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
Thumbs up for Silence by Shusaku Endo. Literature.
An engrossing story taking place during the state-supported massacres of the sizable minority of Japanese Catholics in the 1600’s. To simplify greatly, it deals in a well-rounded, satisfying way with the issue of staying true to one’s religion when to do so may not be the moral thing to do; and the effect of that dilemma on the faith of one man, Father Rodrigues, a young missionary.… >> Read more
Thumbs up for The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea by Yukio Mishima. Literature.
I couldn’t decide whether to read slowly in order to savor Mishima’s exquisite prose, or gulp it in sheer ecstasy. This book did once more raise the question: Why do so many of the greatest writers in the world – of which I will unhesitatingly say Mishima is one – chose to write books of which we know what the finale will be from the first pages?… >> Read more
Thumbs down for Snakes and Earrings by Hitomi Kanehara. Literature.
This book’s main endearing quality is that it’s short. Also that it makes no emotional impact, which is a good thing, because some unpleasant things happen in it (murder, tongue piercings, explicit BDSM). It was not actually so bad that I wanted to put it down, but other than the faint interest of the fact that things do not go as they would in a “Western” novel, it’s completely forgettable in every way.… >> Read more