Mariel's Reviews > Thousand Cranes

Thousand Cranes by Yasunari Kawabata
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Mar 24, 2011

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Recommended to Mariel by: sleeping giant
Recommended for: waking giant
Read on April 05, 2011

I've been reading most of the day. Yesterday, too. I've been distracted, if not altogether impatient, and wanting (need? want?) an urgent yet unassuming emotional life in books. All the reflection my brain can eat. The situation was right; thunderstorms and a day off and nothing I couldn't put off for another day. It still felt wasteful. Shouldn't I be doing something else with this luxury? I was really waiting for my Kawabata books to arrive in the mail. The mail doesn't come until around 4:30 p.m. where I live. (The mail hasn't been this exciting in ages. No love letter ever received such a hopeful welcome from me.) I tried to savor the 147 pages. I've got another Kawabata for this evening. I'm not feeling any different so far.

I didn't want everything told to me. What I wanted was that one two three four punch of allowing something different to drift over me; the breathlessness as... Yeah, I can't do analogies about physicality. It did that and... Roughed me up a little. This is what will happen to you next time and we mean business!

I don't know... Thousand Cranes is about Kikuji representing his dead father to lover Mrs. Oto. Mrs. Oto allows him to be his father in the nighttime of their lovemaking (he doesn't get a say in how she seems him. She's his own willing excuse, I should say). When Mrs. Oto dies, her daughter Fumiko takes on her mother like there was a Mrs. Oto shape left in her body like one of those Loony Tunes cartoons. I've had deaths in the family. They were all different. Mostly other people's grief overwhelmed any that I felt myself. I've known people that it was like the "rules" changed when their fathers died. The parts that were themselves receded into the background as if compensating for not giving enough attention in life. Looking for the dead person within themself? Everyone in Thousand Cranes is looking to act out ghosts within everybody else. Everybody loses themselves in everybody else in a game that no one could ever win. What the hell is fair?

The thing is that the ghosts were so much, well, ghosts that the after flavor in my mouth is instead of the sickness. There's another person left behind in queen mixer and mistress of tea, Chikako. She became sexless (at least in the eyes of Kikuji). She's really fucking bitter that Kikuji's father passed her over after a brief affair. Chikako has a birth mark on her breast. Apparently this ruled out any prospects for her with men. The image of her took on the grossness while everyone else got to live as romantic figures of tragedy. (It would be tragic to be Chikako, I would think.) She spends the rest of her days trying to use the Mrs. as a mouthpeice for her grievances (the mom is the most shallow figure of all. Position is all she ever gets). Isn't the harlot Mrs. Oto just the worst sleeping with a married man?! She's a total bitch. Right. Likewise, Kikuji and the others feel a restless disgust for the now middle aged woman that didn't become them any more than it did her. The meanness surrounding her has a stronger flavor like um a stronger cup of tea. (Right, Chikako? You'd pour that cup with a dismissive air to let us all know exactly how you feel about that.) It seems weird that the creepiness stands out more than the grief... It shouldn't have. At least Chikako came the closest to admitting that Mrs. Oto and her lover acted out their affair as if no one else had anything to do with it.

The tea stuff is incidental, to me. I didn't need the attachments to their ancient bowls to understand that they were looking for stand-ins. I guess I feel the washed over feelings and not enough of the punch in the gut. Maybe I wanted to be woken up out of my lazy day a bit more, after all. (Jesus. A diary entry review, Mariel?)

P.s. I love that scene in The Rutles when the Paul McCartney counterpart, Dirk (played by Eric Idle), confesses to "taking tea" (for the people who are not Beatles nerds, Paul McCartney publically admitted to doing drugs). "I do take tea. Lots of tea. Biscuits, too." I'm retarded. I kept quoting that line to myself. Tea = pot! I'd be an embarrassing American and disturb the tea rituals with lots of giggling. I can't take me anywhere! Not even in books.

P.s.s. What's up with the wikipedia entry on Kawabata? According to this disaster of wikipedia, Kawabata did not write about suicide in his works (Kawabata committed suicide, although there are some who would insist it was an accident). Um.... did they read any of his books? Three of the five I've read were more than a little about suicide. I'm probably going to end up spilling my brains out about my feelings on suicide in the Kawabata books. One of these days.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Ema (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ema Your soul is beautiful and sensitive, Mariel. I remembered the story through you review, because I read this a long time ago. I doubt that I understood things like Fumiko takes on her mother like there was a Mrs. Oto shape left in her body or Chikako became sexless... at the time. But I'd rather read more Kawabata's novels than come back to 'Thousand Cranes'. I'm fearful of the depressing feeling he can arouse inside me.

I loved the background story about the mail and the day with thunderstorms.


Mariel I know what you mean about being depressed. There's this feeling like people, especially females, are born dying. You lose every day just by having another one.


message 3: by Ema (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ema I sometimes get depressed if I feel like I'm doing nothing of importance. If I feel I'm wasting my time. Most of the time when I read I don't feel guilty, but there are moments when I distance myself and take a look from outside, wondering if what I'm doing has any purpose or any meaning at all.
Strangely enough, you echoed my feelings in your words: It still felt wasteful. Shouldn't I be doing something else with this luxury?


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