Ben Macintyre * Tony Tetro * Robert Harris * Hannah Sward * Kaoru Takamura * Stephen King * Cat Rambo * Kerry Dolan * S. A. Chakraborty
Tag: Japanese writers
At this point in Strip, Sward is not yet a drug addict (Self knows that’s coming, though), so what’s here is merely angst: the angst of longing.
It reminds her of the angst of Detective Yuichiro Goda in Lady Joker, volume two (Apparently, no one on Goodreads seems as taken with Detective Goda as self, only referring tangentially to “outside characters” — ! His epiphany at the end! Goda made that book! She didn’t give a damn about any of the other characters!)
My whole life was nothing more than a kind of waiting. Waiting for my mom to come home, even though she never did. She’d sent me a package when I was five, and I’d waited for more. I waited for her letters where she would describe her world in detail, especially the different men in her life. I also waited for my dad — when he went to India to hang out with a swami, or the writers’ colonies in upstate New York and New Hampshire. Then there was the time he went to live alone at an art colony in New Mexico. Then Alina left and I watched him wait for her to come home and I waited for him to stop waiting. I waited for this terrible longing in me to go away, and I knew no one was coming back to fix it.
My grant was running out. I became a regular at the gyro stands, went to matinee movies, and walked the streets some more. I looked at women dressed like Audrey Hepburn who sat at the cafés drinking coffee, and I looked at people who passed me in the streets who seemed like they knew exactly where they were going and who they were.— Strip, A Memoir, p. 63
Really crushing the reading. Blazed through 600 pages of Lady Joker, volume two in two days. What can self say? Detective Yoichiro Goda and his lonely quest to catch the Lady Joker just got under her skin. Even though she was sick as a dog yesterday (Don’t worry, it’s not fun, but at least it’s not covid), she just had to see how it ended. Since he’s been such a lonely, reticent soul, and seemed to be sinking deeper into the well of despond with every encounter with his superiors, she feared he was about to go all Mishima. In fact, at one point, he does start putting his affairs in order, giving away things — like from his long-dead marriage — Oh no!
But, suffice it to say, self was thrilled, THRILLED by that epilogue. Five stars to Lady Joker, volume two!
Next: Ling Ma, BLISS MONTAGE: STORIES
This scene takes place in the washroom of the police station in Setagaya. Yuichiro Goda has just been publicly humiliated by a superior, after the latest police attempt to apprehend the Lady Joker gang has turned out to be nothing but a wild goose chase.
Goda knew that from this day on there was nothing but the relentless search for evidence. There would be no time to sleep; no longer blessed with the stamina he’d had in his twenties, he found his joints were wincing in pain. Goda washed his face at the sink and, seeing his face reflected in the mirror, he immediately averted his eyes from the unwelcome sight. A voice inside of him whispered — You are an aberration, a perversion beyond a normal loss of self. In order to shush the voice away, he took off his socks and, raising one foot at a time to the sink, he washed them thoroughly. Outsid the small window facing Sangyo Road, he heard the scurrying footsteps of the media corps — Kota Sasaki must have been released — cascading over the burst of camera shutters, the lively scene seeming to belong to another world.— Lady Joker, volume two, p. 236
Self tries to compare Lady Joker to those bleak Scandinavian novels she used to love, decades ago, the ones she read after Smilla’s Sense of Snow. There is the same sense of spiritual anomie, and in this story it does seem to rain quite a bit. Interesting, both Goda and the President of the Hinode Beer corporation are Christian. At least, they attend mass. But everything else about them is very Japanese.
Following the sections from the Yuichiro Goda point of view are sections from the Kyosuke Shiroyama point of view, which is fortunate because the next most interesting character in Lady Joker (after Yuichiro Goda) is Shiroyama, the President of the Hinode Beer Company.
Shiroyama opened the door to show Kurata out of his office. In the anteroom, Goda stood in his usual spot, and bowed as he opened the door for Kurata. Once he was gone and Goda had closed the door, Shiroyama said, “I’m staying the night, so you should go on home. Tomorrow, please come here at the usual time.”
Shiroyama had attempted to maintain a normal tone and expression, but Goda’s eyes quickly took in Shiroyama’s entire mien and he blurted out, “You look white as a sheet.”
Over the last seventeen days, the straightforward quality of Goda’s gaze was unerringly the same. You spy, Shiroyama thought — and yet even now Shiroyama gave in and assented to this clairvoyant interloper.— Lady Joker, Volume Two, p. 91
What a character! The whole Lady Joker crime caper can go to hell. There is only one person whose point of view self is interested in reading about, and it’s Goda, the detective chosen to be the body man to the president of the Hinode beer company.
She wishes the narrative had focused on just him, instead of splintering into so many viewpoints: the president, the reporter(s), the criminal(s) etc. Because if you read this (hefty) tome by skipping over the sections not his, then what you have is a very enthralling character study.
Goda lives alone (of course). He doesn’t own a car. He stops at a grocery on his way home (he sleeps?) and buys bananas and milk. His supervisor doesn’t trust him and sometimes drops by unexpectedly. This is how the supervisor knows that Goda’s brother-in-law (or, rather, his EX-brother-in-law, since Goda’s 18-year-marriage has failed) sometimes drops by Goda’s apartment to vacuum, do his laundry, and iron his shirts. Goda’s brother-in-law reminds him to take better care of himself, then serves him delicious meals (“silken tofu from Kyoto, vibrantly green blanched spinach, grilled eggplant garnished with ginger and the finest silver dried herring measuring almost six centimeters in length”)
The reason for his brother-in-law’s most recent visit is that Goda’s picture has appeared in a tabloid: “When I saw you in that tabloid photo, it felt like something was insane. Besides, even though you’ve got a suit on like the rest of them, your shoes look different from a true corporate man. Your demeanor’s not the same. It takes a stiff brush to get the grime off the seams of your shoes.”
Do you see what self means? Isn’t Yuichiro Goda a fascinating character? Self wishes there were more novels written from the point of view of “body men.”
In this novel, his is only one of twenty viewpoints (sigh) which means: this will be a fast read. But, let her assure you, since she has taken the trouble to read ahead (just by a few pages), let her assure you: the best is yet to come.
Self is crushing the reading list, this first month of 2023. Her next book is a Japanese crime novel, her first by Kaoru Takamura: Lady Joker, volume two, translated from the Japanese by Marie Iida and Allison Markin Powell.
Takamura is a crime novelist who is well-known in her native Japan. She has written thirteen novels, and has won the Japan Mystery and Suspense Grand Prize, the Naoki Prize, the Noma Literary Prize, the Yomiuri Prize, the Shinran Prize, the Jiro Orasagi Prize, the Mystery Writers of Japan Award, and the Japan Adventure Fiction Association Prize. Her first novel to be translated into English was Lady Joker, which received the Mainichi Arts Award.
The first character to really catch self’s interest, 14 pages in, is Yuichiro Goda. Here’s how he’s described in the list of Dramatis Personae:
- MPD, First Investigation Division, Third Violent Crime Investigation Team, Seventh Unit. Later joins Criminal Investigation Division, Violent Crime Unit at Omori Police Department, Assistant Police Inspector
He’s been given the responsibility of guarding Kyosuke Shiroyama, President and CEO of Hinode Beer, who’s the target of an extortion attempt by the gang known as the Lady Joker.
- As far as Shiroyama could tell, however, under his apparent neutrality Goda’s eyes displayed subtle shades of darkness — wondering what that prudent gaze saw, three steps behind him, made Shiroyama feel, if not uncomfortable, then at least unsettled. From Goda’s outward appearance or manner, Shiroyama had no inkling whether he had seen Shiroyama pick up the envelope on his lawn the day before yesterday, that morning when they first met. Just this very morning, in the car on the way to the office, Shiroyama had tried to trick him into talking about it by musing why the criminals had not appeared, but Goda, with a momentary pause, merely replied, “I’ve been instructed only to act as your guard, sir.”
Ah! A laconic leading man. Nice!
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, the MC actually voiced the idea. Which self did not expect. She’s almost offended at how plainly it’s expressed.
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.
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.”