Paquita Maria Sanchez's Reviews > Snow Country

Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata
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's review
Nov 24, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: literature

In slow motion until the point of contact, this novella quite simply and mercilessly spends its energy reserves back-handing you with the its last few pages. I am getting ahead of myself, but it is important that you know this fact. I hear a lot of trash talked on Japanese novels and films from time to time (excluding those centering on martial arts, of course), of how they are slow, simple, boring, plotless, and where are the explosions, anyway? Well...

First off, I think that's a lot of hooey. Doesn't life consist of an exorbitant amount of mundanities sprinkled with an occasional bit of the bizarre? Don't you want your art to simulate, illuminate and comment upon reality, at least every once in a while? Second, there are thrills to be had in this slow-burning, somber story if you could just hold your freaking horses for a minute, cowboy. Regardless, the Action is reserved for the finale; it's the sword in the guts of the story's body, the last touches on what is otherwise a, yes, simple, honest portrayal of human desire.

The majority of the text illustrates the untethered relationship that develops over a series of years--depicted through seasonally-themed vignettes--between a Geisha and a married vacationer. As with any other entanglement (to those who aren't fooling themselves), once intimacy is established, emotions begin to steep and complicate what should be, in theory, a simple exchange of, hrrrrm, cash for services. In short, just because a relationship is stated as following such and such rules ( you know, "casual," "open," "sexwork," etc), that does not mean that human nature won't eventually rear its many ugly Hydra heads. Regarding the conflicting urges to possess and set free a loved one, Kawabata manages to be poignant without beating you over the head with oversimplified bits of obvious, sappy nonsense. In fact, it is downright uncomfortable at times. To portray the growing complexity of the relationship, Kawabata moves from calm, serene daytime exchanges between the Geisha and her client to 4 a.m. verbal wrestling matches where said Geisha is sauced to the nines and expressing her real emotions via standard drunken repetition before catching and attempting to correct her grievous error in the power struggle that is romance. Back and forth between these poles she moves, and the client's lust and disgust for her shift accordingly. If you know anything about that (I personally have no idea, and am definitely not guilty of telling someone they are the best and they completely suck in practically the same breath three days ago), then you will find some catharsis in this narrative. In short, if you are human, you will find some catharsis in this narrative. Or anyway, it will at least have to do until Angelina Jolie shows up at your door to inform you that you are the child of a professional killer, and it is your destiny to suddenly become a Matrix-worthy assassin and live a life of action-adventure and excessive ass-getting. You know, reality.
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Comments (showing 1-30 of 30) (30 new)

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message 1: by Kristen (last edited Nov 24, 2011 05:33PM) (new)

Kristen I like reviews that refer to me, the reader, as 'cowboy.' That makes it exciting!

Paquita Maria Sanchez (The grass is always greener, right?)

message 4: by Kristen (new)

Kristen I can't watch it because I'm at work. :-(

message 5: by Paquita Maria (last edited Nov 24, 2011 05:46PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paquita Maria Sanchez A Japanese man desperately wants to become a Texas rodeo star. He wants to leave TOKYO and move to TEXAS. Seriously.

message 6: by Kristen (new)

Kristen Why would anyone want to move to Texas? That is strange!

Paquita Maria Sanchez Hey, now! There are steps. Oklahoma-->Chicago (blech!)-->Austin-->Tokyo. It is a common path. Right? ...Right?!

message 8: by Stephen M (new)

Stephen M I hear a lot of trash talked on Japanese novels and films from time to time (excluding those centering on martial arts, of course), of how they are slow, simple, boring, plotless, and where are the explosions, anyway?

I mean those people are probably watching Michael Bay movies anyway. What can you do?

message 9: by Kristen (new)

Kristen What's wrong with Chicago? I love Chicago!

Paquita Maria Sanchez Kristen wrote: "What's wrong with Chicago? I love Chicago!"

Three words: cold, dirty, fuckingcoldanddirty.

Paquita Maria Sanchez Oh, and LOUD.

message 12: by Kristen (last edited Nov 24, 2011 06:16PM) (new)

Kristen Dirty? What? No way! Chicago is super clean!

(Well I guess if your point of reference is Detroit, it's super clean anyways.)

Paquita Maria Sanchez Fair enough. I heard gunshots out my windows numerous times, and there was a storage unit behind my building with these assholes who worked on crotch-rockets all day. Rev-rev-reeeeeeeeeeeeeeev. ALL DAY. Combine that with the excessive honking and such, and you make one tightly-wound me.

message 14: by Kristen (new)

Kristen Gunshots are like crickets for the city.

message 15: by Paquita Maria (last edited Nov 24, 2011 06:23PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Paquita Maria Sanchez I'm from Oklahoma. 'roun 'em parts, folks hear gunshots, they gayther in citysquare with pitchforks n' torches and they find that summabitch n' set him right.

message 16: by Kristen (new)

Kristen But what about New Years? Do people use celebratory gunfire to mark the occasion in Oklahoma?
Seems like they would.

Paquita Maria Sanchez I'm forgoing the usual pistol-firing OKC New Years this year and going to see the Flaming Lips with Yoko Ono instead. The range can wait for me if it really loves me.

Paquita Maria Sanchez So, Detroit, what do you guys do? Rummage around in your post-Apocalyptic landscape for useful bits of metal refuse?

message 19: by Kristen (new)

Kristen Oh yeah, striping building for copper wiring is really big here!

message 20: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! Paquita Maria wrote: "Fair enough. I heard gunshots out my windows numerous times, and there was a storage unit behind my building with these assholes who worked on crotch-rockets all day. Rev-rev-reeeeeeeeeeeeeeev. ..."

I don't think I would recognize gunshots, but all the dumpsters in the echo-y alleyways between buildings got tossed around practically everyday by the garbage trucks, usually between 3am and 6am.

As for dirty, I hear it used to be dirtier before the Daleys got into office and distracted the people from their mob connections with well-oiled garbage service (usually between 3am and 6am). Clean streets were the opiate of those masses.

Hahhaa, I love that destined assassin movie! Too funny and cool as oilslick!

Paquita Maria Sanchez Eh! What is that movie called?! I couldn't remember because I never saw it, I just remember the trailer from, ummm, I think when Inglourious Basterds was in the theater. It looked silly as putty!

message 22: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! It's Wanted!! Best workplace freakout/"I quit" scene EVER.

Paquita Maria Sanchez Did he karate chop somebody's head off or anything?

message 24: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! No, but some teeth were lost and a tasteful use of CGI was deployed. I don't want to ruin your experience of it, with all the carefully planned jagged guitar music and the fist-in-the-air payoff! Seethemovie!

message 25: by mark (new)

mark monday I hear a lot of trash talked on Japanese novels and films from time to time

what the fuck, really? what's wrong with people. can't say much about Japanese novels, but Japan has produced some of the most amazing films ever. whether it's slow-moving and hypnotic classics or slow-moving and incredibly creepy horror films, many of my favorite films are from Japan. those naysayers should be arrested and locked up!

Paquita Maria Sanchez I took a Japanese Film and Literature class in college, and there were too many people in it (Manga fans) who would FALL ASLEEP during our weekly movie screenings and would snort and bitch about how still and boring and slow things were, and how there was no point. And we're talking movies like Black Rain (jeesh, intense), The Face of Another (so good!), and Dreams(!). Then again, these were the same idiots who would frequently attempt to crack jokes to our Japanese instructor about seppuku (to her slack-jawed dismay). Ugh.

Paquita Maria Sanchez ...and I mean no insult to fans of Manga, it's just that it was pretty clear the only reason they were taking courses in Japanese language and culture is that they were huge Manga nerds. With no respect.

message 28: by Miriam (new)

Miriam Or it was an easy A and involved sleeping through movies instead of research. These things get around.

Paquita Maria Sanchez It was not an easy A. That woman made their lives hell. Which was faaaaaaabulooooouuuuus!

message 30: by Miriam (new)

Miriam I'd say "that'll teach 'em" but it probably didn't.

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