicative of Murakami’s style. The final act of the novel seems to be out of place. There is an obvious parallel there: Sumire’s midnight phone calls have been replaced with one in the middle of the day from the woman he loves physically but not emotionally. The stressful importance of the phone call is the same. Murakami makes a big deal of describing that Carrot seems to be mentally in a totally different place. Where is he? Perhaps in this other world? After all, he only perks up after K tells a shortened version of his attempts to find Sumire. What is the significance of him stealing anything, much less multiple items of no value? There are clear parallels here, but I’m missing some. There are clear meanings here, but I’m missing more.
This review has been a fun little exercise. I feel like I’m putting some of the pieces together.
All in all, I find myself fond of Sputnik Sweetheart despite its repetitious themes. I would recommend this as a book to start with for those new to Murakami. It’s got all the themes there without being the length of heaviness of Wind-Up or 1Q84. It’s an easy read too. I finished it in a couple days without much effort, so it would be great for a short trip. The beach scenes made me feel like I was outside in the warm sun and blue water, so take it to the beach this summer!
Also, if anyone out there in internetworld reading this has your own thoughts on putting this puzzle together, tell me! Lord knows I need the help. ...more
I’m not one for feel good stories. To me, literature is all about engaging and expanding the mind, and not many fairy tale endings get you thinking abI’m not one for feel good stories. To me, literature is all about engaging and expanding the mind, and not many fairy tale endings get you thinking about much. In high school, I was the Hamlet guy, while all the girls were more Midsummer Night’s Dream. Till now, I might have said that a love story with a happy ending would never mean as much as a Romeo and Juliet tragedy. The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima made me a believer.
The story is the most familiar one in the world. A young boy, Shinji, falls in love with the newcomer, a beautiful pearl diver named Hatsue. Their innocent love begins at first sight. It is tested by the gossiping of the citizens of the tiny island paradise of Uta-Jima, Song Island. Against calumny, natural disaster, and the scheming of Shinji’s fellow suitor Yauso, love overcomes.
What makes this story unique, then? It is an easy read: two days for an avid reader, so it’s not the depth of plot. The tropical paradise of Song Island is beautifully brought to life by Mishima’s incredible talent at description. Neither size nor setting is enough to make such a novel stick in my mind, however. No, it is the characterization of the main characters and the beautiful message they make about morality.
Shinji and Hatsue are innocent in every sense of the word. Shinji has no understanding of love at all. His naievete comes from a pure ignorance of love. Young lovers, as I know from experience, analyze every little word and action from one another, searching for hidden meaning, fantasizing of every fairy tale ending and agonizing over every horrible possibility of being spurned. Shinji has none of this. He believes every word that Hatsue tells him. In this way, truth and love are inextricably tied together. Shinji’s knows that Hatsue’s words are both loving and true, without falling into the trap of over analyzing. In today’s world, where trusting people are often ridiculed as being gullible, Shinji’s honesty is a breath of fresh air.
The theme of innocence does not end here, however. It hits home where fairy tales cannot goes: sexuality. Shinji has not even a semblance of an understanding about sex. In a rather awkward meeting, Hatsue and Shinji see each other nude. They are shameless, refusing to hide themselves. At the first touch, however, Hatsue tells Shinji that they cannot move forward until they are married. She has an innate but illogical and inexperienced understanding that sex before marriage is wrong. Again, without questioning, Shinji trusts and falls obedient to Hatsue.
The similarities to Adam and Eve are too obvious to ignore (please note that this is all my own interpretation. Neither the characters or the author, Mishima, were Christian. This is me putting my words into Mishima’s mouth.) Both characters exhibit traits of our first parents before the Fall of Man. They are incapable of sin, and exemplify virtue. They are full of kindness: Shinji generously gives to another family in the community, and Hatsue gives a surprise gift to Shinji’s mother. Forgiveness too: Yauso, another suitor, attempts to rape Hatsue. She covers up the incident because he merely asked politely. Yauso is the evil snake in this story, personifying at least five of the Seven Deadly Sins: gluttony, sloth, lust, and wrath and envy. The lovers are, like Adam and Eve, moral despite ignorance of evil.
Not your typical love story anymore, is it? I certainly don’t think so. The title, The Sound of Waves, is a reference both to the island culture and the rushing blood in Shinji’s heart when he is with Hatsue. This book has got my blood moving too. Even amongst feel good stories, The Sound of Waves stands tall and singular. It is a breath of fresh, salty ocean air. ...more
Spring Snow is a Japanese novel from 1966 written by Yukio Mishima. Mishima is perhaps the most prolific modern Japanese modern writer, writing a dozeSpring Snow is a Japanese novel from 1966 written by Yukio Mishima. Mishima is perhaps the most prolific modern Japanese modern writer, writing a dozen plays, over one hundred short stories, forty novels and one movie. Born in 1925, Mishima famously committed seppuku, a brutal ritualistic suicide after a failed political coup at the age of 45. He is most well known for the Sea of Fertility tetralogy, a series of four novels starting with Spring Snow. The Sea of Fertility, covering over sixty years of Japanese history, is the story of four successive reincarnations of a passionate man doomed to die young.
Spring Snow tells the tale of Kiyoaki, born the perfect aristocrat-a few decades too late. A stunningly handsome nineteen-year old, Kiyo desperately needs attention in a world where aristocrats, samurai, are increasingly marginalized. He uses his charisma to keep a beautiful maiden, Satoko, on a short leash. He uses her passionate love for him to feed his insatiable ego. Of course, this “romance” is doomed from the start. When Satoko is suddenly arranged to marry a prince, Kiyo suddenly realizes that Satoko is worth fighting – and dying – for.
The rest of the story is a whirlwind meditation on passion, romance, sin, and the dying aristocracy. Despite being a classic of Eastern literature, its themes are universal across hemispheres-and time.
Mishima was less than five years from death when Spring Snow was published. How is it possible that at the age of forty this genius wrote an impossibly beautiful novel perfectly capturing the feeling of teenage boys in love? A novel as true today as it was one hundred years past and one hundred years to come.
In one of the most moving passages, Kiyo and his only friend Shigekuni Honda sit on the beach at night, examining the sea and sky. This is the border, Mishima tells us. The place where the land abruptly ends and the sea begins, just as Kiyo has suddenly ended his childhood and plunged into the dark waters of obsession. In this way, the story is about far more than a child entering adulthood. It is about leaving the shifting tide behind and swimming into the deep. ...more