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
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 up for Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata. Literature.
A luscious chocolate of a book, which, as I am not quite smart enough to understand what it is really about, I will not try to synopsize for you. Nevertheless, if you like beautiful writing, and enjoy works in which the landscape shapes the story almost to the point of being itself a character, you will not regret reading it.… >> Read more
Neither thumbs up nor thumbs down for The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa. Literature.
This book was fine. In a clear, readable way, it tells the simple story of the friendship between a housekeeper and her son with a mathematics professor who has only eighty minutes of long-term memory. But I demand a bit more from books than that they be “fine.” There are so many great books out there, why read one that is just “fine”?… >> Read more