What work(s) are you most likely to return to?

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What work(s) are you most likely to return to?

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Feb 26, 2008, 10:51 pm

This group's been moribund, probably due to the many overlapping broader and narrower groups. Let me try to spark a new conversation.

Its fun to re-read a book you really like after enough years have gone by that you see things differently. The Plague has been a good one for me that way. A different but great experience every time and it always feels relevant. I read Runaway Horses twice when I was younger, and would like to go back and read the whole Sea of Fertility cycle again now that I'm a bit older.

What work or works of Japanese literature would you most like to revisit or have you revisited? How did the works you have revisited fare?

Feb 27, 2008, 6:48 am

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Feb 27, 2008, 6:51 am

Anything by Kobo Abe. When I've reread him over they years I've found that his works, read through the lens of new experiences and books read, reveal hitherto unexpected facets. I haven't actually looked into Abe's work for about ten years now. It's time.

Edited: Mar 6, 2008, 12:20 pm

I really like Abe too. Even though I'd like to reread it at some point, because I enjoyed it, Kangaroo Notebook would probably still seem really crazy to me (in a good way, but not in a way that would change as I changed). I was dispapointed by The Box Man (great concept, flawed execution or more likely, I need to re-evaluate it).

I really dig Abe's short stories - beyond the curve. I love the concepts he writes his novels around, they all seem like promising starting points: Woman in the Dunes, The Face of Another, The Ruined Map and so on. How would you rank the novels? Which should I tackle next time I am up to Abe?

Mar 6, 2008, 4:27 am

I could see myself going back to Out at some point this year, once I've read all the books in my TBR stack. I just finished Sayonara, Gangsters yesterday and I could see myself rereading that rather quickly, actually. It doesn't take very long and it's a very weird and entertaining read.

Mar 6, 2008, 11:38 am

Great recommendations. I will definitely pick up one or both. Interestingly, or not, someone reviewed Out a few days after you did...after s/he read just the book for the second time!

Mar 7, 2008, 7:00 am

Mar 7, 2008, 11:43 am

Thanks all! I just ordered SG from alibris. Will move it near the front of the reading queue when it arrives.

Edited: Mar 13, 2008, 9:12 am

As mentioned above, I, too, have returned several times to Woman in the Dunes, both the novel and the wonderful movie (the actress should have won the Nobel Prize)!

I've been thinking lately that I should return to the Master of Go, particularly since I seem to be getting a bit older, myself, of late. Besides, last year, one of my sons bought me a really nice Go set and, these days, I don't have anyone to play the game with, so I could keep a running diary of the novel's tournament in style.

I always remember the old Master (who is playing his last Go tournament) getting up one morning and not being able to remember whether to tie his obi (sash) left over right, or right over left, even though he had been tying his obi for 50-60 years, every day(!) Darn! I have mornings like that just about every morning.


"In the end, only kindness matters."

Mar 12, 2008, 11:48 pm

I've had Woman In The Dunes for years and haven't read it for the first time yet. For SHAME! I'll get to it this year. I've only seen the title sequence of the movie. Loved it and bought a cd of Toru Takemitsu soundtracks. In googling around I saw that Steven Severin of Siouxsie and the Banshees has a Woman in the Dunes album. Interesting.

Mar 27, 2008, 3:12 pm

In no particular order : Genji Monogatari, Master of Go, Snow Country,Thousand Cranes, Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore, Kokoro, The Three-Cornered World.

There is something in each of these which lingered with me long after I put the text down. I wonder will I, now older (but not old), find a different book than I remember?

Apr 5, 2008, 11:03 pm

Enchi Fumiko's Masks; Tanizaki Jun'ichiro's Seven Japanese Tales; Murakami Haruki's After Dark, Kafka on the Shore, Norwegian Wood; Dazai Osamu's The Setting Sun and probably Mishima Yukio's Confessions of a Mask.

May 2, 2008, 12:03 pm

All Osamu Dazai's works, I read and re-read numerous times in the course of life time. With some slight objections in the bottom of my heart to his style of writing and the way of life, I find myself reaching his books and reading whenever I feel small or depressed. It is really soothing.

May 2, 2008, 1:03 pm

I did not know about Dazai. With two recommendations, I will definitely pick up something. What is his best?

Edited: May 2, 2008, 9:11 pm

Wikipedia has a very good write-up about Dazai. His "way of life" included (among other things) about 4 or 5 suicide attempts (the last one being successful).

Also, for a quick taste of his style and Life-Mood, try reading the excellent two-page short story, Waiting.


"In the end, only kindness matters."

May 3, 2008, 4:54 am

Although some people think that Dazai was born to write Ningen Shikkaku(Human Lost), I don't think so. It is hard to pick up some his work as his best, but, try The Setting Sun. It is maybe good. I also want to reccomend his some short novels, but, I don't know whether they are translated in English or not.

May 3, 2008, 12:19 pm

Thanks for the advice and the JLLP link - good stuff!

Edited: May 4, 2008, 1:41 am

I just finished a small volume of Dazai's short stories, most with a fantastic or fairytale/fable-like theme, titled Blue Bamboo. Wonderful, wryly humorous, often wistful little works-very unlike the overtly despairing, unremittingly dark novels he's best known for in the West.

May 4, 2008, 3:33 am

It is true! He is also well known for his 'dark' 'pessimisitic' novels in Japan too, especially nowdays.(perhaps partly it is because he tried to ruin his own way of life along the course of his life, and he committed suicide severel times, two with different girls(first, only the girl died and he survived, second, both died, that is his end). Also, he was addicted to drugs) But it is not a precise view about Dazai. Although he wrote some 'dark' novels, (as for me, I cannot easily say it is 'dark') he also wrote a lot of humorous novellas. No matter how he led an immoral life, his works are greatly fun to read.

Dec 14, 2008, 9:06 pm

My favorite Japanese author is Yasushi Inoue and, although I'm not a re-reader, if I were to, I'd reread his Shirobamba and Le fusil de chasse (Hunting Gun). Glorious novels.

I have The Setting Sun on my TBR pile but have just recently left my Asian lit phase and am now in a classic French lit phase. I'll read it soon I'm sure though. :)

Jan 1, 2009, 8:16 pm

Re: 20

Thanks for the input. I'll shuffle Shirobamba, which I've had for many years, to the top of the stack. I've read a number of books by Dazai, and the Setting Sun is the only one I can say I really liked.

-- Gerry

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