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Before the Coffee Gets Cold (Before the Coffee Gets Cold, #1)
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Book Club > 08/20 Before the Coffee Gets Cold

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message 1: by Carol (new) - added it

Carol (carolfromnc) | 1233 comments This is our thread for discussing our August read, Before the Coffee Gets Cold (Tales from the Cafe) by playwright Toshikazu Kawaguchi. Translated by Geoffrey Trousselot.

Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi Finché il caffè è caldo by Toshikazu Kawaguchi Khi Tách Cà Phê Còn Chưa Nguội by Toshikazu Kawaguchi เพียงชั่วเวลากาแฟยังอุ่น by Toshikazu Kawaguchi 在咖啡冷掉之前 by Toshikazu Kawaguchi Пока не остыл кофе by Toshikazu Kawaguchi

From the publisher's bio page for Kawaguchi:

Toshikazu Kawaguchi was born in Osaka, Japan, in 1971. He formerly produced, directed and wrote for the theatrical group Sonic Snail. As a playwright, his works include COUPLE, Sunset Song, and Family Time. The novel Before the Coffee Gets Cold is adapted from a 1110 Productions play by Kawaguchi, which won the 10th Suginami Drama Festival grand prize.

Links to 2 reviews. Beware, the spoiler-averse:

https://booksandbao.com/review-before...

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/culture/...

And a link to content re the 2018 movie, Cafe Funiculi Funicula.

http://asianwiki.com/Cafe_Funiculi_Fu...

I'm game for this one, even though it's far afield of my typical reads. I continue to be running painfully behind, so I'll likely join mid-month.

Has anyone read it? Seen the movie? Who is up for a read focused on time travel + a certain amount of sentimentality - or does that question reveal a bias, lol?


message 2: by Swathi (new) - added it

Swathi Shetty (swathishetty) | 20 comments I'm excited for this! Keep seeing this book everywhere. Will start in a few days!


message 3: by Bill (new)

Bill Johnston | 714 comments The book is surprisingly cryptic about when the story was written. I suspect publishers hate for people to think things are 'old', and even go out of their way to hide it from those of us who prefer to read older things. The 10th Suginami Drama Festival was in 2013, so the play must have been written before that.

Why do I care? For one thing, none of the characters has a smartphone. They're all reading magazines and paper books. For another, the prices quoted are too low; I wonder whether one could find a bottomless cup of coffee for that price in Tokyo in 2013.

I find the dialog and thoughts in this novel to be repetitive, overstated, and clumsy. They don't create a pleasant mood for the cafe. They only make me want to yell "Get on with it!"

Then there are the inconsistencies and irrelevancies. The cafe is supposed to have a long line of people waiting to get in, but it's never full? And the regulars seem to have no trouble getting in in a timely fashion. The main character is the first story is presented as perfect: beautiful, intelligent, hard-working. But none of these things bear on the plot and don't flesh out a personality. So much of the first story is spent on redundant narration of the time travel element that I don't get distinct impressions of the staff as they dart on and off the stage.

The first story has a decent ending, despite how little time it spends on its couple. But I still won't be continuing to chapter 2.


message 4: by Aleksandra (new)

Aleksandra (asamonek) | 44 comments I am out for this one. I will not make the mistake of If Cats Disappeared from the World again :P


Christie (firerabbit830) | 23 comments I read this book last November and REALLY loved it! It spoke to me personally, but may not be everyone's "cup of coffee". I thought the overall messages were poignant, so I didn't really get hung up on some of the inconsistent details. I enjoyed the mix of rawness/realness and whimsy. I won't be joining the group in a re-read this month, but I hope that whoever decides to read this little book enjoys it as much as I did! :)

Here is my original review from November 2019: I absolutely LOVED this book! Intriguing, poignant, a sad yet whimsical window into the human heart and condition. Great characters, plots that kept me questioning and guessing.....highly recommend! I hope to see more in translation from this author.


Alison Fincher | 158 comments I REALLY wanted to like Before the Coffee Gets Cold, but thought the novel essentially promoted a regressive vision of happiness for women. Get married. Stay married. Have babies.

My review is here:
https://readjapaneseliterature.com/20...


Emily (zimbrabim) Alison– I have similar thoughts after finishing the book. If I hadn't known it was written by a man before starting it, I would've definitely picked up on it within the first page or so from his descriptions of female characters. Also, slight spoiler for others: (view spoiler)

It wasn't a bad book– 2.5-stars if I could give it that– but I feel like it should've been left as a play. I don't want to discourage people from giving a try– really, I think a lot of my disappointment isn't with what it is but rather with what it isn't. I've read a fair bit of Japanese 'magical realism' lately (pretty much all of it written by women) and, for me, Before the Coffee Gets Cold is missing the complex characters and truly absurd concepts that make the genre so exciting.


Christie (firerabbit830) | 23 comments Alison wrote: "I REALLY wanted to like Before the Coffee Gets Cold, but thought the novel essentially promoted a regressive vision of happiness for women. Get married. Stay married. Have babies.

Alison - I agree with your analysis, very insightful. I may have taken this book a bit too much at face value while reading. Thank you for sharing your thoughtful and culturally aware review.



Henk | 106 comments Also finished Before the Coffee Gets Cold and was not impressed. Both the execution lacked in my opinion (with constant focus on describing why the characters feel the way they feel and descriptions of their clothing at the most minute level) and because of the in my view conservative messaging present in all the stories in the book:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


Agnetta | 297 comments I was on vacation and able to read it very quickly.
I was enjoying it , because I was picturing it all the time as a play. I think it must have been quite a good play actually, and lots of possibilities for the actors to set down interesting characters. I found all the characters fine, except the 2 lovers of the first story , I did not "get" them too well, ...

I found interesting the idea how we all have assumptions on what others thought/wanted/motivated ... but if we were able to go back and maybe just ask , or ask differently, ... we might be surprised on how we misunderstood the situation due to our own way of seeing the reality. I find this to be generally true in life, and thought this play (sorry, I mean novel) illustrated that quite beautifully thru the coffee magic.
The author bring this idea forward more explicitly thru Picasso. He also mentions how Kazu, in her art, does not want to be a deforming element , but she wants to bring reality . In that sense, her job of pouring the coffee to bring people to "insights" seems to be her vocation.

So I thought it was nice, I just don't think it worked as a novel. Because it basically was , a play! I coudl just hear the clang-dong and see the actors coming on scene.
I don't know how this became such a bestseller, frankly speaking.

and the cover of the edition I bought is all wrong. Before the Coffee Gets Cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi There is no cat, the chairs should be green and the wall sepia. I seriously hate it when they put a cat on the cover and then there is no cat. If I am promised a cat, I want the cat to happen. And sepia is sepia. Not turquoise. come on, how do you manage to get thát wrong. Not good.


message 11: by J (new) - rated it 2 stars

J | 67 comments I managed to finish it within the reading period, so that's a plus.

I think it was generally okay, but I felt a bit underwhelmed. Generally I'm fond of Japanese slice of life stories, but this wasn't really working for me. I'm not sure if it's the writing style or the translation, but it just felt a bit choppy and did not flow as well as I'd have liked. I guess it had a nice overall message, but I did not like the motherhood story in the last part, and it felt forced. I also could not really relate to any of the characters.


message 12: by Carol (last edited Aug 19, 2020 01:51PM) (new) - added it

Carol (carolfromnc) | 1233 comments Agnetta wrote: "I was on vacation and able to read it very quickly.
I was enjoying it , because I was picturing it all the time as a play. I think it must have been quite a good play actually, and lots of possibi..."


As a cat-hater, I agree with you entirely. If there’s a cat on the cover, I avoid the book entirely expecting that there’s a damned cat in the story. I loved your entire rant 1000%.


message 13: by Bill (new)

Bill Johnston | 714 comments We need a health warning on books "WARNING: May Contain Cats".

One has to wonder how publishers choose book covers. But inappropriate covers are nothing new. I recall classic SF authors complaining about their books getting covers that have nothing to do with the book.

I recall reading an SF book last year (or maybe two years ago) named The Bright Companion, so called because the female lead is blonde. And she has black hair on the cover.


message 14: by iliana (new) - added it

iliana (ssk52) | 69 comments hahaha!! I usually don't mind cats in real life but I'm not sure I like them in books... The warning idea is brilliant, I would like one for the first person narration...! hahaha I tend to dnf such books..........


Alison Fincher | 158 comments The Whale that Fell in Love with a Submarine

This book recently tricked me. The whale looks so damn happy...


message 16: by J (new) - rated it 2 stars

J | 67 comments I love cats, so all this talk about cat hating and health warnings about cats is distressing...


message 17: by iliana (new) - added it

iliana (ssk52) | 69 comments Oh, sorry J! I live with many lovable cats in our garden!... Also, I don't think the warnings idea was a serious suggestion... :D :D


message 18: by Carol (new) - added it

Carol (carolfromnc) | 1233 comments J wrote: "I love cats, so all this talk about cat hating and health warnings about cats is distressing..."

J, I will happily send all cats your way, and wish them a safe and healthy journey :). No distress intended.


message 19: by J (new) - rated it 2 stars

J | 67 comments Thank you all :) ❤️


message 20: by Carol (new) - added it

Carol (carolfromnc) | 1233 comments Alison wrote: "The Whale that Fell in Love with a Submarine

This book recently tricked me. The whale looks so damn happy..."


No! No! I am sorry for the shock that ending must have been. That story is right up there with The Giving Tree for inducing tears. The rest of the collection in The Cake Tree in the Ruins is fantastic, though, if you have time and interest.


Jeshika Paperdoll (jeshikapaperdoll) | 212 comments I've just started this, only 46 pages in, but basically agreeing with everything Bill says about the writing being clumsy and full of irrelevant crap. But... I'll keep going at least until the end of story one and see how I'm feeling about it then. I've had so many Japanese flops lately.


message 22: by Bill (new)

Bill Johnston | 714 comments Tokyo Ueno Station will be much better! Trust me!


Jeshika Paperdoll (jeshikapaperdoll) | 212 comments I’m getting into the rhythm with Before the coffee gets cold now and enjoying it a little bit more. It’s nothing amazing but it’s easy and short.

I’m looking forward to Tokyo Ueno Station so much though.


Jeshika Paperdoll (jeshikapaperdoll) | 212 comments I take it all back, part 2 has broken me. I have a strong emotional reaction to anything memory based, for reasons, but damn that made me sob.


Jeshika Paperdoll (jeshikapaperdoll) | 212 comments Okay, I finished it and gave it a 4 star. I still stand by Bill's thoughts on the first part, full of irrelevance and clumsy writing. But I really enjoyed parts 2, 3 and 4. I thought their stories were more impactful and had better characters involved.

I didn't get the regressive view of women vibe at all, I think it was just a seemingly accurate depiction of women in Japan which, for right or wrong, is still very culturally different to in the West (especially if you take into account whenever this was based and/or written). My question is, do you view it as regressive purely because the author is male? I'm not intending to argue or anything, I'm just curious!


message 26: by Carol (new) - added it

Carol (carolfromnc) | 1233 comments Jeshika wrote: "Okay, I finished it and gave it a 4 star. I still stand by Bill's thoughts on the first part, full of irrelevance and clumsy writing. But I really enjoyed parts 2, 3 and 4. I thought their stories ..."

4 stars, eh? You're single-handedly inducing me to find a way to fit this in to my overcommitted reading life.


Jeshika Paperdoll (jeshikapaperdoll) | 212 comments Carol - It was a quick read. But I seem to be in the minority here as far as enjoyment is concerned, so maybe don’t take my word for it. Haha.


message 28: by Bill (new)

Bill Johnston | 714 comments Maybe I should finish it, then. I gave up after the first story.


Agnetta | 297 comments Jeshika wrote: "Carol - It was a quick read. But I seem to be in the minority here as far as enjoyment is concerned, so maybe don’t take my word for it. Haha."

I am in sync with what you express Jeshika. I also thought the story line really gets to the next level at part 2, and I really enjoyed the reading, story wise. My problem is with the format. I have the feeling this really is a play, and the author quickly made some adjustments to turn it into a novel, but it still feels like a play.

Do you all know there is a movie too?
I could not find a way to watch it though.
trailer : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bFUOx...

And the following is going to freak you out, guys, especially Alison :

(view spoiler)


Emily (zimbrabim) Alison would probably have a more concise take on this, but here I am, haha.
I don't feel like the regressive aspects of the novel can be dismissed because it's a novel written and set in Japan. I'm certainly not an expert on Japanese culture, but there are several Japanese authors actively addressing sexism in their work and that's something I keep in mind when reading contemporary novels like this.
In my opinion, a good novel built around women should challenge sexism and regressive views (even if it's subtle and outside the main plot), not perpetuate/reenforce them. Before the Coffee Gets Cold doesn't meet my criteria– I saw a story where sentimentality is tied almost exclusively to women, and those women are tied to little more than their societal roles (girlfriend, sister/daughter, wife, mother). I don't think the novel benefitted from its realistic depiction of women's place in society, so did it really do its female characters– the characters the author chose to center his play/novel around– justice?
If, for example, the story included men partaking in time-travel or female characters with more complex motivations and personal development, then maybe my criticism re: sexism wouldn't be as strong. And, yes, if this exact play/novel had been written by a woman instead of a man, I'd still view it as regressive.


message 31: by Henk (new) - rated it 2 stars

Henk | 106 comments I agree with Emily, that a man wrote the book is not what triggered me. It was just a feeling that became stronger while reading the book.


message 32: by Carol (new) - added it

Carol (carolfromnc) | 1233 comments Agnetta wrote: "Jeshika wrote: "Carol - It was a quick read. But I seem to be in the minority here as far as enjoyment is concerned, so maybe don’t take my word for it. Haha."

I am in sync with what you express J..."


To the, "it's really a play" point, this reviewer from New Zealand noted the sense of the author emphasizing physical details and relationships in a way that's unnecessary, but reminds readers of its genesis.

to wit: "The novel seems to be constantly reminding us that we’re in a cafe, and in so doing it stops plot, and the characterisation, dead in its tracks. If we could see it, we wouldn’t need to be told it."

https://thespinoff.co.nz/books/04-03-...


Jeshika Paperdoll (jeshikapaperdoll) | 212 comments I agree with Agnetta's views in the spoilers section of her post. I didn't think they were regressive views, I thought the women characters showed strength and heart, and I don't think sentimentality should be considered weak or regressive.

(view spoiler)

I dunno, this book just didn't offend me at all. There are others out there that have my angers' full attention at the moment, lookin' at you Breasts and Eggs.


Alison Fincher | 158 comments Agnetta wrote: "Jeshika wrote: "Carol - It was a quick read. But I seem to be in the minority here as far as enjoyment is concerned, so maybe don’t take my word for it. Haha."

I am in sync with what you express J..."


As a novel, it reminds me a good deal of Peter Pan. I'd consider Peter Pan as a failure of a novel, especially compared to the play: Complete Plays of J. M. Barrie: Ibsen's Ghost, Jane Annie, Walker, London, Peter Pan, When Wendy Grew Up, The Professor's Love Story, The Little Minister, ... Quality Street, The Admirable Crichton….


message 35: by Alison (last edited Aug 26, 2020 12:04PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Alison Fincher | 158 comments Emily wrote: ...I saw a story where sentimentality is tied almost exclusively to women, and those women are tied to little more than their societal roles (girlfriend, sister/daughter, wife, mother). I don't think the novel benefitted from its realistic depiction of women's place in society, so did it really do its female characters– the characters the author chose to center his play/novel around– justice?

Exactly!

...a seemingly accurate depiction of women in Japan which, for right or wrong...

By that same logic, foreign readers couldn't criticize an American novel with characters of color who follow racial stereotypes.

I'm not bothered that the author is male--although I'd be surprised if a woman wrote the same book. I don't expect every novel to be a radical feminist statement, but I can note when it reinforces a cultural norm.


Jeshika Paperdoll (jeshikapaperdoll) | 212 comments I'm not saying it shouldn't or can't be criticised, I'm just saying it should be recognised that that is the case and that cultural differences do exist. By showing them people can recognise them, talk about them and hopefully it will promote change.

I just personally didn't feel this book was offensive, which is just my opinion.


Emily (zimbrabim) The 2018 film adaption of this will be available for free streaming in select countries on December 12th as a part of the Japan Foundation’s online Japanese Film Festival: https://watch.jff.jpf.go.jp/page/us/ (for the U.S. schedule).


Christie (firerabbit830) | 23 comments Thank you for sharing this information! I have been trying to get a copy of the film through my library here in the U.S., but to no avail, so this is exciting. :)


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