Thumbs down for Kokoro by Natsume Soseki. Literature.
Sometimes you just can’t wait to finish a book so you can write a bad review of it. God, was this one of those books. In the first section, a dull and faintly irritating student chooses as his Sensei (teacher) a man who is patently without wisdom and thus unworthy of the role.… >> Read more
Thumbs down for The Woman In The Dunes by Kobo Abe. Literature.
Oh God I hated this book. I thought that I hated Battle Royale (see my review); as it turned out, I don’t. That was badly written, but a positive joyride compared to this book. The Woman in the Dunes was well-written, sometimes very beautifully so, but I have not one existential bone in my body and therefore it was downright excruciating to read.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Some Prefer Nettles by Junichiro Tanizaki. Literature.
A very quiet domestic novel about a pair of self-acknowledged cowards who cannot bring themselves to break off their loveless, but not hateful, marriage. The style and topic reminded me a great deal of Kawabata’s Snow Country (see my review) – which is a good thing, because I loved that. The simple, lucid writing lulled me into a lovely, dreamlike state, and while I have no way to know if it would have that effect on anyone else, I would say that if you like a novel about the complexities of ordinary human relationships, you should give this a try.… >> Read more
Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids by Kenzaburo Oe. Literature.
A beautifully written book that is not in the slightest bit enjoyable to read. (Nor, in case you’re wondering, do I feel like a better person for having read it.) Weirdly tame and uncreative juvenile delinquents are marched to a village, to be shortly thereafter abandoned as the villagers flee the plague.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Rashomon and Other Stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. Literature.
I have not seen the movie Rashomon, but I am familiar with the plot, so I was surprised to discover (later confirmed by Wikipedia) that the plot was taken from the story “In The Grove,” while the setting (at the gate called Rashomon) and title were taken from the story “Rashomon,” the original plot of which has nothing whatsoever to do with the plot of the movie.… >> Read more
Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for 69 by Ryu Murakami. Young adult.
No, not THAT Murakami, the other one. And no, not THAT 69 (get your mind out of the gutter), the title refers to the year – 1969 – in which it takes place. Having read the blurb for Murakami’s other work Coin Locker Babies I was expecting something dark from this book, but frankly it was so light it could float away.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for Kappa by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. Literature.
When one of my favorite customers asked me what I was reading, I answered, “Lots of Japanese literature.” She responded, “Oh, how wonderful! I have a degree in Japanese literature! Who’s your favorite?” Her favorite was Akutagawa. I had no Akutagawa. She being the delightful person she is, she gave me one. Kappa is in fact a short story masquerading as a book, with the help of a long introduction that deals with the fascinating life of Akutagawa himself – something well worth reading on its own.… >> Read more
Thumbs down for Battle Royale by Koushun Takami. Science fiction.
It wasn’t the self-proclaimed “violent exploitation” that got to me; frankly, that was just unorginal video-game-style blood and guts. It was the fact that the writing is some of the worst I’ve ever read in a professionally published novel. I don’t know whether it was the author or the translator, but to quote from the book itself: “Damn, this was bad.” And let’s not forget the bouts of utter ridiculousness: apparently the author thinks bulletproof vests make you invincible.… >> Read more