The London Tower
and all its ghosts give Mr
Natsume a book
Well, part of a book/diary idea. The Tower of London is made up of his impressions of his life in London, where he spent two years at the beginning of the 20th century, and along with his recollections of not fitting in and living in different boarding houses for two years there is a bit of a ghostly element in his impressions of the Tower of London. I`ll have more to say after I finish reading it.
I`ve discovered a few more Japanese and other authors through my new job. Any job that helps you discover writers you might otherwise not discover, or at least not for a while, is a great job no?
Add comment November 25, 2013 KorubettosHaiku
to Ruth Ozeki but the
winner sounds good too
So the man booker prize this year has gone to a 20-something year old New Zealander for a 800 or so pages novel The Luminaries which sounds really good. I mentioned Ruth Ozeki`s book in an earlier post because she was in for the prize too for her brilliant book. Well, better luck next time. Same to Colm Toibin who was in the running for the third consecutive year. His was the shortest novel in the selection while the winner`s was the longest.
Add comment October 16, 2013 KorubettosHaiku
Good to know they give
a Nobel to deserving
ones now and again
So Alice Munro won the Nobel Prize for literature – fantastic news. I`ve read a collection of her short stories – I love short stories when they`re written well – and I really enjoyed them. She`s a genius. I plan to read more of her works. Anyways, it`s good to know the Nobel folk get it right sometimes. I mean in general, not just in the literature department. I don`t know anything about the other writers in for the prize apart from Haruki Murakami who was rumoured to be in for it, and Bob Dylan (had no idea he wrote novels) but anyways well done to her.
Add comment October 10, 2013 KorubettosHaiku
To marry or not
to marry, men and women
alike ask themselves
I finished watching a series a while ago about a guy who `can`t` get married (結婚できない男). For most of the series it is because he won`t get married, has no interest etc (so really, he can`t in that he doesn`t believe in it and so it would be wrong to get married in that case). In the end, he says he really can`t get married in that he is unable to until he can imagine and design his perfect house – he`s an architect – leaving the woman in question utterly dismayed and mocked (it was kind of mean to lead her on like that but her own part in the conversation was unusual too). I just found this series so funny at times, because another reason was he was socially inept with no idea how to talk to people (not that that`s funny usually but for drama purposes….) and only made fun of people. He was slightly OCD as well (not funny either for sufferers but let`s not be too pc, it added to his lack of appeal and added to the comedy factor generally). The lead woman was smart in how she responded to his abrupt comments. Yet her behaviour during his profession of love (of sorts) at the end made me wonder if she was just settling for him (she even says `you`ll do` though that may have been her pride speaking). In the end, you`re left wondering how things will pan out between them after she has to coax an invitation out of him to his apartment apparently forgiving him for being so mean (so in that way it was not predictable after all but then Japanese programs are predictably unpredictable I find).
Some Japanese dramas are utter rubbish (like tv dramas in a lot of countries are but people still watch them) but this one was quite enjoyable. Both the single men and women in this show, in their 20s and 30s going onto 40 – were facing the subject of marriage, dating or not dating. It`s always somewhat insulting that single heterosexual women in their 30s have to be seen, in any media or in the press, as lonely or desperate for a husband and the rest. Some might want a husband, some might not. Some might want a husband and kids, others might want just the husband (or partner if not keen on marriage itself) and some might prefer to stay single and enjoy life without a steady other half. It`s not fair to portray women in their 30s as Desperate Danielas (just made that up). The women in the show who were in their 20s were also portrayed as very keen for romance, marriage, kids ( sensibly in one case not keen enough for a man to go out with a sleazy Artist) but women in their 30s get it worse. The main female lead was touching 40 and keen on the idea but not keen on throwing away her career as a doctor. Anyway, even with the guy`s obsession with designing the perfect house (around the kitchen) and for all his faults he did not seem like the kind of guy who`d make a woman give up her career to stay at home (he was pretty handy in the kitchen himself at any rate and he was right I think in saying that a kitchen is the heart of the house as it is not just a place to cook) but then we never found out. Also, the women were at times portrayed in the show as a bit silly for their age – expecting a knight to come along on a white horse and live some fairytale with them. Hmmm. By the way the guy who `could not` get married was also under pressure because his mother was looking for a grandchild to carry on the family name. That`s a whole other post.
I was somewhat surprised to see miai (arranged marriage meetings between potential couples) still taking place in this era. Does that happen much in Japan these days? Actually, I remember it cropping up in a series I watched earlier, the Kekkon Shinai drama. In that series, the woman who had no interest in getting married did settle in the end for the professor. The girl who went on the miai did end up, sort of, with her man (not the miai man but the guy she liked). The 30-something in Kekkon Shinai was kind of cajoled into it while the woman in Kekkon Dekinai Otoko was pressured into it and decided to do it to get her father off her back (age wise there was not that much difference but apparently touching 40 is more serious marriage-wise). Either way, a woman has more choice nowadays as to whether she takes part in an omiai. And sometimes, omiai between two adults do work out. It`s not like Japan is in the dark ages in these modern times with the disgraceful practice in certain countries where children are forced to marry much older men and have no choice in the matter (being threatened with death if they refuse or being actually murdered if they try to escape). If they are interested in getting married and whatever else as I mentioned above, at least they are taking their future in their own hands by meeting people. They can always tell their parents or friends trying to fix them up to bog off if they don`t want any part in it (that`s sometimes tricky though telling your friends and family to bog off because you look more defensive then). I do love the expression `bog off`.
I still haven`t managed to catch up on the last few episodes of Saikou no Rikon, that clever comedy about the young divorced couple still living together. Must do something about that.
Maybe I look obsessed with marriage myself given the topic of these dramas but I just had to mention Kekkon no Dekinai otoko and Saikou no Rikon as an example of enjoyable drama. Kekkon Shinai was ok but the other two were better.
One more thing, I watched Kabei lately about a woman whose husband is arrested during World War II for unpatriotic thoughts against Japan and we learn at some point that the woman chose her husband herself because she fell in love with him (her father had not approved). They really had a special relationship and as discussed in the post about Art, War and Mystery, the special respect shown towards teachers at the time appears here as well. One of his former students comes to help out the family as a way of helping his teacher. This guy is played really well by Tadanobu Asano.
Add comment October 8, 2013 KorubettosHaiku
art, respect for teachers and some
mysteries of old
Well, I haven`t written in a while and it`s back to literature again. I mentioned reading a book of Kazuo Ishiguro`s called An Artist of the Floating World. It was about what happens when art meets propaganda and the fall-out afterwards for the Artist involved. It was an interesting subject. The Artist involved wavered between acknowledging his wrongs and denying them along the length of the novel. On another note, it`s interesting to see the respect people had for teachers back then. You see this also in Madadayo, which is set towards the end of World War II and just after it, and the film I mentioned a while back with the actor from Tokyo Story. The main protagonist and his friends (and one-time classmates) in the latter film take their teacher out for drinks and help him out a little financially. The former students of the teacher in the former build him a house!! In a more modern novel I read lately, one of the novels on the long list for the booker prize, the teacher in the story seems pathetic, even getting involved in the bullying of the main protagonist by playing along with the game where the other students ignore her to the extent they pretend she`s dead. Nothing worse than seeing a teacher who should be the senior person in the class lowering themselves to that extent, perhaps to protect themselves or if not just trying too hard to get students to like them. The word sensei in Madadayo really fits the teacher involved, as you can tell he`s respected and likewise with the second film. Some teachers really don`t deserve the title of Sensei though and it makes you think the word is overused.
I`ve since read another of Ishiguro`s. A pale view of hills which was his debut novel. Quite an interesting story with a not very likeable character who plays part of a very good twist at the end. I wasn`t expecting that at all.
At the moment I`m reading a book of short stories in the mystery genre which again I was pleasantly surprised to find in my library. Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination is the title. The writer`s pen name is Edogawa Rampo which is the Japanese pronunciation of the American writer Edgar Allan Poe who the Japanese writer (whose real name is Hirai Taro) much admired at the time. Having read Poe myself and enjoyed his short stories, I can see why he admired him so much but as much as he did, he then went on with other Japanese mystery writers to develop a mystery writing style unique to Japanese culture and history.
While I`m on Japanese writers, I watched Norwegian Wood lately for the second time, based on Haruki Murakami`s novel. The first time I watched it I gave up on it at some point because I was too tired that one evening to watch what I thought was not that good a film. Anyway, having given it another go I still don`t think it`s that great. The book is far better (even though, as I said before, I`ve since tired of Murakami). That said, I thought the acting was good enough. The character Midori is very likeable both in the book and the film.
Add comment October 8, 2013 KorubettosHaiku