In Yasunari Kawabata's The Sound of the Mountain, we meet the Ogata family of post-war Kamakura (a beautiful shrine and temple filled city of politicaIn Yasunari Kawabata's The Sound of the Mountain, we meet the Ogata family of post-war Kamakura (a beautiful shrine and temple filled city of political and historical significance). Shingo Ogata is preoccupied with the sound a nearby mountain has begun to make - just one of many different symptoms and indications of his own advancing age. He and his wife Yasuko live with their promiscuous son Shuichi and his innocent young wife Kikuko; father and son work together at their office in Tokyo (about 30 miles away by train). Shingo fixates on the memory of his wife's dead sister who was so beautiful in their youth, perhaps his disappointment in having married the "ugly" sister is the reason why his children are both so bad at being spouses. Grumpy daughter Fusako leaves her husband and returns to her parents' with two little kids that nobody has any affection for, except for tender and cuckolded Kikuko.
I love reading about Japanese family ties and all the subtle intricacies entailed, the hyper-observance of the feelings of others and also of nature. It was interesting viewing the topic of illegitimate birth from a grandparent's perspective, and I liked the ongoing theme of liberation and occupation (literal and otherwise).
Wikipedia says it is disputed whether the author Kawabata's suicide was intentional or not, because he left no note, but based on this book alone I would assume it was on purpose: "People should go away while they are still loved...still in the embrace of family affection, blessed with numbers of comrades and colleagues and school-mates".
I cannot get over the fact that this was written by a 23 yr old. That in 1940, twenty-three year olds were able to write like this. The story takes plI cannot get over the fact that this was written by a 23 yr old. That in 1940, twenty-three year olds were able to write like this. The story takes place in the American South, in the Depression era. Blacks, whites, the poor, the sick, the mentally unstable and above all else the lonely, they all suffer.
Each of these main characters are pathetic - wretches caroming from bad decision to tragedy to misfortune and back again, over and over. There is Mick Kelly the tomboy whose parents are sinking into destitution and whose intelligent little brother ruins his life by accidentally shooting Jon Benet Ramsey's precursor in the head; Jake Blount the filthy mustached Communist drunk; Biff Brannon the widowed cafe proprietor who can't get close to anyone; Dr. Copeland the spiteful proud black doctor - and the one common thread between all these misfits is John Singer, a deaf mute who talks to no one but gets stuck listening to everybody, until he just can't take it anymore. ...more
It was amazing to watch the unraveling of Edna Pontellier's well-to-do, refined existence in Louisiana. Despite her privileged upbringing, youth, beauIt was amazing to watch the unraveling of Edna Pontellier's well-to-do, refined existence in Louisiana. Despite her privileged upbringing, youth, beauty, wealth, status and creativity, this 28-year old wife and mother is stifled by the social norms of the day (this was published in 1899) and begins uncharacteristically to act out. After taking out her initial frustrations on her busy husband, she refuses to attend her sister's wedding, and then things go bananas.
I took off a star for the short stories at the end, I liked Desiree's Baby and Ma'ame Pelagie but not so much the rest of them. I'd recommend getting them out of the way first, so you can savor The Awakening on its own. ...more
The Painted Bird describes the evils of war and their effects on a young boy, the narrator who is 6 yrs old when the story opens at the onset of WWII.The Painted Bird describes the evils of war and their effects on a young boy, the narrator who is 6 yrs old when the story opens at the onset of WWII. The innocent, sheltered boy's parents, presumably wealthy Jews, arrange to send away their only child for safekeeping at a Slav village. But due to a series of unfortunate events, the boy finds himself alone and unprotected, as he endures crisis after trauma followed by disaster. With each horror he survives, the boy loses more of his naivete, and eventually even bits of humanity.
In this book, written in 1965, this little boy is exposed to beatings and abuse of just about every variety imaginable, natural disasters from fires to lightning, and a range of the very worst of human nature; he endures misinformation of all kinds (religious, political, and outright lies), being chased and captured, and intense isolation; he is both witness and victim to sickness, injury, torture, sex and sexual depravity, starvation, and animal cruelty.
Miraculously the boy reaches the age of 12 and the war ends. His ordeal, and the outcome are devastating. ...more
Elizabeth Bowen's The Death of the Heart, published in 1939, is the story of 16-year old Portia, who upon being orphaned, is sent to the home of her hElizabeth Bowen's The Death of the Heart, published in 1939, is the story of 16-year old Portia, who upon being orphaned, is sent to the home of her half-brother Thomas and his wife Anna. On the surface, Thomas is well-to-do and quite respected, as is his wife. Although he and Portia were both fathered by the same man, Thomas's good mother was the first wife in the proper stable London home; whereas Portia's mother was the mistress and eventual second wife, who raised her in common hotels all over Europe. Elegance and style prove to be no substitute for goodness and morals, and the innocently naive Portia is wiser than the self-centered grownups who are meant to look after her. My favorite character is Matchett the family's maligned yet loyal workhorse of a housekeeper. ...more
I never saw the horror film based on this book, but its existence clouded my reading of this book. As much as I was waiting for deformity and incest tI never saw the horror film based on this book, but its existence clouded my reading of this book. As much as I was waiting for deformity and incest that never really presented itself, I was thoroughly impressed by James Dickey's horrifying talent - he really terrifies with intensity. I liked this book a lot, and can see how it would inspire John Boorman's iconic thriller....more
I had no expectations about Flannery O'Connor or this particular book before reading it, and I just really enjoyed it. I love that there's no readers'I had no expectations about Flannery O'Connor or this particular book before reading it, and I just really enjoyed it. I love that there's no readers' guide included in this version (second edition), just a short author's note in which she describes it a "comic novel" and touches on free will and integrity. This was a very fast read, with elegant parallels between various characters, and it feels like one which will linger in the subconscious for a good long while.
Hazel Motes is a veteran of war who is desperately trying to avoid following in his preacher grandfather's footsteps, despite being taken for a preacher by everyone from cab drivers to prostitutes. He is motivated by his idea of anti-redemption, and stumps for his Church Without Christ while paying serious penance (filling his shoes with rocks and glass, etc).
From the very first page, Hazel always wants attention from someone who is ignoring him, while coldly rebuffing attempts of friendship by others. And it's interesting that the title describes the inherited trait of a secondary character, Enoch Emery, a friendless, abandoned 18 year old who believes his "wiser blood" tells him what to do, when, and with curious results.
I love all the character names: Mrs. Wally Bee Hitchcock, Leora Watts, Asa and Sabbath Hawks, Onnie Jay Holy, Hoover Shoats,etc; and found so many of O'Connor's descriptions so pithy and timeless. ...more
**spoiler alert** Classic Japanese bleakness - bleak terrain, bleak prospects, doomed relationship, unreturned devotion, and relentless ambiguity. And**spoiler alert** Classic Japanese bleakness - bleak terrain, bleak prospects, doomed relationship, unreturned devotion, and relentless ambiguity. And gorgeous imagery.
This haunting story is about snobby Tokyo philanderer Shimamura who dallies with a geisha named Komako at a hot spring inn in Japan's snowy outback. The third in the triangle is Yoko, with "that voice so beautiful it was almost lonely," Komako's rival and ultimately her victim.
This was one of the most difficult books I've ever tried to read. The story is gory, about a sharp-shooter kid who joins up with the Glanton Gang huntThis was one of the most difficult books I've ever tried to read. The story is gory, about a sharp-shooter kid who joins up with the Glanton Gang hunting scalps along the Texas-Mexico border around 1850. The violence begins on the second page and doesn't let up throughout the entire book. I couldn't read more than a few pages at a time, all the carnage and baseless hatred was exhausting. There's another character called The Judge and also Holden (most characters in the book are referred to at least a couple different ways, which is confusing) who is evil incarnate; I think he's supposed to be the devil, "he never sleeps and he says he will never die," and little children and animals go missing and are brutally murdered whenever he's around.
If I had the chance to start over reading this, I would have skipped Harold Bloom's ridiculously intimidating intro. I want to read The Road and No Country For Old Men but I think it's going to take some years to get the bad taste of Blood Meridian out of my head. (shudder)...more