This book is an invaluable reference for anyone interested in the Japanese literary tradition. (I'm afraid there's not much in the way of popular fict...moreThis book is an invaluable reference for anyone interested in the Japanese literary tradition. (I'm afraid there's not much in the way of popular fiction though since it was published over twenty years ago.) Rimer does an excellent job of supplying you with just the right amount of information needed, and in a concise economical style, to get you started on your road to the uniquely remarkable world of Japanese fiction. (less)
I was reluctant to write a review for this book because I don't cherish the idea of writing negative things about people, be they writers, political l...moreI was reluctant to write a review for this book because I don't cherish the idea of writing negative things about people, be they writers, political leaders, or clergy.
I thought it over and decided to write one anyway.
I'd advise you to stay far away from this book. It's a complete waste of time and money. I think I lost three hours and around 1,500 yen for it by the way. Without a doubt one of the worst books of fiction I've ever read, and possibly the worst Japanese novel translated into the English language since Murakami Ryu's first novel.
In my opinion, one word can sum up this story neatly and nicely: Juvenile.
Of course, if you are a teenage girl, suffering from a depression of some sort, desiring to bond with another troubled soul then by all means, but for the rest of you there is nothing redeeming contained within the two-hundred-or-so pages and little to be learned from the main character.
If I was prodded further, I'd add that the story was a bore; the writing less than literary, pretentious, and full of tedious repetition; and the protagonist impossible to like. The book was written in the first person, but I had no desire to get that close to the young woman, Rin, the main character of the novel. I don't know if the third person narrative would've helped any with this story, but it could've possibly earned the protagonist an ounce of sympathy. And since I didn't like her and couldn't connect with her in any way, it was nearly impossible to find anything worthwhile to praise.
If the above isn't bad enough, let me add the author really goes out of her way to be clever and witty, but fails miserably with each and every attempt, like any young woman without the neccessary writing skills would. I almost even began thinking that this was the prose of an American high schooler from the New York City suburbs. The story is too hackneyed and contrived and could've been written by anyone who was overfed with too much Hollywood junk.
I was tempted to just toss this book into the trash can, and with the least amount of energy required.
If after reading this warning you're still not completely dissuaded, let me provide one example that should do the trick, not that I have a vested interest in turning people off from books. I don't.
Somewhere in this gem, maybe in the second chapter, the young protagonist has a ridiculous dialogue with her cunt. You read that correctly - her cunt. While reading those few passages I honestly felt embarrassed for the author. I don't know about you, but I expected a bit more from an Akutagawa Prize winner - however not that much more, judging from her first novel, which was little more than popular entertainment for runaway girls and wanna-be tough guys.
I don't mean to sound like a didactic washed-out headmaster, but I think it's time for Kanehara to hit the books, and this time, learn the art of writing.(less)
For anyone who wants to feel, see, hear, and sample a taste of old Tokyo, this work, A Strange Tale from East of the River, is an enriching experience...moreFor anyone who wants to feel, see, hear, and sample a taste of old Tokyo, this work, A Strange Tale from East of the River, is an enriching experience, particularly for those who have lived in Tokyo for an any extended period of time.
These fascinating stories are richly colored with the life of that period. The stories evoke a lingering feeling for that bygone era, where everything was simpler, yet, to the modern reader, feels more enchanting. Also, this collection would be an interesting read for anyone who has read a lot of contemporary Japanese fiction and wants a change of scenery, pace, and flavor from the modern Japanese settings we are familiar with.(less)
Master of the modern Japanese ghost story, Yamada Taichi's narratives blend the supernatural with modern urban life. Although his fiction is regarded...moreMaster of the modern Japanese ghost story, Yamada Taichi's narratives blend the supernatural with modern urban life. Although his fiction is regarded as a type of "ghost story," this acts only as a background for his tragedies. In his most recently translated novel I Haven't Dreamed of Flying for a While, we get another opportunity to relish in these beautifully sad stories, where the passionate ties of love are renewed and then lost forever.
The main character Taura, a middle-aged company man struggling with, what it seems, a mid-life crisis finds love all over again when he meets an odd and lonely woman, Mutsuko, in the hospital. This love affair is an unusual one however, since she is sixty-seven years old. He is disgusted at first when he realizes that he was deceived by the old lady, but later, upon discovery of her youth and beauty, which become more noticeable with every encounter, he turns to his manly instincts and pursues an illict love affair. Their second chance at happiness is shattered when they come to understand that little time is left together before Mutsuko dies, as she declines into a nothingness, due to an inexplicable reverse-aging disorder.
The character of Taura is an interesting one. He becomes another man entirely, with a powerful vitality, after the arrival of Mutsuko. He is a man of many roles: a passionate lover, caring father, sympathetic confidant, but mostly a dreamer, held in the enchanting illusion of love. (less)
Miyazawa Kenji, a Japanese poet, writer, devout buddhist, and humanitarian left us with a collection of poems and short stories when he died premature...moreMiyazawa Kenji, a Japanese poet, writer, devout buddhist, and humanitarian left us with a collection of poems and short stories when he died prematurely at a young age. The Restaurant of Many Orders is a children's story with an universally important message. It teaches a respect for the natural world as the key to live happily and harmoniously.
The story is about two hunters in the mountains looking for game. When suddenly they are left freezing in the wind and without their trusted dogs who have died without reason. They come across a mysterious restaurant. Having gone the day without food, they enter expectantly to satisfy their hunger. However, there is no one to seat them, only a door, and next to it a sign with instructions. They hastily follow the instructions only to find another door and more instructions. Eventually, they come to realize that they will not be the ones doing the eating, but rather the ones who will be eaten, and ironically by animals. Fortunately, they are saved when their faithful dogs, alive again, come crashing into the kitchen to frighten off the animals.
The title of this book and one of the signs inside the restaurant reads, "Resturant of many orders", which is a play on words. The two hunters think that the restaurant has a wide selection of dishes on the menu. Of course, we know that "many orders" means something quite the opposite. Because this book is primarily intended for children I recommend it for Miyazawa admirers or readers who love children's stories. (less)
Japanese Gothic Tales by Izumi Kyoka is a fascinating and frightening journey into a world of supernatural and nightmarish occurrences. Some have comp...moreJapanese Gothic Tales by Izumi Kyoka is a fascinating and frightening journey into a world of supernatural and nightmarish occurrences. Some have compared Izumi to E.T.A. Hoffman. This comparison is an apt one. Both writers create eerily serene landscapes and backgrounds. Both sketch bizarre characters and scenes. And both write with hypnotic power.
Comparisons aside, Izumi is a genius story teller and the foremost writer of Gothic literature in Japan. Unfortunately, he has been mostly forgotten and overshadowed by the modernists. His legacy has not gone unnoticed, however, as Mishima Yukio praises him as the greatest writer since Ihara Saikaku.
The most famous tale in this four-story collection is The Holy Man of Mount Koya. It is mainly anecdotal, retold by a monk to a fellow lodger whom he meets along his way. This story is about the monk who, out of good conscience, decides to go by a dangerous road to help a medicine vendor who has taken the road before him, a path over steep and forested mountains, this despite being forewarned. Once on his way he encounters menacing snakes, and later, bloodthirsty leeches that fall from trees. Even the heat of the day conspires against him. Almost without hope, he chances upon a farm house. There he meets a woman of unearthly beauty and her lame husband. He is bewitched by her alluring power. Later he is made aware of his perilous situation by an old man of the mountains. Finally, persuaded, he leaves her behind.
Throughout the entire story one can not help but be enchanted by the scenery of grotesque creatures, cursed woods and strange people. Izumi's tales are both beautifully ethereal and terrifyingly vivid, and this is what makes him compelling to read.(less)
I recommend this obscure work only for those interested in either Japanese literature or Japanese history. There would be no reason to read it otherwi...moreI recommend this obscure work only for those interested in either Japanese literature or Japanese history. There would be no reason to read it otherwise. The book is a slim diary written by the provincial governor of Tosa on his return trip by boat to the capital, Kyoto, during the year 935. (less)
A Hundred Versus from Old Japan, for what it is, which is a hundred poems from old Japan, is a vaguely interesting collection. This book is for the li...moreA Hundred Versus from Old Japan, for what it is, which is a hundred poems from old Japan, is a vaguely interesting collection. This book is for the literary Japanophile. If you have an interest in the old poetry of Heian or wish to know more about the history of that time through verse, this might be worthwhile.
Translations of this kind are problematic to say the least for a whole variety of reasons. William Porter does an admirable job translating the poetry from Old Japanese into an accessible, modern English. This book is laid out in orderly fashion; and an useful introduction is provided.
Every verse takes up two pages. Starting on the left-hand page, at the top, is the romanization (romaji) of the poem; immediately below is a beautiful illustration depicting the scene and essence of the poem; and underneath the illustration, at the bottom, is the Old Japanese in its original script.
On the right-hand page, at the top, is the poem in English translation; and finally, below that, in the middle of the page, is some background information, either about the poem itself, or the poet, or both. In some cases, addtional information is given. (In just a few cases there is no information whatsoever.)
Although there were several verses that stood out, one of my favorites in this collection was: The Heir-Apparent Motoyoshi. I chose this poem for two reasons: (1) its idea of precious love and eternal longing resonated within; (2) its simple, but beautiful phrasing moved me.
We met but for a moment, and I'm wretched as before; The tide shall measure out my life, Unless I see once more The maid, whom I adore.(less)
Twinkle Twinkle by Ekuni Kaori is a woman's story, told from a two perspectives, Shoko, a young female translator, and Mutsuki, her husband doctor, al...moreTwinkle Twinkle by Ekuni Kaori is a woman's story, told from a two perspectives, Shoko, a young female translator, and Mutsuki, her husband doctor, alternating from chapter to chapter. This dual person perspective is not really two different and conflicting or contrasting views, but one, from two marginally different angles. The story lacks natural external conflict (among other things,) which made for an unexciting read. To compensate Ekuni creates conflict through Shoko, the main character; she struggles with herself, her husband, and her best friend, but all this seems forced and awkward.
The character of Shoko is not easy to like. She is an over-emotional, hyper-sensitive, selfish woman that expects too much from life, which makes her all too artificial - a crude caricature of modern feminine weakness. Her impulsive outbursts are tiring; she cries for comfort. Her husband Mutsuki, like all stereotypical, good, gay men, never gets upset with her - the model of exemplary behavior for today's young men.
The story lacks an essential element: a workable premise. The idea of a successful sexless-marriage, based on platonic love, between a queer man and an odd woman is interesting enough as an idea, but too difficult to accept as decent, workable fiction, at least here. ("Successful and sexless" seems contradictory and farfetched.) Ekuni writes well enough and the climax is interesting, but these can not make up for a weak premise. Hence, the story seems shallow and contrived.
Maybe I missed something that a more sensitive person would not have failed to notice.(less)
Run, Melos! and other stories by Dazai Osamu is a wonderful collection of short stories. This book is published in Japan and may be difficult, if not...moreRun, Melos! and other stories by Dazai Osamu is a wonderful collection of short stories. This book is published in Japan and may be difficult, if not impossible, to get in other countries. The title story Run, Melos! is adopted from Friedrich Schiller's story of Damon and Pythias, which was originally taken from Greek myth.
It is a story of lasting friendship between Melos and Selinuntius. Melos has to save his friend from a tyrant king by returning to his native land before three days, so that Selinuntius is not put to death. He gathers all his earthly strenth as he is put through many hardships. Melo's determination to endure the trials of weather and land for his friend is inspiring. The story ends jubilantly with a triumphant pardon for Melos and Selinuntius.
Here, Dazai, with wit and grace, so endearingly tells this timeless tale. His style most fittingly compliments this classical theme. A moral of universal appeal is given through this story of friendship which is as precious as life itself. (less)