Friday, March 6, 2015

Suicide Notes


Michael Thomas Ford
Harper Teen
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars



Summary



I'm not crazy. I don't see what the big deal is about what happened. But apparently someone does think it's a big deal because here I am. I bet it was my mother. She always overreacts.


Fifteen-year-old Jeff wakes up on New Year's Day to find himself in the hospital. Make that the psychiatric ward. With the nutjobs. Clearly, this is all a huge mistake. Forget about the bandages on his wrists and the notes on his chart. Forget about his problems with his best friend, Allie, and her boyfriend, Burke. Jeff's perfectly fine, perfectly normal, not like the other kids in the hospital with him. Now they've got problems. But a funny thing happens as his forty-five-day sentence drags on: the crazies start to seem less crazy.

Compelling, witty, and refreshingly real, Suicide Notes is a darkly humorous novel from award-winning author Michael Thomas Ford that examines that fuzzy line between "normal" and the rest of us.




My Review


Suicide Notes has 45 chapters, each one representing a day in the life of 15-year-old Jeff, who is in the psychiatric ward of a hospital after his suicide attempt on New Year’s Eve.

Trust me; this story is not nearly as depressing as it sounds.

Jeff is quick, witty, sarcastic, and absolutely hilarious as he manages to evade any “real” discussion with his psychiatrist, Dr. Katzrupus, also known as Cat Poop, about what made him try to kill himself.

During his 45-day “sentence”, Jeff learns more about himself as he endures individual and group therapy, makes friends, experiences grief and loss, and comes to terms with his sexuality.

The story takes a more serious turn when Jeff gradually opens up to Cat Poop, and details of his family life, his friendships, the events that led to his suicide attempt, and the reason for it begin to unfold.

I really loved this story told from Jeff’s perspective and had a very difficult time putting it down. His thoughts, feelings, confusion and pain all rang true and brought me back to my own teenage years. I would highly recommend this story to teens that are gay, straight, or somewhere in between, and to adults who remember what it was like, or just want to understand.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

THE NIGHT INSPECTOR BY FREDERICK BUSCH

The Night InspectorThe Night Inspector by Frederick Busch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”It was the War. The interests of money and the will of our Commander decreed it. Battle for the rights of the industrialists, battle for the rights of the agriculturists, battle on behalf of bullyrag Abe, who saw himself, I insist, as the issue: my will, my national entity, my idea of indivisibility. Crush the farmboys and the desperate Negroes into one another with a thunderclap. And see to it--be sure!--one William Bartholomew receives the national hoofprint in his head. I’m a coin imprinted with Abe’s earnestness.”

 photo The_Sharpshooter_on_Picket_Duty__2_1863_zpsgzzaqh3n.jpg
The Sharpshooter by Winslow Homer on display at the Portland Museum of Art. Billy implies that he was the model for this painting.

I would say that William Bartholomew had just cause in being bitter, but when we weigh the cosmic scales of justice there is generally always a few ingots of information that we may not choose to put on the scale for fear that it will determine a different outcome contrary to our feelings. It is rare that a finger is not on the scale even by those that are duly elected to judge the rest of us. For those of us not wearing robes we may allow emotion to override the details, but then who among us has the right to judge Billy Bartholomew.

He was sanctioned in what he did. He was a killer for Abe.

”The colonel was a girlish-looking young man in a creased but clean-looking uniform, and he had long, fine fingers with which he tapped on the air, as if working out the proper phrase, or, for all I knew, the rhyme scheme of a poem. I put a bullet into the side of his head, which appeared to disintegrate as he went over, hands and elbows loose in the air, a cloud of sprayed blood remaining behind an instant where he had been. The ink spilled, and the pen hung in the air although the writer was gone while the shot still echoed.”

Billy was a sharpshooter. A man lauded and reviled in the same breath.

Every man in that war had the opportunity to become a killer. Some fired their weapons high on purpose. Some thought God was guiding their bullets. Some believed it was just a damn dirty job that had to be done. Some didn’t know they liked killing until the war introduced them to the Devil. Some killed themselves rather than jeopardize their souls in taking the life of another. Some men reveled in finally being able to embrace their baser natures.

Billy was a killer long before he joined the Union army.

His Uncle took it upon himself to see to his brother’s family after Billy’s Dad died. He was reasonably wealthy so the family was not a burden to him. He was a businessman and didn’t see the sense in giving money without something in return. He was very clear in his demands. It was either his brother’s wife or his brother’s son, it didn’t matter which, but one of them was going to have to service his carnal appetite.

It wasn’t so much that Billy killed him, but how he killed him. Which brings us back to his decision to be a sharpshooter. There is a darkness in him. He wasn’t up in those trees shooting men for Abe. He was up in those trees shooting men because he was good at it. He liked it.

Sure, he had doubts. He wasn’t a total psychopath, but maybe it had more to do with the fact that he could hear the hoof beats of retribution. Abe wasn’t going to be there when that horseman arrived. Billy was going to have to face it on his own.

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Abe carried the burden of what he asked you to do Billy. His face shows the blemishes of war.

”My head burned from within, like one of the ruined manorial houses, all roasted black shell and sullen embers, which I had seen before the hunters took me down.”

It was an unlucky shot. It was a bullet from a mirror, his counterpart on the other side. It was a bullet meant to kill him, but it exploded the magazine of his rifle, sending shrapnel and liquid fire into his face.

He begged them to kill him, but a debt is a debt and Billy hadn’t paid all of his yet.

He wears a mask. His face is a horror show too damaged to repair.

He moves to New York, the city of commerce. He starts making money. He places investments for himself and others. He meets Jessie a prostitute who lifts his mask and kisses the rigid scars of his battlefield face.

”I wondered who had passed down eyes of such coloration if her mother was African or Polynesian, and her father a slave. There was a white man in the woodpile, I thought. I thought, too, of the loveliness of her face, the strength of her long throat, the savagery in her tattoos. She was a letter I had read with my fingers, like a man long blind who at last has a message he was years before intended to receive.”

Jessie has plans for Billy. Everyone craves affection. A monster needs it more than most. The tattered remnants of his soul are hers for the taking.

 photo 24ed6cd8-fabc-4490-91b7-71d808f2d222_zpsfebddrdu.png
Herman Melville

Bartholomew meets the writer of The Whale. A man ignored by readers. A man now besot with drink. A man who instead of devoting his time to scribbling is working for the government as a Custom Inspector on the docks of New York. Frederick Busch does an excellent job bringing Melville to life. For those that are big fans of Melville this will be the next best thing to meeting him. You may not greet him at his best, but you will certainly be left with a view of him that rings true.

To help Jessie Billy Bartholomew knows he needs Melville. He takes him on a tour of the seamier side of town. A look through a peephole in a bordello lends weight to Billy’s request of Melville. It also leaves everyone in the party feeling dirty. ”I showed you a look at bad behavior and sorrow. Like it was minstrels kicking and strumming just for you.” They paid to look through the peephole to give them distance from these disgusting liberties being taken, but by being an observer without action they became part of the problem.

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There is ugliness in this novel beyond the disfigured grotesqueness of Billy’s shattered face. With poverty rampant in 1867 and so many more widowed women and orphaned children from the war vulnerable to the desires and profits of the strong, it wasn’t only the South suffering through darkest days. Busch doesn’t shy away from the grit, the stench, and the ruthlessness of this time period. In fact, he pushes the reader up to the peephole and whispers in your ear…”what are you going to do about it?”


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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Southern Drama

Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison
1992
Reviewed by Diane K.M.
My rating: 3 out of 5 stars


This book is beautifully written, but I did not enjoy it. It is a grim story of poverty, child abuse and rape. The prose may be lovely but the drama is harrowing.

"Things come apart so easily when they have been held together with lies."

Bastard Out of Carolina is the story of Ruth Anne Boatwright, but everyone calls her Bone. She was born out of wedlock and doesn't know who her daddy is. Her mama tried several times to get the word "illegitimate" removed from Bone's birth certificate, but the courthouse clerk just smirked at her.

"Mama hated to be called trash, hated the memory of every day she'd ever spent bent over other people's peanuts and strawberry plants while they stood tall and looked at her like she was a rock on the ground. The stamp on that birth certificate burned her like the stamp she knew they'd tried to put on her. No good, lazy, shiftless. She'd work her hands to claws, her back to a shovel shape, her mouth to a bent and awkward smile — anything to deny what Greenville County wanted to name her."

Her mama eventually married a man named Glen, and that is when Bone's real troubles began. Glen couldn't keep a job or pay the bills, so the family often went hungry and had to move a lot. Glen also had a fierce temper and started molesting and beating Bone, and she didn't know what to do. Her mama seemed to know Glen disliked Bone, but she said she loved him so much that she wouldn't leave him. After several years of abuse, Bone's aunt saw the bruises on her, and she was finally taken away.

Poor Bone. She blamed herself for making Glen angry, and she hated that her mama couldn't protect her. At times she would get so mad that she wanted to fight him, and other times she just wanted to disappear. Those passages were some of the most heartbreaking in the book.

"I was no Cherokee. I was no warrior. I was nobody special. I was just a girl, scared and angry. When I saw myself in Daddy Glen's eyes, I wanted to die. No, I wanted to be already dead, cold and gone. Everything felt hopeless. He looked at me and I was ashamed of myself. It was like sliding down an endless hole, seeing myself at the bottom, dirty, ragged, poor, stupid. But at the bottom, at the darkest point, my anger would come and I would know that he had no idea who I was, that he never saw me as the girl who worked hard for Aunt Raylene, who got good grades no matter how often I changed schools, who ran errands for Mama and took good care of Reese. I was not dirty, not stupid, and if I was poor, whose fault was that?"

I had previously read Dorothy Allison's memoir Two or Three Things I Know For Sure, so I knew that this novel was semi-autobiographical. From the author's afterword:

"Writing Bastard, I had imagined that girl — or rather some girl of thirteen or so who hated herself and her life. I had imagined that, reading Bone's story, a girl like her would see what I intended — that being made the object of someone else's contempt and rage did not make you contemptible. I was arguing against the voice that had told me I was a monster — at five, nine, and fifteen. I was arguing for the innocence and worth of that child — I who had never believed in my own innocence." 

"The mythology of rape and child abuse had done me so much damage. People from families like mine — southern working poor with high rates of illegitimacy and all too many relatives who have spent time in jail — we are the people who are seen as the class who does not care for their children, for whom rape and abuse and violence are the norm. That such assumptions are false, that the rich are just as likely to abuse their children as the poor, and that southerners do not have a monopoly on either violence or illegitimacy are realities that are difficult to get people to recognize. The myths are so strong they subvert sociological data and personal accounts."

Truthfully, the afterword was my favorite part of the book. Besides sharing her motivations for writing the novel, Allison also discussed how some schools around the country have censored and banned the book, and how she grieved whenever she heard such news. If you want to read Bastard Out of Carolina, try and find a copy that has the afterword (mine was the 20th anniversary edition). 

That said, I don't know if I can recommend this novel because it was so grim. I am glad that some readers have found comfort in seeing issues of abuse brought to light, but it will be awhile before I can shake those awful images. 

"I do not want to be the person who acts always out of fear or denial or old shame and older assumptions. I want to be my best self — the one who set out to tell a story that might make a difference in the lives of people who read it. Unafraid, stubborn, resilient, and capable of enormous compassion — someone like Bone."

Freaky Deaky

Freaky DeakyFreaky Deaky by Elmore Leonard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Former bomb squad detective Chris Mankowski has trouble fall into his lap in the form of Greta Wyatt, aka Ginger Jones, an actress who has been raped by local millionaire Woody Ricks. But what does that have to do with Skip and Robin, the former hippies blackmailing Ricks, or his driver Donnell?

There are two things (that we'll concern ourselves with in this review) that I'm unable to resist: an Elmore Leonard book I haven't read yet and a bargain. Since this was both of those things, being 1.99 on the Kindle when I nabbed it, it was impossible for me to resist.

Freaky Deaky is a tale of two former hippies seeking revenge, a former bomb squad detective riding to the rescue of a rape victim, and of a former black panther wanting to get his cut of an alcoholic millionaire's money. Pretty much par for the course for an Elmore Leonard novel.

The more of old Dutch's novels I read, the more convinced I am that the man was slicker than a stick of butter going down a bobsled track. The dialogue is the star attraction, as always with Leonard books, and one of the criminals is at least as interesting as the protagonist, another Leonard standard. While I really liked Chris Mankowski, I thought Donnell Lewis was even more interesting.

Even though Freaky Deaky was one of those Elmore Leonard novels that passes as quickly as a summer day, it was not without some flaws. Chris and Donnell got a long a little too well near the end, probably owing to Leonard's flying by the seat of his pants style of writing. Also, I thought Chris and Greta fell into bed a little too fast. I'm by no means an expert on rape and rape psychology but I wouldn't have thought a rape victim would be up for consensual sex two days after the event. Also, I thought it was pretty high on the douche spectrum that Chris would go for Greta so soon. Other than that, Freaky Deaky was pretty good, the usual serpentine Leonard book of cool dialogue and double crosses.

Wait, I have to point out one last thing that bugged me. In the ebook version that I read, the last 20% was extraneous material like excerpts from other Leonard books. I thought I had a fifth of the book left and suddenly it was over.

While I think Elmore Leonard is one of the slicker crime writers to ever live, this is definitely a second or third tier Leonard book. Three out of five stars.

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Monday, March 2, 2015

Magical Venice Via Lonely Planet

Lonely Planet Venice & The Veneto: City GuideLonely Planet Venice & The Veneto: City Guide by Damien Simonis
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Venice...yeah, it's pretty damn magical. Not only that, but it's also hard to encapsulate in a book. Lonely Planet tried, and did yeoman's work, but pages of words pale in comparison to the reality.

description

Venice & the Veneto was going to be my gateway to the city. I was going to read this prior to a trip me and my wife took there back in 2010. With this book, I would discover and map out the Venice portion of our trip. What I ended up getting out of it was that you really just have to be there. Go and let the place create your adventure.

My favorite part of Venice is the "streets". Those are ironic quotes, because many Venice streets are about the size of narrow back alleys in most other places. Frequently I was able to reach out my arms and touch the walls on either sides of the street. The buildings are usually two to three stories high. Sunlight comes at a premium. Ah, but when you find one of those little bridges over a canal or perhaps where a couple streets meet at a relatively open square, and the light shines in upon the water and ancient architecture, for me that right there is what Venice is all about.

The history here is long and impressive. So very much to see and do, what with the cathedrals, palaces and museums. Of course the glass blowing industry on the island of Murano should not to be missed. We were only visiting Venice for three days. It was barely enough. We missed quite a few things that I'd like to go back to see some day.

Perhaps the most important lesson I learned from Lonely Planet's guidebook was that when traipsing around Venice you can't expect to find what you are looking for and it's a fool's errand to try. Yes, do put together a list of things you'd like to see within the city, find them on a map (definitely don't forget to bring the map or reliable gps!) and then hope that you might stumble upon a few of them within the fantastical labyrinth that is Venice!






















Reviewed by James L. Thane
Four out of five stars

This is a gripping thriller with a "ripped-from-the-headlines" plot that focuses on international terrorism. At the heart of the story are two longtime friends--virtually brothers--named Valentine Pescatore and Raymond Mercer. The two grew up together in Chicago, and Raymond, who loves the glamorous, high-risk life he sees in movies like "Carlito's Way," leads his younger friend into some increasingly dangerous situations. Finally one night, Raymond asks Valentine to back him up as he attempts to rip off a drug dealer. For Valentine, that's one step too far and he walks away.

The two do not see each other again for years. Valentine goes to work for the Border Patrol and later winds up working for a private investigator in Argentina. Then, out of the blue one afternoon as Valentine is at the airport, he suddenly encounters his old friend Raymond. Is this by accident, or has Raymond contrived to engineer the meeting?

The two catch up over a meal and Valentine discovers that Raymond has converted to Islam. But what he's doing these days isn't exactly clear. The two exchange phone numbers and go on their separate ways. Only a few days later, there's a horrific terrorist attack at a Buenos Aires shopping center.

Almost immediately, the evidence points to Valentine's buddy Raymond as a possible mastermind of the attack and of others that are yet in the planning stages. With that the book is off and running as Valentine races around the globe attempting to find Raymond and head off the future attacks he may be planning. Along the way, Valentine hooks up with a sexy French agent and the chase takes them from Latin America to France to Bagdad and beyond.

It's a compelling story, mostly because it has the ring of truth about it--or at least the terrorist plots seem scarily realistic. One might debate whether a lone agent like Valentine could realistically play such a leading role in trying to break up the plots, but that's a minor point, and the story will leave readers glued to their chairs watching the action unfold. This is another solid effort from the author of Triple Crossing.

Cheerleading By The Cheerless

Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer WithinWriting Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Natalie Goldberg's whiny drone sapped the life out of anything of value she had to say. And what did she have to say? Nothing beyond what other books of this kind say and say with more clarity.

This is just your bog-standard cheerleader-style writing advice, but delivered in a cheerless voice.

GO YOU! YOU CAN DO IT!!!

Yeah, that sort of stuff can be inspiring, but a whole book's worth will take the punch out of any pep talk. Plus, when Goldberg says it, it sounds like, "Go...you. *sigh* You can...do it?"

Clearly it was a mistake to listen to this one on tape. Hey, I had an old car with a cassette deck and 30 minutes to and from work to kill. Roadrage can be quelled with a good audiobook. Unfortunately. Writing Down the Bones made me want to play pinball with my Hyundai, using the other cars on the highway as the bumpers.

Frankly I found a great deal more worth in Stephen King's On Writing and I'm not even a King fan. Writing Down the Bones won't steer you wrong, hell you might even learn a thing or two, but it nearly had me steering for the nearest bridge abutment.


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Saturday, February 28, 2015

On fire



PACIFIC FIRE
Greg Van Eekhout
Tor Books 2015

Reviewed by carol
Recommended for fans of capers, Locke, UF
 ★    ★    ★    ★  


Water mages. Bounty hunters. Kraken magic. Pirates. Fans of fast paced, fantastical-element thrillers should love Pacific Fire. Clever world-building, a wry dose of humor, and occasional winks at genre conventions all made for an entertaining read.


While connected to events in California Bones, Pacific Fire takes place ten years after the evens in Bones. Sam, magical child of the former ruler of the L.A. Basin, and Daniel, an osteomancer, have been on the run ever since, never in one place for more than a few weeks. It’s a lonely existence, and Sam is desperate for a friend. Or girlfriend. The chief of the L.A. Department of Water and Power tracks them both down to their Salton Sea hideout with a warning. Daniel’s former guardian Otis has a new plan to dominate the magical factions fighting over Los Angeles, and wants Sam to act as the power source. Daniel determines to bring the fight to Otis, but events sideline him, leaving Sam in charge. Sam heads to a safehouse run by some Emmas, clones of one of the more brilliant L.A. osteomancers. From there it is a race to disable Otis’ plans.


Characters were interesting. At least, I felt they were interesting, but I may have been misled by my involvement with the prior book. Told from a third person limited point of view, the book blurb definitely misleads when it quotes Sam’s thoughts in first person. I was actually glad for the change in voice, but be forewarned.  The Emmas were particularly stand-out characters, perhaps because Van Eekhout had to take pains to distinguish them. I might have exclaimed, “go, girl” when Em said:
I didn’t partner up with you because I have a crush on you. I didn’t partner up with you because I was swayed by your charismatic leadership qualities. I’m not interested in being your sidekick while you see redemption, or closure, or trot ahead on a quest to fulfill your destiny. Not everything is about you, Sam.

It’s a ‘huzzah’ moment of self-awareness, guaranteed to hit most female readers in the feels. I’m a person that’s reasonably willing to follow the yellow brick road of a well-made story, so it was only at the finish that I realized she was the sidekick, even if she had her own motivations for going.  Likewise, on reflection, I realized Sam’s voice didn’t make any sense. One of the quotes I highlighted–because I loved it–actually shouldn’t have been thought, because Sam didn’t attend school in any normal sense of the word. I realized VanEekout was taking some shortcuts with Sam’s voice, and that it sounded far more contemporary–and inappropriate–for the child of a thief, and someone who has been on the run for ten years:
There was something about Em that made him think of high school hallways and solving mysteries. Also, he liked her nose.


Daniel hasn’t evolved too far from California Bones, except for an increase in paranoia. He still allows guilt to eat at him, but his friendships keep him from getting too far off track. The dialogue between him and his best friend Moth is always entertaining:

Daniel took another long sip. ‘You know that thing about true friends, how they’re the ones who can tell you anything?’
‘Yeah,’ said Moth, a little puffed up.
‘I hate that thing.'”


The emotional center of the book wobbled midway through and then lost control entirely at the finish. Like The Rook, the story needs to walk the knife’s edge of risk and humor; it needs to take itself seriously enough that the reader worries about the outcome, but not so seriously that we can enjoy a self-aware wink on the way. When the stakes get truly high, with a series of devastating outcomes, the story loses its balance. Not terribly, and potentially saveable in the the third book. I will also add a general note of disapproval for the only technically resolved ending. 

Fans of The Rook (review) and Lies of Locke Lamora will likely enjoy this series by VanEekhout. I’m still looking forward to the third book, but I think I’ll wait on adding this to the library. Many thanks to NetGalley and Macmillan-Tor/Forge for the review copy.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Interview Questions and Answers


Sharon McDonnell
Alpha Books
Reviewed by Nancy
5 out of 5 stars



Summary



Giving compelling answers to interview questions can make the difference between winning a job and unemployment. The Pocket Idiot's Guide to Interview Questions and Answers will arm you with answers to the 150 toughest interview questions. Whether you read the book cover-to- cover to prepare for an initial interview or uses it as a last-minute reference on the way to a final interview, you will be prepared to offer clear, concise, and thoughtful answers. You'll also learn what questions to ask your interviewer to help you figure out if the job is right for you.

Pocket size gives you easy-to-access information to prepare for an interview Helps you understand what information interviewers are really trying to uncover with their questions.


My Review



Thanks to Overdrive, I found this very handy little guide to help me prepare for job interviews. After 21 years working in the same company, I was a little anxious and lacking in confidence. The last time I actively searched for jobs, there was no internet. I remember using the newspaper, talking to friends (did the word “networking” even exist in those days?), applying to companies in person, or taking temporary jobs in the hope they would eventually become full time.

This book is very easy to understand and searching for information is a breeze. There is a table of contents and an index. If you need a quick overview on a specific topic, each chapter has a summary at the end. There is also a glossary with relevant terms covered in the book and various online resources for job hunting, links to business journals, career coaching, salaries for numerous industries, non-profit careers, trade associations, and even a site that contains listings for “fun” jobs (CoolWorks.com).

After reading, and with the help of additional information I found online, I felt a lot more confident by the time I went on my first interview and think it may have even helped me get my current job.

This is a very useful resource that I would highly recommend to those in the job market.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

NAOMI BY JUNICHIRO TANIZAKI

NaomiNaomi by Jun'ichirō Tanizaki
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

”It is often said that ‘women deceive men.’ But from my experience, I’d say that it doesn’t start with the woman deceiving the man. Rather, the man, without any prompting, rejoices in being deceived; when he falls in love with a woman, everything she says, whether true or not, sounds adorable to our ears…. I know what you are up to, but I’ll let you tempt me.”

 photo Naomi_zpsg2isarer.jpg
Jōji’s Lolita.

Jōji is a salaryman. He grew up on a wealthy farm in the country and has no desire to return. He enjoys the benefits of living in a city. He is obsessed with breaking from tradition and adopting Western ways. He is twenty-eight when he first sees the beautiful fifteen year old siren working as a café hostess. Naomi is docile and meek and a plan begins to formulate in Jōji’s mind.

He will sculpt her into what he desires.

He visits her family and is shocked by how easily they agree to allow him to take her into his home.

Naomi reminds him of the silent screen actress Mary Pickford. Her skin is pale, much lighter than most Japanese girls. He encourages her to fix her hair like the actress. He buys her western clothes and begins to train her to be the perfect “modern” girl.

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Mary Pickford is the prototype for Naomi.

So in the beginning he has complete control. There are certainly Pygmalion elements to Jōji’s obsession with this sculpted creature. He is a man of honor even though the circumstances do warrant a raised eyebrow. He does not debauch her. He bathes her. He enjoys watching the burgeoning woman emerge from the slender reed he first brought home.

”For me Naomi was the same as a fruit that I’d cultivated myself. I’d labored hard and spared no pains to bring that piece of fruit to its present, magnificent ripeness, and it was only proper that I, the cultivator, should be the one to taste it. “

Jōji’s desire grows as he continues to deny himself the pleasures her body has been so carefully designed to administer to him. There is a shift in power that begins very subtly, but then becomes a full revolution. Naomi is embracing her modernization and has discovered that men find her desirable.

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Naomi embracing her modernization in the 1967 movie adaptation called The Love of an Idiot

”The precious, sacred ground of her skin had been imprinted forever with the muddy tracks of two thieves.”

The Shimizu white peach has been bruised.

His investment has been stolen mere moments before he intended to finally enjoy the “fruits” of his labor. He has been deceived. He has all the normal reactions to finding this out. ”I realized that a woman’s face grows more beautiful the more it incurs a man’s hatred.” He hates her. He despises her. He misses her. He loves her.

”Night is usually associated with darkness; but to me, night always brought thoughts of the whiteness of Naomi’s skin. Unlike the bright shadowless whiteness of noon, it was a whiteness wrapped in tatters, amid soiled, unsightly, dusty quilts; and that drew me to it all the more.”

The complexity of desire.

It is impossible to have control as long as a coveted passion exists. Does Jōji adapt or does he snap like a dry bamboo twig? It is fascinating watching this shifting of power and what he is willing to do, what he is willing to put up with just to stay in Naomi’s presence. The doll slave becomes the master.

 photo 0a7ce3d5-556e-4118-a0c2-dbe81f9c63fd_zpshdycaos3.png
Junichiro Tanizaki spurred the Westernization of Japan.

The novel is set in 1924, but the book was published in 1947 right in the midst of a radical shift in Japanese culture from the traditions that had governed their behavior for centuries to a more westernized version. Junichiro Tanizaki’s book had an enormous impact on Japanese women who were just beginning to reject the traditional housewife role and embrace the Western idea of female freedom. The absurd aspects of the Japanese male tendency to dream of being seduced by a siren is examined with a certain level of sympathy. There are several abnormal situations in the book, but what I have come to know, with knowing more people, that what may seem abnormal actually exists in very normal circumstances. People define relationships very differently. The expanded status aspect of a Facebook account shows the complexity of defining our connections with people.

Is there a moral to this story?

”If you think that my account is foolish, please go ahead and laugh. If you think that there’s a moral in it, then, please let it serve as a lesson. For myself, it makes no difference what you think of me; I’m in love with Naomi.”

Ultimately, wouldn’t we all be happier if we didn’t let people outside of a relationship dictate our own feelings for the person who, for better or worse, is the person we love? This is a Japanese spin on a Nabokovian theme (though published before Lolita) of the love and desire of forbidden fruit and the potential for that love to prove toxic. What will you do to be with the one you love?



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