Eddie Watkins's Reviews > Blue Bamboo: Japanese Tales of Fantasy

Blue Bamboo by Osamu Dazai
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May 15, 2008

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bookshelves: japanese-fiction
Read in July, 2009

Most of these stories are very charming retellings of (and elaborations upon) old Japanese and Chinese folktales, and so have a timeless quality, but also less individualism, though some subtleties giving these the "mark of Dazai" may've been lost in translation, or just lost on me. There is apparently a Japanese tradition for authors to lose themselves through the sublimation of their egos in the retelling of old tales; a practice not very common here in the US to my knowledge.

So being an American my two favorites were the two that are closest to being whole cloth inventions - On Love and Beauty and Lanterns of Romance. These two stories feature five siblings of varying temperaments engaging in collaborative spontaneous storytelling - one sibling starting a story which is then continued by the next and so on. They both present a classic domestic fairy tale atmosphere and the romantic roots of storytelling. These "romantic roots" are what are referred to in the subtitle of this collection, which I understand as the "sea of stories" that have enveloped us for millenia, and which over the centuries has created an alternate reality in words that is continually being augmented and expanded upon; a thoroughly seductive idea for a story whore like myself (I'm not ashamed to admit it).
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Comments (showing 1-12 of 12) (12 new)

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message 1: by Kimley (new) - added it

Kimley Hmmm. Well, I think I still need to read these. Attempting to be a Dazai completist...


Eddie Watkins They're good, just not what I was looking for. I'll probably have to read No Longer Human for that. Which reminds me - a friend was supposed to bring his copy into work for me to borrow. I must go see if he did.


message 3: by Kimley (new) - added it

Kimley It appears that he managed to write in several different styles (not sure that's the right word). I suspect that No Longer Human is probably the closest to Self Portraits since it sounds like it's fairly autobiographical. That's probably what I'll get to next as well. Wish I had an office library!


Eddie Watkins He remembered! No Longer Human is now in my hands. I also work on a campus, so besides the office library there's an Ivy League library just a few minutes away.


message 5: by Kimley (new) - added it

Kimley Sweet! I miss my NYC library which was just a 5-10 minute walk away. My L.A. library branch is a good 30-40 minute walk away so it means taking well over an hour out of my day to pick up/drop off books. Doable but not always convenient when I'm busy with work.

Now, access to an Ivy League library is super cool! I am envious of that!


message 6: by Matthieu (new)

Matthieu Oh, you're affiliated with Penn, Eddie? I love those Penn kids.


Eddie Watkins Does anyone walk 30-40 minutes in LA, let alone to get to a library? I've only walked around downtown LA once in my life and there was no one else around. We also stayed in Santa Monica and no one walked around there either.

I'm training myself to accept that reading library books is the sensible thing to do, at least for the time being. I suppose I'm something of a book fetishist, so actually owning the book I'm reading somehow enhances the experience, but I'm learning...


message 8: by Kimley (last edited Jul 16, 2009 02:14PM) (new) - added it

Kimley Does anyone walk 30-40 minutes in LA...?

No! People don't even walk 5 minutes here. Tosh is the only other person I know who doesn't drive in L.A. and he's considered such an anomaly that he's actually been interviewed about his odd behavior. But I love to walk and fortunately for the most part my neighborhood (W. Hollywood) is pretty walkable and I'm close to several bus lines.

I'm with you on the book fetish thing. I love my big wall of books (actually still in boxes right now but...) There's something comforting about having all those books around. But yeah, I'm running out of room and money is tight so the library is really a pretty good deal.


Eddie Watkins Matt wrote: "Oh, you're affiliated with Penn, Eddie? I love those Penn kids."

Not really affiliated, but I do work on campus at an independent institute, and I do have a Penn Card, which gets me places...




Eddie Watkins Well, nobody in Philly is going to become a celebrity just for walking around.


message 11: by Kimley (new) - added it

Kimley I keep waiting to be discovered. I have no idea what is taking so long!

I like Philly! Used to go there a lot when I was kid. We lived in Wilkes-Barre (N.E. Pennsylvania) for a few years.


Eddie Watkins You're living Greta Garbo's dream - to walk around and have no one notice, or care.

I like it too, though by the time I moved here I had concluded it didn't matter where I lived.


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