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The Temple of Dawn by Yukio Mishima
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May 22, 2009

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Read in May, 2009

This seems the weakest of the Sea of Fertility books so far, but it may be that when viewed within the context of the entire work it will make more sense. Where the first two books could stand alone, this one seems rather dependent on the rest of the tetralogy.

It's also a less engaging read, both because it describes various characters' lazy descent into increasing decadence and because it contains an (unjustifiably?) extended description of various types of Hindu and Buddhist thought. Mishima's meditations upon history, theory, love, philosophy, and the rest were much more skillfully interwoven in the earlier books.

I'm still confident the final book (_The Decay of the Angel_) will bring everything to a satisfactory close. Fingers crossed.

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It also occurs to me that I'm anxious to read some feminist criticism of this book in particular, and the tetralogy as a whole. Mishima's handling of women seems less assured and sensitive here than in the previous novels, and it may even be that part of the problem with this book is that an extremely key character is female yet remains somewhat walled-off. Hm. I just realized that she's just about the only character of any importance at all in any of these three novels who's POV was never presented, including the, ahem, key boys in the first two novels. Interesting. I'm more convinced, now, that some of the authorial choices that seem problematic at the moment have their reasons behind them.

Whatever the case, I prefer putting off reading much criticism until after I've had a chance to read for myself.
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Wendy Yes! Thank you for reviewing this book! You put your finger on the exact problems I had with it, especially his handling of women. Honda comes off very Humbert Humbert at times and I'm not sure if Mishima wants us to sympathize with him or be put off by him. He seems to be taking a kind of spiritual journey that as you say, "becomes a lazy descent in to increasing decadence." But this is the only Mishima book I've read. Overall, I was overwhelmed by the fantastic writing (especially Honda's psychodelic trip to India), but unsure how I felt by the end.


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