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review 2014-05-20 14:57
Review: Behemoth: Seppuku (Rifters book 4 of 4)
Behemoth: Seppuku - Peter Watts

Originally read January 24, 2014


Behemoth: Seppuku is the first sequel in this series that I enjoyed as much as the original Starfish.  I can’t put a finger on exactly what elevated this book over books two and three, but I found myself more invested in the story and I had trouble putting the book down.  When I did put it down, I often continued to think about the story off and on until I was able to pick it up again.  In fact, this morning I woke up half an hour before my alarm went off and started thinking about the book.  I ended up picking it up and reading it until it was officially time to wake up.  Usually, if I wake up early, I just go back to sleep!


As with the third book, there were very few passages of a primarily technical nature.  The book was more story and character-based, and I think it moved at a faster pace than the earlier books.  The ending was decent but not amazing.  It was what I would call a “hopeful” ending (with plenty of unhappiness mixed in), but it definitely didn’t wrap everything up.  I had a few unanswered questions after I’d finished it and there were some small threads that were left hanging.


I also wasn’t very happy with the return on my investment in reading the third book.  I don't want to risk elaborating on that comment, not even in spoiler tags, but I imagine anybody who’s read both books will understand what I mean.

(spoiler show)


Overall, I would have liked a more extensive ending.  However, I have to admit it’s pretty rare for me to feel completely satisfied with an ending, especially if I like the story.  If I really liked a story, I almost always want more details before the story comes to an end.


Note: The author has made all the books in this series available for free under a Creative Commons License.  You can download them here: http://www.rifters.com/real/shorts.htm.


The third and the fourth book in this series were originally intended to be published as a single book entitled Behemoth.  So, on the author's site, they are packaged together as a single book.

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review 2014-04-13 23:20
Patriotism (Second Edition) (New Directions Pearls) 2nd (second) Edition by Mishima, Yukio published by New Directions (2010) -

The Sino-Japanese tradition was very important to Yukio Mishima (January 14, 1925 – November 25, 1970), who held strong ideals of the militaristic glory days of old Japan. 

In Patriotism(1960), Mishima uses the love-death theme executing the ancient ritual suicide, viscerally playing it out through a recently married couple. Lieutenant Takeyama returns home following the failed coup d'état of 1936, the Ni NI Roku Incident. Rather than following orders to execute the rebels- his friends, the young army officer decides to commit suicide- his farewell note would read: "Long Live the Imperial Forces--," revealing his own true ideology. 

The story unfolds in a timeframe of a few hours, in an unsettling and evocative mix of contrasting effects, of sexual and gruesomely graphic scenes, as Mishima manages skillfully and poetically to balance sensuality with darkness.

The lieutenant drew his wife close and kissed her vehemently. As their tongues explored each other's mouths, reaching out into the smooth, moist interior, they felt as if the still- unknown agonies of death had tempered their senses to the keenness of red-hot steel. The agonies they could not yet feel, the distant pains of death, had refined their awareness of pleasure.....

At the touch of his wife's tears on his stomach the lieutenant felt ready to endure with courage the cruelest agonies of his suicide.

Takeyama considers his final act with the courage of a soldier entering battle, to "a death of no less degree and quality than death in the front line." For Reiko who, almost in a dreamlike state, would bravely follow him, honoring their death pact like the dutiful spouse: "The day which, for a soldier's wife, had to come, has come." 
The last moments of this heroic and dedicated couple were such to make the gods weep. 

Mishima's obsession with death was bewildering from a young age, if not plainly disturbing. Death themes frequently appeared even in his earliest works. In Patriotism, the melding of self-annihilation and erotic pleasure is expressed with deep feeling: it is absolutely apparent to this reader that the story was a rehearsal for the plan he had in mind as his own final act on November 25th, 1970. 
See Mishima: A Biography
and wiki on Mishima

In the movie adaptation, YĆ«koku- the Rite of Life and Death, Mishima dramatically (over)played the lead with considered intensity and vigor - his emotional investment in the act of the ritual itself seemed so well-thought out, and so very personal.

My copy of Patriotism is from Death in Midsummer and Other Stories, an extremely worthy collection showcasing Mishima's mastery of the short story form.

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review 2014-03-31 05:23
Mishima: A Biography - John Nathan
The Last Samurai

Two months short of his 46th birthday, on November 25, 1970, Yukio Mishima with a handful of followers and dressed in full uniform, entered the compound of the Japan Self-Defense Force,
gagged and tied up the commander of the JSDF, demanding the assembly of the entire Eastern division ( a gathering of 800 soldiers) to listen to his planned speech: "an appeal to repudiate the post war democracy that robbed Japan of its identity; to restore Japan to her true form, and in the restoration, die."
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When his speech went unheard, muffled by the noise of his audience's jeers, Mishima engaged his final bloody concept,seppuku. His "second" then completed the ritual by beheading him with a long sword. The sequence of events played out dramatically and undeniably like something out of a violent motion picture.

Biographer John Nathan knew Mishima professionally and personally, having translated The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea. His analysis of Mishima's private life and novels led him to believe that his suicide was primarily about his erotic lifelong fascination with death. Mishima wanted passionately to die all his life, and consciously chose "patriotism" as a means to his fantasized, painful "heroic" end.

Mishima was born on January 14, 1925, and birth-named Kimitake Hiraoka (Yukio Mishima would become his pen name). At only 50 days old, his paternal grandmother Natsu Nagai took him away from his mother, Shizue, and moved him into her dark room downstairs of the family home. Natsu was noble born, a highly unstable woman who suffered fits of hysteria as a child. She held Kimitake "prisoner" until he was 12 years old, jealously and fiercely guarding him. She kept rigid control over his upbringing until 1937, when she became too ill to take care of him, paving the way for him finally to live in his parents' household. Nathan insightfully suggests that she possibly hoped to ingrain in her first grandchild the values she believed were the birthright of the noble Nagai.

Natsu exposed Kimitake to Kabuki theatre, and might have contributed in this way to his creative development: taking him to his first play, Chushingura--the Tale of the 47 Ronin --a celebration of feudal allegiance, said to be the most exciting of the great Kabuki classics. Nathan also alludes to her afflicting this impressionable young boy with constant mournful lamentations of a "lost distant past, an elegant past, a past beauty," fueling a romantic longing for "purity and beauty and a fierce impossible desire to be other than himself."

A loner and rarely seen without a book, Kimitake spent time writing poetry and fantasy stories as young as 12 years old, reading works by Oscar Wilde, Rilke, and Tanizaki. His adolescent writing sensibilities were influenced by the Japan Romantics, evolved with an aesthetic formula in which "Beauty, Ecstasy and Death are equivalent." Later, his ideology became ultranationalistic, exalting traditional convictions "worthy of dying for."

Nathan submits Kimitake's latent homosexuality was unintentionally the result of the hostile domestic environment he grew up in, however, this notion that a person's sexual preference is a product of living in a dysfunctional environmentdid not sit well with me - that's a whole 'nother debate! As young as 16, he showed anxiety and disgust at what he sensed was an "unwholesomeness," apologizing for his masquerade of normalcy. This is later reflected in the novel that catapulted him to stardom- Confessions of a Mask

In Februrary 1945, Mishima welcomed the draft into the army, but when Japan surrendered on August 15, and the Emperor called for his subjects to lay down their arms, Mishima, Nathan assumes, might have convulsed with the "existential horror" of being cheated and deprived of that morbid destiny, gleaning from his postwar essays and novels: "The war ended. All I was thinking about, as I listened to the Imperial Rescript announcing the surrender, was the Golden temple. The bond between the temple and myself had been severed. I thought now I shall return to a state in which I exist on one side and beauty on the other. A state which will never improve so long as the world endures."

Mishima found it difficult adapting to postwar reality in the atmosphere of labeling, blacklisting and enforced isolation of "literary war criminals." It was the older, established writers who were being sought and many routes were closed to getting his manuscripts sponsored. His first novel, Thieves, was violently lyrical and in spite of a glowing preface by his new mentor, Yasunari Kawabata, the novel was ignored. Even with some guidance and editing, his stories went unnoticed and "no one who mattered was impressed."
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The autobiographical novel Confessions of a Mask, was a book he felt he must write in order to survive. It was a therapeutic effort, a process of self-discovery for Mishima, who finally validated within himself a suppressed homosexuality, and who was incapable of feeling alive or of showing passion, except in sadomasochistic fantasies which stank of blood and death. "This book is the last testament I want to leave behind in the domain of death where I have resided until now.

His decision to join the Army Self Defense Force (ASDF) in 1967 was partly for patriotic concern, and partly to feed his need for glory - of the hero, not the writer. In his mind, he had taken his first step in becoming a warrior, a samurai- a persona he obsessed over.
               photo image_zps4392df11.jpg
"The samurai's profession is the business of death. No matter how peaceful the age in which he lives, death is the basis of all his action. The moment he fears and avoids death he is no longer a samurai."

Rumors of a nomination for the Nobel prize ( for the third time) buzzed around Mishima in 1968. However, the prize went to his old mentor, Yasunari Kawabata. Many close to Mishima suspected this disappointment about the Nobel prize had a significant impact on his decision to end his life.

Mishima was a man who felt less real in this world than in the realm of his poetry and novels; a deeply tortured man who yearned for his eroticized, violently lyrical literary work to be acknowledged; but his brutal, unheard last words were the veritable final blow. Clearly, he was more suited to the bygone feudal days of Japan-- an accomplished swordsman loyal to the empire, who grabbed at the romantic hero's painful death he had longed for all his life. Nathan thoroughly probed Mishima's psyche through his novels; his conclusions into this tragic life lead him to hope finally that "he found what he expected to find inside and beyond the pain."

Shizue, his mother, summed it up best at his memorial, "Be happy for him.. This was the first time in his life Kimitake did something he always wanted to do."



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review 2013-05-28 08:46



At the moment on You Tube in booktubia everybody seems to be reading something Japanese whether it be manga or Kazuo Ishiguro or Haruki Murakami.  I haven’t had the pleasure of reading any of their works butRemains of the Day and 1Q84 (Books 1-3) stare me down every time I pass my bookshelf.  So in honour of all this love for Japanese literature I decided to read something from long ago, something that I’d read in high school my senior year.  It’s Patriotism by Yukio Mishima.

7420324Patriotism is a novelette packed with poignant and intense images.  Disguised in simple packaging, with its stark white cover splattered with a few drops of blood, it looks as if someone really did bleed on it.  The purity and straightforwardness of the cover echoes the story.  A lieutenant in the Japanese army, Shinji Takeyama decides to commit suicide, seppuku after learning that his friends have become mutineers.  Since he knows his duty will be to hunt them down and to kill them, he is torn between his duty as lieutenant and friendship.  Reiko, his wife, follows him in this sudden tragic act, for loyalty and devotion are the roles of Japanese women who are married to soldiers.  Shinji and Reiko end their lives together in a ritual that evokes passion, devotion, and patriotism.

“ON THE TWENTY-EIGHTH of February 1936 (on the third day, that is, of the February 26 incident), Lieutenant Shinji Takeyama of the Kanoe Transport Battalion-profoundly disturbed by the knowledge that his closest colleagues had been with the mutineers in the beginning, and indignant at the imminent prospect of Imperial troops attacking Imperial troops-took his officer’s sword ceremonially disemboweled himself in the eight-mat room of his private resident in the sixth block of Aoba-cho, Yotsuya Ward.  His wife, Reiko, followed him, stabbing herself to death.”(Patriotism, p. 3) 

The scene is set and we are read about the few hours that pass before Shinji and Reiko’s tragic end.  We start hearing about their wedding day.  The descriptions depict their differences and how they complete each other. “Shinji is described as strong, severe looking, wide-eyed, standing protectively next to his bride.  Whereas, Reiko is described as round soft eyes, beautiful, sensuous, and refined.” (Patriotism, p. 5)  They complete each other perfectly.  The narrator contemplates that people will look at their wedding picture when they are found after their suicide and think that maybe they were cursed; that their union was too good to be true.

The suicide is an orchestrated ritual that will mesmerize you and shock you.  They seem to be acting as methodical robots toward their death but it’s clear that their love for each other is deep and passionate.  They perform simple everyday tasks before the end trying to kindle the bit of life they have left.  Not once does Reiko question her husband’s decision but soldiers on steadfast, while adding last-minute touches to the dramatic finale.

The images in this novel are striking and symbolic, all on a back drop of white and red like the cover of the book.  Mishima takes the reader through this horrid ritual but makes it appear to be art at its perfection.  Disturbing.  The attention to detail is consistent with Japanese art and culture.  The images of red pouring over the pages will invade your serenity.  The color red symbolises hardiness, bravery, strength, like in the Japanese flag.  The color white in the Japanese flag stands for  peace and honesty, which Shinji and Reiko both find in patriotism.  In essence, that is nothing more than being loyal.

Yukio Mishima (1925-1970), born Kimitake Hiraoka, was one of the most prolific Japanese writers of the 20th century.  He was a short story writer, novelist,  playwright, poet, essayist, and critic.  Some of the principal themes he wrote about were sexuality, political change, and death.  Having been nominated three times for the Nobel Prize for literature, it is believed he lost in 1968 because of his right-wing activities.  Mishima was a jack-of-all-trades because he was a body builder and model as well.  His death is probably just as well-known as some of his great work because he committed suicide, seppuku, after a failed coup d’état.  Patriotismcontains a lot of who Mishima was and what he believed in.



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