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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Craig Reviews Junichi Tanizaki's Naomi

On my recommendation, Craig of Your Opinion Doesn't Count has just read and provided a three-part review of Tanizaki's Naomi, analogizing the novel to the idol world. His interpretation is highly original and provocative, and there's definitely some kind of graduate-paper potential in there somewhere about idol-continuity in Japanese culture over the course of the twentieth century. Was Tanizaki a proto-wota?

"For Goto Maki
“A harlot’s skin is her most important attraction, her ‘merchandise.’ Sometimes she must guard it more fiercely than any virgin, lest the value of that main attraction diminish.”

“She was no longer chaste: not only did this cast a dark shadow over my heart; it also lowered the value of Naomi”

This reminds me of Wota who abandon their idol if they get a boyfriend or something like that.

Joji in Naomi is hardly an exception; the usual Tanizaki protagonist's slavish devotion to his female idols is pretty much a regular fixture of his novels (see: A Portrait of Shunkin, A Blind Man's Tale (both reviewed by me here), see The Key, Diary of a Mad Old Man, hell, pretty much any book besides The Makioka Sisters) Once again, Craig nails it in a way I hadn't seen before.

And although I like both, I still think Naomi (which was written twenty years earlier) is a better book than Nabokov's Lolita - its apparent simplicity of narrative is actually more deceptive than Humbert's high diction and supposed unreliable narration. And the mutual depravity and selfishness of both characters in the relationship seems both more realistic and more troubling - not to mention Tanizaki has the courage to end his novel on a perverse stalemate. But both books are a testament to the crossover between lolicon subcurrents and literary style, with the idol connection forming an intriguing triangle. What will the next great idol novel be?

Over at American Wota, Ray talks about the difficulty of integrating topics on a blog:
"I think it’s because Jpop - especially the non-Japanese fandom for Jpop - is such a specific niche, whereas TV and comic books and political theater were all much more casual-reader-friendly."

This is definitely true and something we've thought about too: seeing as how The Great Swifty Speaketh! combines book reviews, film reviews, and reviews of Japanese music, we're placed in a fairly uncertain nexus: those who read for the film reviews won't necessarily care when we start talking about Ayumi Hamasaki and Morning Musume, whereas the music fans won't necessarily care about the films or the books or anything else. So it's always interesting when something like this crosses the boundaries and somehow pinpoints something common to all our diverse media interests.

And I've just finished reading both Richard Yates's Revolutionary Road and John Barth's postmodern Lost in the Funhouse. And I don't feel like reviewing either of them. So there.