This Crazy Kojima

Self knows she is giving spoilers galore here, but she can’t help it. Don’t read if you do not want to know anything more about the novel Heaven, by Mieko Kawakami, which has two of the most circumlocutious characters she has ever met in contemporary fiction: one is a handsome schoolboy, and the other is MC’s best friend, Kojima!

MC is told by a doctor that he can easily have his lazy eye fixed, it’ll cost no more than 15,000 yen (approx. $137). The MC wants to do it. But first he runs it by his best friend, Kojima, that person who told him he was stronger than his bullies FOR NEVER FIGHTING BACK.

Of course Kojima is absolutely TURNED OFF that the narrator wants to correct his lazy eye. If the MC ends up saying something like, OK, Kojima, just for you, because you are my best friend, I will forego the surgery to correct my lazy eye which would have cots just $137, or what a pair of high-end sneakers might cost, and would have improved my life by making me feel much less self-conscious, I will forego all of that, because I want to be true to myself — if he ends up saying something like that, I’m only going to give this novel two stars.

Kojima is the most exasperating character!

Here It Comes

Here it comes, here it comes, the MC actually voiced the idea. Which self did not expect. She’s almost offended at how plainly it’s expressed.

P. 111

It’s not as if the idea hasn’t been lurking, ever since his outing with Kojima, where she brought up the word “Heaven.”

But, wait! There are still a hundred pages to go. MC can’t be going to heaven so soon, something has to happen to fill in those hundred pages.

Oh, self gets it. He’ll probably think about pets, and about Kojima, the friend who tells him he’s really strong, blah blah blah.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Advice of The Little Friend

MC has just received a real walloping at the hands of six school bullies, whereupon his best friend Kojima tells him “that no matter how bad things got, we could never tell on them, and should always come to school, and when it happened all over again, we would take it — that was what really mattered, what had real meaning.”

The Spaced-Out Mother in HEAVEN

The MC comes home, bleeding copiously, blood all over his school uniform, etc.

He goes to bed and can’t sleep.


Is the boy really that invisible?

Guess so.

This novel is excruciating. It’s a little bit like reading Ayelet Tsabari. But, at least, at the end of Tsabari’s book, she snaps out of her self-destructive cycle of behavior. Here, self has very little hope that the MC will be able to break the victim/abuser cycle because his best friend has just told him he is STRONGER FOR BEING ABLE TO TAKE THE ABUSE. Which means he will just keep on taking it, unless he can find that magical place ‘Heaven’ that Kojima keeps talking about.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

When an Abuser Tells the Victim to Hide

The middle section of Heaven is excruciating. At this point, self is fully vested, she is not going to stop reading, no matter what. But the cruelty to the MC keeps escalating. Finally, the MC is hurt so badly that he is bleeding profusely, and his abusers instruct him not to let anyone see him. They tell him which paths to take to avoid being seen. The MC does his best to comply: because worse than the injustice is the fear of what people will think when they see him in that condition. The MC is convinced that anyone who sees him bleeding will completely lose all respect for him.

His fear of being singled out is so strong that he will fight and fight and fight — not his abusers, he has no hope of winning against his abusers. But he will do anything to avoid being labeled a VICTIM by more people. In fact, that second fear is even stronger than the fear of being bullied.

No one wants to be isolated, no one. And that’s where bullying gets its power.

Aargh, self is only halfway. That means she still has another hundred pages of cruelty to plow through.

(His best friend, Kojima, is no help because she has very philosophical ideas about why this is happening, and the best she can offer is this magical place called “Heaven” when, really, she should be talking HOSPITAL)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Flat Prose and the Flashes of Humor

Mom and I sat quietly on the swaying train. She looked really tired. But aside from that, and the fact that we were on our way home from a funeral, it was a gorgeous afternoon.

Heaven, p. 81

If you were expecting a description of the gorgeous afternoon to follow the above, know that this author would never be that obvious. She just told you it was a gorgeous afternoon: a simple declaration is more potent than a whole page of descriptive detail. And, dammit, I have to agree!

Self finds that she really likes the MC, and hope he never finds “Heaven” with his classmate Kojima!

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

There Is No Heaven

The girl and boy train to an art museum, and while looking at paintings, the girl describes a painting she considers “Heaven,” but they do not actually look at the painting.

Then they sit outside and play with scissors. The girl brings scissors everywhere because she is into “cutting” (not herself, cutting THINGS). She cuts a big chunk off the boy’s hair: “an inch thick and four inches long.” The boy doesn’t feel any different after, and no one even notices. So invisibility is a theme.

On p. 57, in the endless dull monotony of summer days, comes a news flash of a boy in middle school who killed himself.

Stay cool, dear blog readers. Stay cool.

Norwegian Wood, Redux

Norwegian Wood is self’s favorite of all of Haruki Murakami’s work.

There are many ways in which Mieko Kawakami’s Heaven reminds her of early Murakami.

And here we are, p. 34 of Heaven. The narrator’s only friend, a misfit like himself, writes him a letter:

Hi again, I wonder what kind of person you’ll be when you’re twenty-two. I’ve been thinking a lot about stuff like that recently. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we’re still writing letters then?

Okay, I have a favor to ask. Actually, it’s an invitation.

When the semester is over, I have something I want to show you. A place. If we don’t go during vacation, we’re going to miss it.

It’s Heaven, the place I want to show you.

Just think about it. I think you’ll love it. Please say yes.

Sentence of the Day: Still THE DOOR

Reading soooo slowly. But this book needs to be savored.

p. 27:

He wasn’t a bad man, although he made me leave school, and the headmaster was very upset about it, but I was needed to cook for the harvesters because Mother wasn’t up to it, and I also looked after the twins.

In this novel, labor is front and center. Whether that labor is writing, or housecleaning, or making things with one’s hands.

All the translations self has read so far this year have been excellent:

  • Moshi Moshi, by Banana Yoshimoto (transl. from the Japanese)
  • The Summer Book, by Tove Jansson (transl. from the Norwegian)
  • Manderley Forever, by Tatiana de Rosnay (transl. from the French)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


Favorites So Far, September 2018

  • Moshi Moshi, by Banana Yoshimoto (novel)
  • La Belle Sauvage, vol. One of The Book of Dust, by Philip Pullman, and His Dark Materials, the entire trilogy: The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass (novels)
  • Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson (novel)
  • The Summer Book, by Tove Jansson (novel)
  • In the Lake of the Woods, by Tim O’Brien (novel)
  • Olive Kitteridge, by Elizabeth Strout (novel in stories)
  • Manderley Forever, by Tatiana de Rosnay (novelized biography)
  • Jamaica Inn, by Daphne du Maurier (novel)

This was a great reading year for NOVELS. Which means self has come full circle in her reading life. Until this year, her favorite books were histories and nonfiction.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.


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