Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “Japanese”

Robert’s #CBR4 Review #12: Ring by Koji Suzuki

Ring by Koji SuzukiThe challenge of translating a novel from another language is balancing the style and tone with the literal text. Lean too far towards literary flourish and you’re radically altering the content of the book. Stay too true to the literal text and you lose the nuance of wordplay in the original language that probably can’t carry over directly.

The English translation of Ring by Koji Suzuki poses an even greater challenge. The novel centers on a newspaper reporter and a philosophy professor who use the scientific method and many hours of research to solve the riddle of a potentially deadly video tape. Is the blunt prose the intended effect of Suzuki to best represent the non-fiction world of the two main characters? Or is it an unintended side effect of translating a medical sci-fi novel so couched in Japanese culture?

Ring, the inspiration for the popular Japanese horror series and blockbuster US remake, is a quiet investigative thriller. Read more…

Quorren’s #CBR4 Review #10 Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson

I picked the wrong week to read a sad story.  After losing a pet, this book probably wasn’t the best choice to occupy my mind from sadness.  Surprisingly, it did help me put my grief into perspective, if only for short periods of time, which did help a bit with the healing process.  It’s very hard to be huddle up in your nest of despair on the couch for the death of a pet rat when thousands of Japanese Americans were forced into “interment” camps (let’s be polite about institutional racism, guys!) after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

The story begins abruptly in the courtroom where Kabuo Miyamoto is on trial for the murder of Carl Heine.  Through the trial and witness testimony, we are giving glimpse of life in this small Puget Sound island pre and post WWII.  The island of San Piedro had a sizable Japanese population before the war, most of whom worked as field hands in the farms on the island.  Miyamoto’s father made an arrangement with Heine’s father; they bought seven acres of Heine’s farmland to be paid off in monthly installments.  When the forced internment occurred, the Miyamoto family was one payment short of finally owning the land outright.  Heine’s father promised them that he would honor their agreement when the family could return to the island.  Unfortunately, the father died before the end of the war, leaving his racists wife to sell all of the land to another farmer.  Since the war, Miyamoto has become obsessed with reclaiming the land.  Motive, a slew of circumstantial evidence and the community’s deep resentment of their Japanese populace after the war leads Kabuo’s arrest.

Another aspect of the story is that the town reporter and WWII vetran, Ishmael, was in love with Kabuo’s wife, Hatsue, when they were teenagers.  What began as a subplot quickly became the focus of the story – their childhood together, their burgeoning romance, the day they were parted while the trial takes a backseat.  Eventually Ishmael reconciles loosing Hatsue and saves the day.  Excuse me if I don’t give the guy a standing ovation.

Most of the story is told from Ishmael’s point of view, especially after the internment when Hatsue breaks it off with him in a letter and Ishmael is drafted into the Pacific theater.  He then wallows in self-pity amiss a very graphic depiction of American troops attempting to storm an island in the Pacific.   I’m not a big fan of reading detailed accounts in real wars (I’m totally cool with Aragon storming the Black Gate, but I can’t stand to think of my grandfather fighting in the Pacific with body parts floating around in the water), but I really hate people that write letters to their ex-girlfriends that say, “I hate you, I hate your race and I can’t wait to kill people that look like you”.  Because Hatsue must be living it up after being forced from her home and put into prison all because of her parents are Japanese.  So Ishmael’s a big charmer.  And he only gets better as the story goes on; the ending hinges on his moral ambiguity. I feel like several times the author tries to emotional manipulate the reader into feeling sorry for Ishmael (oh no, he lost a arm in the war!  The Japanese population and the US government lost their dignity!), but I just wasn’t buying it.

All in all, it’s an amazing book, but don’t expect to walk away from it in a great mood.

Nataku23147 #CBR4 Review #01: Real World by Natsuo Kirino

Genre: Fiction 
No. of Pages: 208
Publisher: Vintage International
Other: translated from Japanese

This is the first book by Natsuo Kirino that I have ventured a read through, but many blogs that a frequent has suggested her more recent books.  This piqued my interest and when I saw this novel in a used book store I decided to give it a go.  First off, let me explain a bit (or perhaps, a lot) of the plot:

The story follows a group of vapid and egocentric high school girls (Toshi, Yuzan, Terauchi, and Kararin) and a young, fairly idiotic, narcissistic and, at times, very smelly Japanese high school boy named–er, Worm (I don’t remember his actual name just his nickname).   The story revolves around the days following Worm committing matricide by bludgeoning his mother to death with a baseball bat.  The narrative jumps around in time, depending on who is the narrating voice, but it starts when Toshi, unknowingly, hears the murder take place and becomes the only witness to Worm being at the scene of the crime. 

After Worm steals Toshi’s phone and bike, he goes about contacting all the girls on her cell phone contact list.  Becuase he’s desperate like that, I guess.  Despite his obviously social awkwardness and the horrible crime he just committed, Worm somehow gets many of Toshi’s friends to aide and assist him in hiding from the police.  Throughout the books each narrator discusses their willingness or unwillingness to corroborate with the murderer and as a result also delves into and an introverted analysis of their own duplicity.  Each character seems to be hiding the person they believe themselves to truly be under a mask of a societally acceptable behaviour.    

That sort of sums things up… rather poorly.  But nevertheless, that is the overarching plot of the novel.  I must admit it was not quite what I expected namely because the back cover said that book would be “psychologically intricate and astute… a searing, eye-opening portrait of teenage life in Japan unlike any we have seen before.”  Good marketing Vintage, I applaud you, because if this is an eye-opening portrait of teenage life in Japan then I feel profoundly sorry for the youth of that country. 

Every single one of the teens in this book were so excessively self-centered that instead of seeing the horror of the brutal murder of a mother by a son, they sympathized with the murder as they all too have thought of murdering their mothers or envied him because he was so free from the pressure of having to study for exams or applying for university.

Holy bageezes!  If the amount of pressure you are putting on your youth to always get the top grades and get into the right school drives them to murderous thoughts and actions then there is something incredibly wrong with society.  Don’t take me for ignorant to the set-up of Japanese society, I actually have been fascinated with Japan from an early age and was driven to studying East Asian culture during my University degree.  So I know a thing or two about the set-up of the Japanese culture and Asian family-dynamic, it’s because I know a bit about the society that I had such a hard time understanding this books blatant sympathizing with the murder of a family member.  Is the modern youth of Tokyo pushed so far to their limits that their human compassion has erodeded almost completely away?  Is the entire generation, the book is supposed to be speaking of, boarder-line or complete psychopaths?  Because that’s what I was picking up. 

Each girl stated, in no uncertain terms, that they couldn’t blame Worm or didn’t think they needed to tell the cops about the murderer they were speaking to because it wasn’t any of their business.  Even the one who was a key witness placing Worm at the scene of the crime.  And why does the boy think it is okay to murder his mother?  Because the mother thought the son was a peeping Tom so she moved them to the suburbs.  To set the record straight, the boy was a pervert and has some serious sexual repression issues.

So my conclusion, based on this book, is that the portrait that Natsuo Kirino wanted to paint of Japanese youth is that they are so shallow they cannot think beyond the now and of themselves.  They all seems to obsess over sex so much that they either sleeping with anything that pays any attention to them or internalize their desire to the point of raging frustration (this one may be spot on with teens in general). Also there is a whole platoon of disgusting Manga and chat rooms laden with prevent men available to the youth of Japann (this one is also true).  And lastly, the parents of this vapid, self-centered generation of youth are just a shallow and self-centered, only they are also neglectful and force their children to grow up too fast. 

Holy bleak outlook, batman.  I’ll give it 2 and a half reading cats (half a reading cat?! how horrid!) out of 5.  Really. it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t a super compelling read.

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