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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Yukio Mishima - The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea

I can't be bothered to review this in any real depth, so I'll just excerpt parts of it and laugh at them. Much like the previous review, you're pretty much aboard the train at this point or you're not. Despite overseas acclaim (it was even made into an English movie starring Kris Kristofferson...what the fuck?), this novel, about a doomed romance between a sailor and a widow offset by evil kids, probably isn't one of Mishima's major works. It feels almost like a novella or really long short story, something that could have gone in one of the collections Acts of Worship or Death in Midsummer (discussed here)

What...the fucking...shit...

That morning, the boys had left the city with packed lunches and gone all the way to Yamauchi Pier in Kanagawa. For a while they had roamed around the railroad siding behind the sheds on the wharf, and then held the usual meeting to discuss the uselessness of Mankind, the insignificance of Life.

If you can't understand why the single word 'usual' in this passage makes it hilarious, you probably won't 'get' Mishima. I'm convinced that neglected children turning into dispassionate Nietzschean/Randian supervillains by reading a lot instead of just committing minor crimes or toking up is something that happens in literature a lot more than it does in real life, but let's let that one go.

There's a fun scene where these kids capture and kill a kitten by slamming it against a log, then play around with its internal organs. Mishima and Kobo Abe (trained as a doctor) actually did this in real life in preparation for this scene because Mishima claimed he couldn't write about anything he hadn't actually experienced. Imagine these two wandering around the countryside in the 1950's on this mission, Mishima absolutely not smiling at any time, Kobo looking like the Nutty Professor with his japfro and huge medical bag.

I wonder how they decided on the proper method of kitten slamming. I bet Shocotan read this when she was a little kid and it altered the course of her life.

The chief (head badass) is probably the best character, though. The relationship between Fusako and Ryuji has too much romance-novel prose in it (maybe the point, maybe it's a satire...certainly the contrast with the flat-out nihilism works to good effect...and for anyone like me who's read too much of this Mishima guy, I wonder if this Fusako is the same character as the Fusako who was Honda's cousin and a little girl in Spring Snow? Certainly some of their descriptions are similar...)

"How's that for a stupid, hackneyed moral! He just pressed a button and out came one of the things fathers are supposed to say. And did you ever look at a father's eyes at a time like that? They're suspicious of anything creative, anxious to whittle the world down into something puny they can handle. A father is a reality-concealing machine, a machine for dishing up lies to kids, and that isn't even the worst of it: secretly he believes that he represents reality. Fathers are the flies of this world. They hover around our heads waiting for a chance, and when they see something rotten, they buzz in and root in it. Filthy, lecherous flies broadcasting to the whole world that they've fucked with our mothers. And there's nothing they won't do to contaminate our freedom and our ability. Nothing they won't do to protect the filthy cities they've built for themselves."

Interesting to note that Mishima's father was a Nazi sympathizer who forced his son to go to law school and burned all his early writings. Vengeance!