Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Soulless

So I guess I will continue to randomly pick books in the bookstore. This is the second book I bought which I never heard of but ended up enjoying every page. As long as it has a nice cover and a not-so-thick number of pages, I guess I will give it a try. Again.

book




Alone-liness 

seduced by rice wine 
a soulless salaryman 

creates a new world 
temporary happiness 

bar closes before sunrise 

 /totomai 

The plot is simple, complicatedly simple if there’s such thing. Basically, it is about Tsukiko, an almost-40-year-old lady who had a chance encounter with one of her former sensei (teachers) in a bar. And the rest of their encounters came naturally. 

Living in Japan for more than 8 years made this an easy read for me. The sounds, details, visuals in the books are very close to reality. Izakaya (drinking bars in Japanese) played is the core of the story. Some may wonder if it’s possible for someone to go to a bar every night or every other night. It is and in Japan, izakaya is a big business. Maybe bars like these are more welcoming to lost and empty souls aka regular employees. A place where they can find temporary happiness. 

The focus of the story never veers away from Tsukiko and Sensei which is a plus factor, at least for me. Not so many sub-plots except that of Kojima’s and Satoru’s which is essential to make the characters more realistic and alive. The progress and development of the relationship between Tsukiko and Sensei may raise some eyebrows especially with the age gap but it is actually quite endearing. Maybe because both characters showed restraint and control before falling into the trap called love. 

Another aspect of the novel that is worth commending is the particularity of the details. It draws you into their world making you a part of the novel. It’s like watching Koreeda or Ozu masterpieces. It also feels like poetry. Hiromi Kawakami did a great job with it. Without the details, it will be very flat. 

Also, kudos to the translation. I personally think it was great since it still has the Japanese vibe which is very important in keeping the heart of the story. 

If there’s one thing that I don’t like, it’s the title “Strange Weather in Tokyo”. I would have preferred “The Briefcase”. And although the floating lady on the cover is one of the main reasons why I bought the book, she’s irrelevant to the novel. 

Ending this review with my favorite quote from the book. 

A person can learn all manner of things, 
no matter where he finds himself, 
provided his spirit is determined. 

 ~ Hiromi Kawakami 

 /totomai 
2015/05/20

48 comments:

  1. That's a great quote. Nice review, thanks for sharing!

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    1. So inspiring quote. Glad I randomly picked that book :)

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  2. Brilliant! Both the poetic snapshot and the review. (Someday I am going to ask you to design a book cover for me!) I think hotel bars and even neighborhood ones in the US form this kind of community and temporary happiness--and maybe alcohol does too. Your poem suggests it is illusory, but your review suggests more is possible.

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    1. Sure Susan, if I can be of any help, I am more than willing. These bars are keeper of secrets too :)

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  3. nice haiku, thanks for the book sketch; have a good Wednesday

    much love...

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  4. I love the process you have described in this piece...sheer happiness in every step you took and found...it's funny where random choices can take us...and how we can bring them alive

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    1. Everything's random I guess Jae.

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  5. This is absolutely amazing :D loved the haiku and the glorious review!
    Lots of love
    Sanaa

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  6. "bar closes before sunrise"...so many things left unsaid...love that quote :)

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    1. I bookmarked that quote in case I'll make a review. Thanks Sumana

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  7. Nice haiku.... and, liked the review too... :-)

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  8. Sometimes we look for happiness in different places. It is sad though if it is dependent on alcohol.

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    1. As long it is still not alcohol abuse. Thanks Mart

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  9. I like that phrase "temporary happiness", which seems such an accurate description of the fleeting happiness lonely souls snatch in hours spent in a pub.

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    1. Correct Sherry. Ah, the comfort of temporary happiness

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  10. Fun to read your review and your poem. Since I am currently reading a Murakami novel this novel you mention interests me. Thanks.

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    1. Hi Peggy - I liked Murakami dreamy novels too. This one is more on reality, hope you will like it too

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  11. Ah, yes. "temporary happiness."
    Your title reminds me of E.E. Cummings, whose work ALWAYS makes me happy. :)

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    1. I like playing with words haha. Thanks De

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  12. Too many people chase 'temporary happiness' Your poem is good and the book review interesting. Thanks

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    1. Thanks Debi, I guess we are all guilty of seeking temporary happiness

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  13. Oh, the seductive rice wine! What is lost is not easy to discern when sidled up to the bar.

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    1. and we are all submissive to seduction lol

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  14. Oh my gosh Totomai! I love your poem!! Ah,... 'temporary happiness'- the secret of rice wine! Enjoyed reading the haiku and your book review. Let me see if I can lay my hands on the book in the local book store.
    Loved the cover-page. Thanks for sharing!!

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    1. Hope you can find the book, Panchali

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  15. Wonderfully presented totomai. A book review accompanying your poetry. It must have been such a fantastic time you have in Japan. Thanks for sharing!

    Hank

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    1. Thanks Hank - for some variety I guess haha

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  16. The character may have found only temporary happiness — but for we who live outside the pages, reading an enthralling story is always one of the great happinesses in life.

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    1. I agree Rosemary, we can find happiness in the books too

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  17. Sometimes, temparary happiness is what we settle for.

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    1. and sometimes, it's the only right thing to do

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  18. I enjoyed this post. I like the variety you include in your blog. Nice how you connected a fine poem that complements your book review. VERY well done!

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    1. finished reading the book in two days and was inspired to write a tanka. thanks Myrna

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  19. Temporary Happiness seems to be what so many people embrace as the "real deal."
    I like the way you looked at this book from 360 degrees and opened the cover for us.

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    1. temporary happiness is the closest one to reality i guess

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  20. Inspiring!! I want to go to my local book place now!!

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    1. find the book, it's an easy read :)

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  21. totomai,

    I have enjoyed this visit to your Blog very much. The poetic piece is an excellent brief insight to the book review you have added. Strange Weather in Tokyo, is indeed an odd choice for such an excellent book, but the cover obviously attracts interest! Happiness can often be a short lived emotion, especially for those who are alone...and who frequent the Izakaya.
    Eileen

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    1. Agree Eileen - izakaya is heaven on earth to some

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  22. So simple that even with the cultural terms it feels so universal.

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    1. Thanks GL, I guess everyone can relate to it.

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  23. "seduced by rice wine"--what a great line....sounds so mysterious :-)

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  24. Great post, I enjoyed both the book review and your poem. The image of "temporary happiness sought in a bar" is all too familiar...

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    1. we are all guilty of it at some point.

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any thoughts to distill?

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