Tuesday, March 6, 2012

2 New Used Books

Rain this past weekend — a good time to lose myself in the local used bookstore. I found a couple of treasures at the ridiculously named Book Off. First this reissue of Akutagawa Ryūnosuke's Rashōmon ・ Hana — the matching droopy nose and clothes of the cover art which sold me. As did the fact that (I'm embarrassed to admit) I've only read a bit of Akutagawa (Kappa) the writer the famed literary biannual short story prize is named after.

Rashōmon is probably best known as the title of Akira Kurosawa's 1950 movie that won a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, introducing the director to Western audiences. The movie — which took the setting from Akutagawa's story of the same name but its plot from his In a Grove — depicted a crime witnessed by four people, all of whom described it in mutually incompatible and contradictory ways. The success of that movie spawned the psychological term Rashōmon effect wherein the retelling of a crime or event by several witnesses becomes so colored by each person's subjective perception as to make the retellings seem to be discrete events — all of them plausible though mutually incompatible.

Interestingly enough, Japanese people with whom I've spoken, if they know of him at all, don't hold Kurosawa in such high regard as Westerners. And Rashōmon the movie, seen through the lens of more than sixty years on, can seem overwrought and melodramatic, though it does endure as a kind of template for the telling of a story from multiple points of view.

However that may be, I'm looking forward to reading this collection of short stories and will be prepared to offer my unsolicited opinion as soon as I am done.

First, however, I'm going to read my other find, Shokudō Katatsumuri, a 2008 best selling novel by Ogawa Ito.

The title, I guess, can be translated as The Snail Diner or The Snail Restaurant. The first couple of pages compelled me to buy it: a woman comes back to her apartment after her shift working at a Turkish restaurant only to find the place completely stripped of its contents — refrigerator, washing machine, wall hangings, welcome mat, everything. Her Indian boyfriend is gone too with no note or explanation. She is devastated. Loses her voice.

A compelling opening to be sure — at least from the perspective of plot — and a well designed cover to boot which I'm a sucker for.

Recently the novel has been made into a movie, the English subtitled version called Rinco's Restaurant. (Not especially informative or enticing trailer here.) But I think I'll read the book first.

That's all. Happy reading. I'll let you know when I come up for air.


  1. It's been a long time since seeing Rashomon, although Mifune in Stray Dog and Drunken Angel still mind blowing performances, and indeed in Akahige, I'll stop now...

    The Ogawa Ito sounds like an intriguing novel.

  2. Now you've got me intrigued, me. I'll have to see Stray Dog & Drunken Angel (both great titles, by the way).