Mariel's Reviews > House of the Sleeping Beauties and Other Stories

House of the Sleeping Beauties and Other Stories by Yasunari Kawabata
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Mar 27, 11

Recommended to Mariel by: award giving peoples
Recommended for: get real get right
Read from March 24 to 27, 2011

I read House of the Sleeping Beauties with a knife in back. It freaking betrayed to me too much feelings. And... yeah!

I didn't read in order. The book jacket flap said: "The protagonist of Birds and Beasts prefers the company of his pet birds and dogs to people, yet for him all living beings are beautiful objects which, though they give him pleasure, he treats with casual cruelty." For me! Skip to story #3.

Birds and Beasts

Casual cruelty isn't precisely right. Playing god is more like it. They make him happy in that stop and smell the flowers way. Treasure the moment, seize the day... but only the day. And seizing is definitely right. It was disturbing how he killed those birds in their bath and then took that effort to bring them back, only to run the same murderous bath on another set of birds.


The loneliness, what comfort he gets from the animals or his past mistresses, felt to me like an already dead kinda life with others. I keep coming back to the playing god idea trying to describe it. I'd picture him taking apart anything that matters to see what it looked on the inside. I felt like that reading it.

The suicide with a woman pact is in this story like it was in Kawabata's The Sound of the Mountain. The idea of a woman having to kill herself with a man is really disturbing me. She's not even killing herself this time. He was going to kill her before he backs out. His regard for the dancer's savage beauty (that fades after he's inspected it, taken it apart, too much) almost made me think of making something without doing shit for the whole rest of that life. Revering doesn't do much good... Let's pray!

Damn. The lonely/stop and smell the flowers shit is getting to me (now there's not a knife. It's a thorn in my paw! I'm feeling metaphorical 'cause this is feelings shit).

I was gonna segue into the first story until I realized I didn't mention the dogs. The dogs who eat their dead young... How he had no use for mongrels once he started breeding the dogs for show. And how the mother had the same creators lack of nurture into the life. (I've long time found it interesting that people are the only species that need to take care of their young for so long.) I was reminded of a lot of stuff... Like the story in J.D. Salinger's Nine Stories (the Eskimo one) with the girl who doesn't dispose of the dead chick for weeks. This guy forgets he even kills a puppy, just like the puppies moms. (This is upsetting! I have two puppies, one a baby baby.) So yeah, the keeping of the dead puppy reminded me of that. It's a kind of lack of reality holding onto shit feel...

This is the segway. No way!

House of the Sleeping Beauties
A friend recommended this book to me because I was fascinated by the prostitutes who just sleep beside their clients in Murakami's The Wind-up Bird Chronicle.
(I'm going to TRY to say something about what a story is actually about to make a nice change in my reviewing style.)
Sixty-seven year old man, Eguchi, visits the house of the sleeping beauties where senile old men pay enormous sums of money to sleep beside drugged up young women (some very young). He's not as senile as the men he imagines the other clients to be. He imagines a lot as he lies beside the women (a different one for each visit). The ugly things he has felt and done in his life. What time he may have ahead of him. The women don't know what could be happening and will not wake up. Eguchi is certain they are also virgins. That they are virgins says to him that he men are so sad and beyond even doing anything to the girls. He's also certain that they are prostitutes. I wasn't so sure that they knew what was going on, whatever the proprietress spoke about "experience". There were rules about what they couldn't do: no sex, no seeing the girls awake. To not break the "magic" of the house? The spell was the moment not connected to what came before or after. Well, what came before would be lost youth. Maybe I'm wrong about that last part. Definitely not the past. It's the not being able to hold onto the past or future feeling of being with girls so very young.

There's a forward by Yukio Mishima. He wrote something about Kawabata's fixation on virgins. The feeling I have about this is that it's that what hasn't happened yet moment. Like the no consequences passion moment of crime. Once it's over it really doesn't mean anything anymore. The girls could wake up. If he had sex with them, breaking the rules and thus banned from the house, he would not get his youth back. He wouldn't bring anything back to the other senile old men who had lost anything apart from their sadness. Yukio Mishima also said their virginity was "impossibility of attainment" and that also put death and eroticism forever at the same point. I agree with the timeless part. They are already dead, since they aren't going to do anything...

But there were girls... They weren't dreaming the same dream, were they?

Kawabata is freaking great. There are all of these wonderings going on about everybody. I feel like those old men with my books, trying to get shit back (shit I never had too) and trying to dream same dreams. The lawless loneliness of those dreams...

One Arm This is my metaphorical segue... Arm had a chip on its shoulder!

A girl gives her right arm to the dude in this story. Other women have given themselves to them. He hears their voices. He hears the arm talking to him as he takes it home. The arm urges him to replace his own arm with it, the girl's arm of love. With the new girl arm he sleeps the sweetest dream he had ever had. Upon awaking he is attacked by the most repulsive arm of his own. He has to rip it out and then the girl arm no longer moves or talks. Shit.

I don't like the "giving themselves" idea like women GIVE them whole selves. It's like the other stories, right? The timeless moment. It's not the past or future. The repulsive arm takes it back.

I really wanted to express why Kawabata is amazing in my review of The Sound of the Mountain. It's hard because these are translations. The imagery is playing god smell the flowers and the world around you what Yoda says binds us FORCE. It's also translated and diluted like there was some priest and we gotta talk to god through him. I'm not gonna be able to read Japanese, though (why couldn't I have been one of those language freaks? English kills me enough). But damn if I'm not sleeping beside all those dreams that are gonna make me think about the past, present, future, what could be for me and other people, some dark thoughts, definitely some playing god, wait maybe I shouldn't be an asshole and assume and not playing god, empathy...

Kawabata is amazing. I wish I could say all of this to anyone who may be reading this. It's easier to see what's missing than to know what you have. This time? It's both. This is a four star rating because it is both and I'm too sad that I feel it (what?) missing when I'm done. I'm going straight to another Kawabata read.

P.s. This is the most bizarrely lusty book I've ever read and it isn't lust for sex.
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Comments (showing 1-13)




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message 13: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Another terrific review, Mariel!!


message 12: by K.D. (new)

K.D. Absolutely Great insightful review, Mariel!


message 11: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! senile old men pay enormous sums of money to sleep beside drugged up young women

There's something like this in The Sea Came in at Midnight! The woman is paid to listen and I can't remember if it's for memories or just the listening that the buyers do this. Er, there's a lot more to the book than just that, but it was a little thing that pricked my databanks.


Mariel I am going to read that book.


message 9: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! Yes! It was a karen-rec to me, but I saw you had a few people listed in your rec-by (that one by Chris Sastre, wonderful! thanks for the lead to it).


Mariel Chris is a wonderful goodreads reviewer. I'm finding all kinds of possibilities from him. I'm so happy with all of these books to read. I have a short stories book by Kawabata coming. I wonder if Murakami read it? One story is supposed to be about fixation with a woman's ears.


message 7: by Ema (last edited Sep 05, 2013 09:33AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ema Wonderful review for all the stories in this collection, Mariel! I had access only to 'House of the Sleeping Beauties', but the other two seem equally interesting. I'm a bit confused, because your description of 'Birds and Beasts' resembles a story I've read in my Romanian copy of 'The Dancing Girl of Izu'. The guy who collected birds and killed a couple of them. It was awful. But I can't remember any puppies, so this might be a different story...

The passion you speak with about Kawabata's writing makes me feel guilty for not enjoying so much all the stories in 'The Dancing Girl of Izu'. There was a lot of cruelty and sadness there. I felt depressed after reading it. I'll go check if you wrote a review on this one.


message 6: by Ema (last edited Sep 05, 2013 09:40AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ema No, you haven't. But I forgot to write two things.

You've told me that The story about the man who would be God affected me a lot too. Now I realize you were referring to the story 'Birds and Beasts'. It could also apply to 'House of the Sleeping Beauties'...

No doubt Murakami was influenced as well for wind up bird. I really can't remember the prostitutes who slept beside their clients. I have an awful memory sometimes.


Mariel I didn't like izu as much either. My favorites are mountain, the lake, snow country and palm of the hand. I was wishing I had your memory! Palm was so fleeting in this intangible way I wish I could have held onto forever. What you wrote about books staying with you got to me. It did yet is sooooo elusive. It's been two years and like 500 books later but still. I wish I reviewed izu and master of go. Those were the two I didn't review. Kawabata is my favorite. I read all of them.


message 4: by Ema (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ema As I was just writing below 'Thousand Cranes', my memory is not always good. That's why I appreciate the novels that linger in my mind. The same happened with 'Ice'.
There are several books that I've read twice and I still don't remember everything about them (like Platform, The Catcher in the Rye or even Norwegian Wood). Does this mean they are bad books? No, I don't think so. It's something else, maybe connected to our memory. I can't really explain it. Maybe they are elusive, as you say about 'palm of the hand'.
You really inspire me, so I feel eager now to read your favorite Kawabata novels. Seeing that our tastes were similar for the three books I've read so far, I've acquired renewed confidence.


Mariel I would love to read how the sound of the mountain inspired you.

I think there must be something to that. I remember catcher in ths rye I read as a teen, and Norwegian wood at 24, better than something else I read much later. Wood I read the day I started a new job. Maybe my life affects it....


message 2: by Ema (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ema I haven't read 'The sound of the mountain' yet, but I will, as you praise it so much! I hope I'll be able to formulate my thoughts, as I have trouble with that many times.


Mariel I don't do anything but struggle with my thoughts. :)
You'll shed light for me!


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