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review 2017-06-10 18:44
No Longer Human by Osamu Dazai, translated by Donald Keene
No Longer Human - Osamu Dazai,Donald Keene

I’ll start this off with some content warnings. This book includes several suicide attempts (one successful), a main (POV) character who becomes an alcoholic and a drug addict and who is probably depressed, and several mentions of rape and child molestation. Most of these things aren’t described in much detail, but they’re there.

Almost all of this book is written as though it was the notebook of a man named Oba Yozo (I’m pretty sure that’s the original name order, with family name first, although I could be wrong). Yozo writes about his life from his early childhood days to what I’m assuming is near the end of his life. The book ends and begins with a chapter written from the perspective of someone who did not personally know Yozo but read his notebooks and met someone who did know him.

When Yozo was a very young child, he became convinced that he did not qualify as human. The thought that someone else might realize he wasn’t human so terrified him that he began to behave like a clown. If others were laughing at his antics and jokes, then they weren’t looking at him too closely. Unfortunately for him, he occasionally met individuals who seemed able to see beneath his clownish mask. Beginning in his college years, he was also taken aback by how attractive women seemed to find him.

Yozo seemed incapable of empathizing with others and could only view their words and actions in terms of how they directly related to him. This was especially driven home by the last few pages of the book, written from the perspective of a man who didn’t know Yozo. For the first time since the book began, a POV character was writing about people who weren’t Yozo as though they had thoughts and feelings of their own, and about the wider world and what was going on in it. It was like a breath of fresh air and really emphasized how isolated Yozo had been, even though he spoke to and interacted with more people in his portion of the book than the man at the end.

The beginning of the book worked best for me. Yozo was essentially trapped by his fears, worried about how others perceived him and what they might have been able to see in him. Because he couldn’t understand the thoughts and behaviors of those around him, he doubted the correctness of his own opinions and feelings - after all, if everyone else was human and he was not, who was he to contradict what others said or did? This was especially tragic when it led to him not telling anyone that one of the servants (or several) had molested him. Or at least I think that’s what happened - the author/translator was very vague, saying that he had been “corrupted” and that “to perpetrate such a thing on a small child is the ugliest, vilest, cruelest crime a human being can commit” (35).

Things started to fall apart during Yozo’s college years. Yozo’s father wanted him to become a civil servant, while Yozo wanted to study art. This devolved into Yozo skipping classes, drinking, hiring prostitutes, hanging out with Marxists, and occasionally working on his art. My patience with Yozo pretty much ran out, and it didn’t help that the book developed a very clear misogynistic thread. An example of one of this section's more off-putting quotes: at one point, Yozo said “I never could think of prostitutes as human or even as women” (63). Women, in particular, seemed drawn to his self-destructive orbit, and the result was misery for everyone involved.

Yozo continued his habit of believing others’ assessment of him. Sometimes this had a positive effect on Yozo, such as his brief period of contentment with his wife, a girl (really a girl - she was only 17 when he married her) who genuinely believed that he was a good person and that he would never lie to her. However, since Yozo seemed to gravitate towards people who looked down on him, his habit of accepting and believing whatever people said about him usually drew him further into his downward spiral. I’d say it was depressing, except Yozo was generally so detached from everything that the word seems too strong to be appropriate.

There’s a manga adaptation of this that I might read, just to get a different interpretation of the story. That said, I suspect the manga won’t work for me much more than this did. No Longer Human was well-written, but not my sort of book at all.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2015-11-21 13:58
America's Legal Drug Epidemic
American Pain: How a Young Felon and His Ring of Doctors Unleashed America's Deadliest Drug Epidemic - John Temple

Eye-opening.

 

Heart breaking.

 

Anger inducing.

 

Highly recommended reading for anyone who cares about the state of healthcare in the US or drug abuse in their communities.

 

This is the story of America Pain, a "pill mill" created by Chris and Jeff George and their friend Derik Nolan. The empire was head quartered in Florida (Broward County, Palm Beach County, one small clinic in Georgia that didn't pan out) but the effects were felt throughout the Southeast. The rise of Oxycontin abuse started in the early 1990s when a drug company was losing its patent on a product and needed a new blockbuster drug product to market and sell to make up the profit loss. Aided by differing and often lax state laws, American Pain was a rags-to-riches-back-to-rags story.

 

John Temple wrote a well-researched and stark book. He did not try to analyze or make the facts fit an exploitive narrative; he let the experts and the facts speak for themselves. He also didn't try to over describe or create a character out of the very real people he profiled in his book. He seemed to take the most care with Alice Mason, whose son died after one trip to American Pain. Mrs. Mason was from rural Kentucky and was in mourning for her son; Temple neither made her out to be naïve or dumb redneck and he didn't poke at her mourning either.  

 

Maybe that is why I found this book so page-turning good; the story stood on its own merits without commentary from the author. I will be looking for more of Mr. Temple's work in the future. 4.5 stars.

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text 2015-11-20 17:17
Weekend Reading
American Pain: How a Young Felon and His Ring of Doctors Unleashed America's Deadliest Drug Epidemic - John Temple
Devoted in Death - J.D. Robb
Plenty of Time When We Get Home( Love and Recovery in the Aftermath of War)[PLENTY OF TIME WHEN WE GET HOM][Hardcover] - KaylaWilliams

Another Friday, another 27 lives lost to terrorism (Mali hotel hostage situation). Thanksgiving is now less than a week away and I don't have the energy to plan a damn thing about it. And on those notes, here is my weekend reading:

 

1. Finishing American Pain: How a Young Felon and His Ring of Doctors Unleashed America's Deadliest Drug Epidemic by John Temple. (Library Loan via Over Drive app)

 

           Freaking eye-opening, heart breaking, and page turning. Probably going to be a 4-5 star read.

 

2. Start Devoted in Death (...In Death #41) by J.D. Robb.

 

          Lt Dallas takes on a future Bonnie and Clyde "love story." (Library Loan)

 

3. Plenty of Time When We Get Home (Love and Recovery in the Aftermath of War) by Kayla Williams. (Library Loan)

 

         Kayla and her husband met in Iraq, but didn't start their relationship until they were back in the US and he was undergoing treatment for PTSD and shrapnel in his brain/skull. This is Williams' follow up to her OIF memoir I Love My Rifle More Than You, which I hope to get via ILL from the library by the end of the year.

 

Happy reading and stay safe everyone.

 

 

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text 2015-11-18 20:32
November Reading
American Pain: How a Young Felon and His Ring of Doctors Unleashed America's Deadliest Drug Epidemic - John Temple

I think I'm burnt out on romances. I just look at the stack of Harlequins that need to be read and moved off the TBR pile and I go scrambling to the library for a non-fiction book to read instead. Doesn't matter if its my usual favorite tropes, or authors, or settings/subgenres - I just can't take one more romance. I might just read non-fiction the rest of the year and try again in January to face TBR mountain again. I am only 10 books away from my challenge, so I am not worried about making it.

 

 

Current new read (via the Overdrive App - holy schnikes, where has this app been all my life?!!) is the one in the picture. It is about the start of the Oxy/opiate abuse in pill form and how it spread so far so fast across the US. So far, the prologue is a great hook and I am already sucked in.

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review 2015-11-03 00:00
Shelter
Shelter - Ashley John

This is gonna be painful.

First of all, I want to say that I like Ashley John. He said some smart and insightful things at times when they were needed to be said. So, it's not an issue of personal dislike.

But, maaaan, I feel like I've read a completely different book than everybody alse. Everyone, especially people I follow, respect and somewhat worship, loved it. And in a way, I can see a lot of potential for the love here. Elias is one MC with baggage. His family is the complete opposite of what family should be, although his sister had some redeeming qualities. Caden is sweet and caring, has a great family. His issues are more on the... philosophical side? Well, let's just say, he is my picture perfect nice boy, with a relatively sheltered life, who has been loved and cherished for who he is most of his life, and it showed. That's not something negative, it was just the complete opposite of Elias. Like I said, the potential was there. Not saying that the plot ideas were bad, maybe a little over the top, but not bad. Then there was reality and the very real execution of the ideas. At which point I'm going to hide the ranty spoilers, just in case you're not in the mood for bitching.



First of all, the location. A very small town, almost a village, where everybody knows you, and you can walk from one end to the other on your own two feet without any problems. This little, small village is also home of THE super-mayor, controlling and intimidating everyone and everything, hosting a huge ball, having a massive glass-steel-home with guards and the whole nine yards. Wow. Some village that is. CONSISTENCY, anyone? I had issues with it throughout the whole book.

The mayor. I was constantly thinking of Regina in Once Upon a Time, although Regina at least had somewhat plausible reasons for acting like the control-freak bitch she was. I mean, hello? Evil Queen. But Elias' mother? What the actual fuckity fuck? She was portrayed like the super-duper villain. Almost like a cartoon and with no motivations, no real explanations, just a whole lot of crap on top of more crap, and some evil mojo. I was NOT convinced.

The sister was better. Even though I felt for Elias in the beginning, because he just wants help and his sister acts like she couldn't care less about him, she was also the one person in this book that actually felt real to me. Because, if you like it or not, when a loved one betrays and hurts you again and again and again, you will build up some walls and a whole lot of distrust and defense mechanisms. Doesn't make her acceptance or ignorance of how Elias was treated his whole life any better, but like I said, at least she felt real to me.

The Magical Dick. Beware, ladies and gentleman, of the magical dick in books. This is one of my absolute no-go's. NOT OK. Here we have Elias, fresh out of rehab - again - feeling like crap and still an addict - because you are not healed after rehab - and with a whole lot of issues. And in the beginning I was okay with how it all developed. He was not instantly okay, he was tempted, he felt weak, he tried to substitute one deathly substance with another. It might not have been the most accurate description, but I'm not reading romance books because they all portay reality so well. My real issue probably started halfway through the story. Because once Elias and Caden were fucking - pardon, making love - it all was just fine and dandy. Which, okay, isn't even that far off in the beginning. Right after rehab, falling into a new relationship, feeling all the love for one person, needing them as an anchor, is not unrealistic. But not experiencing the crash afterwards? Battling addiction with only one person as real support, and without learning to actually stand on their own two feet again?! No. Way. It's jsut not possible. Granted, love can survive something like this, make the addict feel stronger and/or more willing to fight. But it can NOT substitue for everything else. Which is exactly what happened here. And it pissed me off royally.

The Writing. It did not work for me at all. It's not really bad. It just didn't touch me. There were some constant repetitions that annoyed me, and parts of the dialogue felt too stilted and akward. Most of all, I felt like things were told to me rather then shown, and in a very simple way too. Like I couldn't understand what the author wanted to tell me without him spelling it out specifically. Which is really not what I'm looking for in a book. For example, you don't have to tell me again and again how hard and cold someone acts, looks AND talks - I get it. I even get it if you just show me the actions and leave the actual words completely out of it.

So yeah, I was so not happy with this book. I probably should have DNFed it, but I didn't want to. Firstly, because it came with high praise from people I adore. Secondly, because I could see the potential - in the story and the writing - and I was hoping for better chapters. Granted, they didn't come, but I still wanted to try.

So now here I am, grumpy and unhappy, writing a really grumpy and unhappy review. And feeling like the odd one out. But, it can't be helped, so I'm giving it 1.5 stars rounded up to 2, because potential was there, execution just rubbed me the wrong way. Hard. With a metal sponge.

Now I'm done. I promise.

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