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Ten Nights of Dream, Hearing Things, The Heredity of Taste
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Motheaten | 79 comments Ten Nights of Dream: Those dreams are really interesting. They evoke the feelings of anxiety, guilt, and sadness. It seems anxiety of the future, longing for things past, and sadness for what was not to be.
A recurring theme seems to be of death or suicide.
I'm curious about The Eighth Night, what do you think of it?


Betty (olderthan18) | 3638 comments The eighth dream is the one story I've read so far in this collection. From your post, Motheaten, it seems atypical to the extent the main character's activities are leisurely and relaxing. And, it seems only somewhat dreamlike because of the details and coherence. It begins with a lone man in the middle of a square, windowed, mirrored room. He takes a seat before one of the six mirrors wherein he sees reflected slantways and behind him a passing stream of cut-off people and things outside a window and later through a counter frame (quizzical term at first). The first passerby is a Panama-hatted friend with a woman, then a trumpeting, bean-curd vendor with puffed-out cheeks, a sleepy geisha, etc. Each of those passersby and things are related to someone and attract the thoughtful, detailed observations of the man in the room. Through his seeing them and thinking about them, he is somewhat connected to them whereas before he was all alone. Into the room (it turns out to be a barber shop) a barber appears out-of-the-blue, so the man now experiences the sensations and effects of having a haircut, temporarily disconnecting himself from the passing scene outdoors to close his eyes. The ending about the prolific but odd goldfish is good, paralleling the man's finding himself alone at the end of a dream.


Motheaten | 79 comments Asmah wrote: "The eighth dream is the one story I've read so far in this collection. From your post, Motheaten, it seems atypical to the extent the main character's activities are leisurely and relaxing. And, it..."

That's an interesting take. There's also the odd part of a woman counting money that is never ending, and when the character turns away from the mirror to look at her she's gone. Kinda creepy.
Well.. I don't want to over-analyse these dreams, it's probably futile since dreams are illogical.


Motheaten | 79 comments Hearing Things is a moral ghost story similar to Kokoro and Botchan in themes of morality and Westernisation. The bigger theme seems to be a caution against rushing to Westernise, particularly articulated in the fictional An Essay on Ghosts. I like the build up of suspense through the conversation between Tsuda, a psychologist, and the narrator, which opened the story.


Betty (olderthan18) | 3638 comments Motheaten wrote: "Hearing Things is a moral ghost story similar to Kokoro and Botchan in themes of morality and Westernisation. The bigger theme seems to be a caution against rushing to Westernise, particularly arti..."

"Hearing Things" was nice because the foreboding had an explainable, happy ending. Also, Sōseki has an eye for the small details and for the predisposition of humans to be anxious.

I agree with you about the rising suspense. Through the narrator's conversations with his psychologist friend, Tsuda, and his housekeeper, the old woman, his optimism about the future is dampened. The lonely, dark country walk up and down hills during the pouring rain raises suspense through cautionary signage about the descent and through inquiries from a passing night patrolman. He is behooved by the howling dog's being an omen and by the sad ending of Tsuda's story presaging death to his sweetheart. Could it really apply to her? Part of the anxiety is relieved when the patrolman, who himself is susceptible to imagining a fleeing shape in the darkness, nevertheless cites evidence of burglars in the neighborhood, the explanation for dog's strange barking. A nice touch is the metaphor of his stopping midway on his ascent to the top of the slope to be the initial awareness of his lifespan. I also like the translator's choice of uncommon words, such as broo, cachinnation, fleeringly, and quill-driving (candidates for a vocabulary exam).

Besides the narrator's fiancée being in perfect health, the upbeat ending is also supported by his finally being satisfied with his 7-1/2 yen home and with other things about which he had groused to Tsuda. The novella ends with all-around laughter and with phrases like, "The future brims with happiness, overflows with Spring time, with cherry blossoms, willows" and "a face like a warm Spring..." The anxiety is disproven by reality:
You think to yourself that they're frightening, so the ghosts get uppity and then, of course, they start wanting to come out."



Betty (olderthan18) | 3638 comments Motheaten wrote: "Ten Nights of Dream: Those dreams are really interesting. They evoke the feelings of anxiety, guilt, and sadness. It seems anxiety of the future, longing for things past, and sadness for what was n..."

I felt moved by all ten of the dreams, and the sixth and tenth nights moved me most perhaps. I think that in #6 Unkei was a real thirteenth-century sculptor who carved the guardian gods at a temple gate, an activity which he does in the story. The sculptor is at work in the past; the same sculptor then works in the present, being watched by the narrator and his companion. When the narrator tries to bring out the sculpture from the wood like the real sculptor did so easily, he cannot. His explanation is that those gods aren't in the wood of the present age:
I dug through every log in the woodpile, one after another, but nary a one contained a guardian god. And finally it dawned on me that guardian gods were not, after all, buried in trees of this present age; and thus I came to understand why Unkei is living to this day.
In #10, Shōtarō, noted for his Panama hat, idles away his days happily in front of the fruit store, where the basket of ripe, colorful fruit line outside and where the nicely dressed, pretty women get his glances. One of the women stops to ask him for a fruit basket; they proceed on a train to a mountain, where she gives him an ultimatum at the precipice of a chasm.


Betty (olderthan18) | 3638 comments "The Heredity of Taste"

The title made no sense until the last section, in which the narrator uses his academic skill of hypothecating to theorize why two people, looking at each other only once, are attracted to each other. He says his proven theory differs from the irrational western concept of 'love-at-first-sight'. In his theory the two people in love resemble in appearance a pair of their ancestors who loved.

In the first and middle sections the narrator last sees his friend Kō-san as part of a "wriggling" black line up a hill, part of a siege in the Russo-Japanese war in Manchuria. The returning troops by train are met by great fanfare at the station, but the narrator is reminded of Kō-san's absence and of the bereaved mother's distress. After he briefly and unexpectedly sights a young woman laying flowers at Kō-san's grave, he revisits Kō-san's mother, who offers him the deceased's personal diary. He must investigate whether the woman in the diary is the same woman he'd glimpsed at the temple site. But, he tells the reader, he's no casual, dog-like detective. Because of his academic training, he formulates and proves his theory,"The Heredity of Taste", with the formal scientific method.


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