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review 2017-08-03 13:00
Kokoro
Kokoro - Keith Yatsuhashi

For the biggest part of Kokoro I felt like I was missing a lot of it. It is of course my own fault for not realizing it was a sequel before getting the book, but still this is one of these books I would certainly not recommend reading as a stand-alone as you will probably feel as lost as I did.

It's presented as a combination of Japanese folklore and science-fiction, and at times it felt like I was reading a manga (without the pictures), but the story moved incredibly fast and was at times a bit overwhelming. Due to this, I never really got invested with the characters, either on Higo or on Earth. If I had liked Kokoro better, I would have certainly checked out Kojiki too, as I would have like to see how it all started, but as it stands, I'm rather hesitant and think I'm going to pass.

Thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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review 2017-01-09 21:36
Books of 1916: Part Three
Light and Darkness - Soseki Natsume
Kusamakura and Kokoro by Soseki NATSUME (Japanese Edition) - kisaragishogo
Grass on the Wayside (Michikusa) - Soseki Natsume,Translated and with an Introduction by Edwin McClellan
The Magic Mountain - Thomas Mann,John E. Woods
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man - Seamus Deane,James Joyce
Stephen Hero - James Joyce
Ulysses - James Joyce Ulysses - James Joyce
Exiles - James Joyce

Books of 1916: Part Three: Natsume Soseki and James Joyce

 

Light and Darkness by Natsume Soseki

 

This unfinished novel, which was serialized in a newspaper, was Natsume Soseki’s last work, as he died of an ulcer in 1916. As the story begins, the main character Tsuda is going to have an operation on his intestines that sounds incredibly unsound and unclean. Think of the horrible and bizarre medical care we get today and then imagine it 100 times worse! So I was really worried about what was going to happen to Tsuda and felt that he was putting his head in the sand by worrying about his money troubles and his relationship with his wife, etc. But it turned out that the book really was about those things. Tsuda’s illness and operation ended up seeming more metaphorical than an important plot point.

 

I’m sorry to say that I really struggled to get from one end of this book to the other. I adored Natsume Soseki’s other books Kokoro and Grass on the Wayside. They were so lovely and brilliant. But he didn’t get a chance to edit this book and get it into shape, plus it sounds like he was sick and worried the whole time he was writing it. The afterword said that some critics consider this novel a “postmodern masterpiece” precisely because it is unfinished. But it wasn’t the lack of ending that did me in, it was the whole middle of the book, which dragged and was hard for me to focus on. I liked hearing from the point of view of Tsuda’s wife, O-Nobu, except that it went on and on without resolution. I also liked seeing all the period details of Japanese life, especially now that I’ve actually been to Japan.

 

Tsuda was a little bit like the main character in Grass on the Wayside in that he didn’t have very good social skills and tended to say things that made people feel bad without meaning to. The story really picked up at the end, when we finally learn Tsuda’s secret, that he has never gotten over the woman he used to love, and he goes to see her in a sanatorium, sort of like the one in The Magic Mountain except Japanese of course. His pretext is that he’s recovering from the surgery and he wants to take the waters, but naturally I was wondering if his pretext would turn out to be the truth and he would never leave. This was the section that I enjoyed the most but of course it came to an abrupt end.

 

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce

 

When I think of James Joyce, I always think of three people in my life who felt very strongly about him. First was my mother, who was a big James Joyce fan and talked to me a lot about him. Second, a boyfriend I had who was also a big Joyce fan, and we used to read bits of Stephen Hero and Ulysses out loud to each other. Third, my wife Aine, who had been forced to read some Joyce in secondary school in County Clare and absolutely hated him, and all other Irish writers she read in school (except Oscar Wilde.) She said they were all pretentious wankers. Early on, I had to work hard to convince her that James Joyce was not a Protestant, as she had lumped him together in her mind with Synge, Yeats, Shaw etc. In fact, just now when I read her this paragraph to see if she endorsed my characterization of her views, I had to persuade her once again that Joyce was not Anglo-Irish.

 

I read Portrait of the Artist As A Young Man in 2002, sure that I was going to love it as much as I loved everything else I’d read by Joyce. And indeed I was hooked by the opening page (“When you wet the bed, first it is warm and then it gets cold.”) I loved reading about the childhood of this sensitive boy Stephen Dedalus, and how his family argued at the dinner table about Parnell, and all about the scary priests who ran everything. But then I got to the part where Stephen starts going to prostitutes at around the age of fifteen, and I was completely bewildered and grossed out. Then he catches religion and becomes devout. Then he starts rabbiting on about art and aestheticism.

 

I had utterly lost sympathy with the protagonist and the author. Not only that, this Stephen Dedalus character began to remind me incredibly strongly of the Joyce-worshipping boyfriend, whom I had just broken up with weeks earlier. They were both totally pretentious and couldn’t keep it in their pants! (This is the same boyfriend who would get me so angry, the one I mentioned earlier in my review of These Twain. He’s certainly getting a harsh edit in these book reviews. Who knew he was so inextricably linked to 1916? He did have many good qualities, which were not at the forefront of my mind when read Portrait of the Artist.)

 

I ended up despising this novel. I bet if I re-read it now having had more life experience, I would have a more gentle and forgiving eye, but I probably never will. (Also, what kind of person likes Stephen Hero but not this one, when Stephen Hero is just an earlier draft of the same book? I think it’s pretty clear that the problem was mainly me, or mainly the ex-boyfriend.) I do get another chance to give James Joyce a fair shake in 1918 with his play Exiles.

 

I inherited my mom’s copy of this novel. It’s all marked up with notes, including D.H. Lawrence’s assessment of Joyce—“too terribly would-be and done-on-purpose, utterly without spontaneity or real life”—to which I say, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. Much more magically, this copy contains photographs of me and my mom and Aine. Look at how happy we all were back then! These were from my birthday, in 2010 or even earlier.

 

 

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review 2015-06-30 04:21
Kokoro
Kokoro - Sōseki Natsume,Edwin McClellan

One of the most famous works of Japanese literature, Kokoro is a masterpiece exploring themes of loneliness and the death of the Meiji era.

 

It was also really depressing. So while intellectually I know it was a good book, it wasn't really all that enjoyable to read. That's just my own personal preference, though.

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review 2015-05-14 19:31
Connection Disruption
Kokoro Connect Vol. 3 - Anda Sadanatsu,CUTEG

Kokoro Connect gets more serious in vol. 3, which leaves me wondering how long this series will continue.  So far we've had quite a lot of character development in just three short volumes, we've come so far and already the characters find themselves facing life and death decisions, involving each others lives!

 

Iori and Taichi have been moving steadily forward in their romance, but just as Taichi gets enough courage to ask Iori out, tragedy strikes...or rather Heartseed strikes.  Not only causing Iori to fall into the river, he also switches Taichi with Yui so that she's not fast enough to react to the situation and Iori ends up in the hospital.

 

As the kids are gathered waiting to hear about Iori's condition Heartseed approaches them and lets them in on a secret, Iori's body is dying, but her soul doesn't have to, one of them could take her place and die in her body, leaving her alive in theirs.  But, of course, it's up to them to decide who's soul will be in that dying body.

 

It's billed as a romantic comedy, but also has science fiction elements and though there are many humorous moments, there are more serious considerations about identity, friendship and relationships, which are much more deeply explored than most shoujo comedy manga.  The plot actually has a lot of substance.

 

I'd recommend this series for teens and adults who are looking for more plot based, serious manga stories involving high school life and relationships.

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review 2015-03-25 00:00
Kokoro
Kokoro - Sōseki Natsume,Meredith McKinney Introduction
About the Title
Acknowledgments
Suggestions for Further Reading


--Kokoro

Notes
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