Mishima, tetralogy, by god, the whole fucking thing!

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Mishima, tetralogy, by god, the whole fucking thing!

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Redigeret: jan 12, 2013, 3:48pm

I have pledged to lead a group read of this block of texts, and will attempt a more professorial tone hereinnow and foreverafter, WHEN APT. I asked and still ask for a co-leader, and the fall back position is that if no, then i will lead what we call in 'universal/European' English a 'half-assed' read. As we are quite near the month of March, i suggest a February start to 'get a jump' on things. Please use this thread to announce your intentions and suggest an precise starting date.

thank you, thank you very much

Redigeret: jan 12, 2013, 4:40pm

I am in. For a date, any time in February is good to start.

jan 12, 2013, 4:46pm

Yes, or at least best intentions of it being yes.

What book/s of M's do I need to purchase.

jan 12, 2013, 7:35pm

Spring Snow is first. I'm for the tetro...Mac? Ur? Lola? Lisa? Choco? etcetera?

jan 12, 2013, 7:41pm

The others are, if these translations hold: Runaway Horses, The Temple of Dawn, and the Decay of the Angel, the four known as the Sea of Fertility. As this was his last work, it will be interesting to see whether there are indications of the dramatic end of his life.

jan 12, 2013, 10:13pm

I'm in. A February start is fine with me as well.

Redigeret: jan 13, 2013, 12:51am

I will read the posts with joy, but not the books. I am not ready for it, just drifting in the reading doldrums...

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

jan 13, 2013, 6:33am

Mac, chuck the job.

jan 13, 2013, 7:59am

I'm with Mac, including the poem. All I can manage lately is a series of 19th century British authors. Have not even gotten back to Zola.

jan 13, 2013, 8:01am

I think Mishima can be considered a 19th century British author.

jan 13, 2013, 9:45am

I understand some of the tome wariness, but am ready to soldier on. I believe I have managed to navigate past the reading doldrums, in which I too have been stuck, but am now in long stretch of sail where I can feel the vast emptiness from too long away, and am eager to make Port Mishima.

jan 13, 2013, 9:58am

random internet stop found this quote

At the same time, he admired the West and studied Western art and literature avidly. The influence is evident, from the decidedly 19th Century British feel of his novel, Spring Snow,

jan 13, 2013, 10:07am

Okay, the longest of the four books is a mere 432 pages. One is 400, one 300something, the last 250 or so. I feel we are entering a tomeless zone. The first book will naturally lead to the desire to read the second, and by then the third and fourth will seem like child's play.

jan 13, 2013, 10:37am

Rick, you should go into Sales. Chuck the writing !

jan 13, 2013, 12:06pm

Just found back my Lentesneeuw copy with a bookmark on page 88. Since the bookmark was a 50 Norsk kronor banknote, this dates my attempt to read it around 1990. Let's see how far I can get this time.

jan 13, 2013, 1:33pm

Ok just bought the books. Just out of curiosity

jan 13, 2013, 3:16pm

Go PP! Bravo MAC!

Redigeret: jan 13, 2013, 3:33pm

I think my first acquaintance with Mishima was through Playboy magazine in the '70s, when there were photos of Kris Kristoferson (sp.?) and Sarah Miles (Sp. precise) doing some likkety peritoneals, and I read The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea as a result.

Redigeret: jan 13, 2013, 3:31pm


Redigeret: jan 13, 2013, 3:32pm


jan 13, 2013, 3:33pm

These two will go after slackers!

jan 13, 2013, 3:39pm

The akebi thirsts to swell and burst. My sword is yours.

jan 13, 2013, 4:29pm

i won the ibeka!

jan 13, 2013, 4:34pm

My great friend Taro...I wrote to him on facebook about this Mishima business and he responded: 'Mishima....Yukio Mishima? homo.
17 years? Does reading Mishima help me? If you say so, I'll read.'

I saw him last 17 years ago.

jan 13, 2013, 7:35pm

Spring Snow is the first one, right? I have a couple of bucks left on an Barnes and Noble gift card and they have it, so maybe . . .

jan 13, 2013, 8:32pm

Why not! go lisa go.

jan 13, 2013, 8:36pm

Taro brings up immediately something that has to be dealt with regarding Mishima: 'homo'. Now, Taro is a gentle, open-minded, kind man, but direct as well. Mishima: homo. Thoughts swirl. For instance, why is it that I get the immediate feeling of a kindred homosexual correnspondence with Mishima's manly fascism and Nazism? Having spent a great deal of time with homesexuals, none of which were even conservative, much less fascist, I ask myself, Is it something about a 'manly movement'? I will stop here to see if anyone speaks.

Redigeret: jan 14, 2013, 12:09pm

Joining the army is one way of getting to hang around a lot of beefcake, I suppose. And wasn't it ever thus (the sacred band of Thebes, anyone? The samurai liked their boy-flesh too, cf. The great mirror of male love, Comrade loves of the samurai...)

What is militarism but phallus worship anyway.

So, I don't know how much Mishima was into fascism per se, and how much it's just guys, dicks and natty uniforms (not reserved for Nazis alone).

I have accumulated tons of Mishima and read but a little so far (Confessions of a mask was excellent), so I might get involved, peripherally probably.

jan 14, 2013, 12:54pm

Yet in Paris, the inventors of c'est la vie marched against gay rights straight to their greatest phallic symbol.

jan 14, 2013, 1:19pm

Rick, I recognize you in the picture in post 20 but who is that in 19, Arjun ?

I googled Mishima pics and I find him kind of creepy.

jan 14, 2013, 1:39pm

You lives by the dick, you dies by the dick.

jan 14, 2013, 2:13pm


Redigeret: jan 14, 2013, 2:41pm

I kind of agree that chalking it up to the dick alone is letting Mishima off the hook in the creepy sweepstakes, oh, I mean the creepstakes, of course. I get the feeling he was very self-focused--hos own internal purity, his own external magnificence--and less into traditional colllective Japanese values than, like, haughtily castigating others for their lumpen lives. I think if we could hear his internal monologue it would have some Ignatius Reilly (of A Confederacy of Dunces)-like aspects to it. Certainly there's some buffoonish aspects to his meticulously planned beautiful death.

I can't find the reference now, but Ruth Benedict talks about a practice that I think was prevalent as far back as the Meiji era but certainly during the fascist period among juior officers and similar very-impressed-with-themselves types of carrying a hand mirror and looking into it not only to make sure there was nothing in their teeth but also so that they could gaze deep in their eyes and make sure they were still as pure and cold as a mountain stream or whatever. Like, as a form of self-care--making sure your one and only irreplaceable you was still clean on the inside.

So while Mishima's gayness (and early suffering at the hands of a brutal father) certainly would have supported his central tendency, I guess I see him as more of an aspiring, moderately bishonen(here are Scottish and Hong Kong and American anime fandom weirdo takes)-y too-beautiful-to-live solipsist. A literary Hide, a Japanese Kanye. Perhaps I am about to learn better?????????

Redigeret: jan 14, 2013, 2:41pm

oops delete

jan 14, 2013, 4:40pm

Enrique Freeque's discussion of Infinite Jest is leading my reading priorities at the moment. I have a church commitment to read Anthill for discussion on February 6. The 2013 Science, Religion, and History group read discussion thread in the 75 Books Challenge group is starting The Ghost Map in February. Still on Saturday I picked up a copy of Spring Snow and hope to be in on at least the start of the discussion.


Redigeret: jan 14, 2013, 5:11pm


Oh, god, please no anime references, I'm trying to keep my mind pure and innocent of that crap. ;)

*I*'m not chalking anything to "dick alone"--blame Rick's kind friend for immediately going "homo" at the drop of the name. I'm merely pointing out that "fascism" isn't necessarily the only thing Mishima likely found attractive about the army. See Sun and steel for his aesthetics.

jan 14, 2013, 6:44pm

No aneem? Fair 'nuff. how about Yoshitsune? And yeah, definitely with you on the not-necessarity-the-only thing.

Here is a weird thing: http://thisrecording.com/today/2012/10/24/in-which-yukio-mishima-disposes-of-him...

Redigeret: jan 14, 2013, 9:06pm

fabulous link martini.

I'm not sure it's interesting to speculate on Mishima's 'gayness' any more than it is interesting to speculate on any other writer's 'straightness'. This kind of talk, although salacious and titivating, is a bit 'exoticising, isn't it? It's always seemed to me that looking for the reasons for gayness is a form of discrimination, unless we can also discuss with equal weight the reasons for someone's straightness. BUt i'll get off that high horse now, and chip in on Mishima.

I think it's essential to understand him in the context of what Japan had gone through during his youth. M narrowly avoided being called up on the Empire's last suicide missions at the end of WW2; he was personally awarded an honour by the Emperor, but the Emperor was a figure of national and global disgrace, and Japan had suffered its biggest loss of face in its history. Suicide is preferable to disgrace and loss of face, and I think this laid the seeds for an obsession with death that lasted his whole life, and which forms the backbone of all his writing. The army and militarism was thus an attempt to try to cling to some of Japan's military traditions , a way to staunch his deep sense of humiliation as a Japanese, and of course to be next to young men. As Lola n MArtini mention, gayness is a strong tradition in Jap culture connected with samurai, loyalty and comrades in arms. This theme is explored most strongly in the second volume of the tetralogy

M also had a deep love hate relationship with Western culture. One the one hand it fascinated him, and he was exceptionally well read in European culture, especially as a student of Goethe, and Dostoevsky. He loved all the trappings of Western consumerism: the cars, the telephones, the fashion magazines, western food and beautiful clothes, wine and so on. BUt he deplored it as the culture of the victor, and was always conscious while he was enjoying Western Consumerism that it represented the defeat and humiliation of Japan. Hence in interest in right nationalistic movements, the army etc, those elements which represented the most conservative aspects of the Japanese psyche.

Thirdly, his obsession with youth, which is one and the same time a part of his obsession with Western culture (ephebic Greeks, St Sebastian etc) and an obsession with ephemera, which is also very japanese. Many reasons have been put forward for his shocking and mysterious death, but my belief is that he chose to die right on the cusp of Youth and Middle Age, in order to prevent any taint of old age from touching his image. It was inconceivable to him that he should leave behind images of him as a middle aged or old man, so made sure that this would never happen by killing his body just at that moment when it begins to invite decay, or when decay can no longer be resisted by body building etc.

Keys to understanding Mishima are:

- humiliation, national transformed into the sexual, rather like Genet
- dialogue between Western and Eastern cultures
- critique of what he saw as the death obsession of Zen Buddhism

Sea of Fertility is very much a critique of those aspects of Buddhism that M saw as conflicting with his Western values: sanctity of life, self fulfillment and expression, individuality, etc versus the impersonality, detachment and joylessness of Zen. The Temple of the Golden Pavillion (not to be confused with the Temple of Dawn, the third book in the tetralogy) examines the mind of a Buddhist psychopath, for example.

In the third volume of the tetralogy, M develops his ideas on Buddhism in contrasting Theravada, Zen and Hinduism, in a voyage up the Ganges.

Warning, M is very like Dostoevsky, in that his characters express positions which are not Mishima's.

just ramblings.

and here, just because M knew we would look at it, is a picture of his head, frozen on the cusp of life and death, manhood and maturity, a kind of Netsuke that refuses to decay:

jan 14, 2013, 9:27pm

Thirdly, his obsession with youth, which is one and the same time a part of his obsession with Western culture (ephebic Greeks, St Sebastian etc) and an obsession with ephemera, which is also very japanese. Many reasons have been put forward for his shocking and mysterious death, but my belief is that he chose to die right on the cusp of Youth and Middle Age, in order to prevent any taint of old age from touching his image. It was inconceivable to him that he should leave behind images of him as a middle aged or old man, so made sure that this would never happen by killing his body just at that moment when it begins to invite decay, or when decay can no longer be resisted by body building etc.

Yes, exactly. "Youth" is the word that was missing from my drabbling above.

- critique of what he saw as the death obsession of Zen Buddhism

Sea of Fertility is very much a critique of those aspects of Buddhism that M saw as conflicting with his Western values: sanctity of life, self fulfillment and expression, individuality, etc versus the impersonality, detachment and joylessness of Zen. The Temple of the Golden Pavillion (not to be confused with the Temple of Dawn, the third book in the tetralogy) examines the mind of a Buddhist psychopath, for example.

This is something I'd not thought about. For somebody whose actual life was so vividly strange, Mishima's writing in my limited experience is serious and sad. Kind of "sex was invented in 1963"; someone who would have been at home amid the laughter and ideas and liaisons of Floating World Edo or Enlightenment Paris, but feels like he or his country or his times have picked up some taint of the old and tired and broken. Maybe?

My copy of Spring Snow is packed and none of our worthless local booksellers have it! I wanna start reading!

Redigeret: jan 15, 2013, 2:23pm

First of all, I was amazed at the resemblance between Mishima's torso and my own.

Punkt 2: As I see it, focussing on the REASON for gayness is not the point at all, rather, when and how and if said gayness becomes part of the work, and then even TYPE of gayness is open for discussion in the case of a whacky death like Mishima's. Taking it out of the bedroom why. And the military connection is definitely something to consider.

Punkt 3 _+++I have lost control of my keyboard//it went back to US settings,,, P3--fascinating to think that Mishi considered NY Tokyo in 500 years, for i have always been interested in the notion of urban decadence in Japan pre-dating US existence.

p4--why the hell am I leading this discussion/?

p5--dropping homo at the name of a hat...why? First, Taro is unfettered of mind entirely and it was on facebook. Second, among all gay writers, which are immediately associated with their sexuality? And why? e.g., why is Mishima-s accorded fascination, respect, and Hemingway-s such snickering. On the surface, hemingway embodied cliches buffooneresquedly, while there is clearly a conception of Mishima-s many/faceted deviance as one of integrity. I think the answer lies in the quality of writing, to make a long argument disappear. Hemingway-s aesthetic was limited///\'the brilliance resides in what he leaves unsaid" Right, same can be said of the novel I plan next...

jan 15, 2013, 5:01am

but rick, I'm confused. In the picture in #38, Mishima has no torso. Please explain.

(ignore my ranting about the reasons for gayness etc. just something I had to offload)

jan 15, 2013, 5:37am

TC says "I'm not sure it's interesting to speculate on Mishima's 'gayness' any more than it is interesting to speculate on any other writer's 'straightness'."

The reader was always rather cool with it, one way or the other.

It is a whole School of Literary Critics who draw our attention and pushed us into the writer's bedroom and into the writer's closet to have a look.

In the end, we started to think it did matter

Redigeret: jan 15, 2013, 10:15am

I'm confused, who offered any "reasons" for Mishima's gayness?

It's deplorable that was the first characteristic we were invited to consider, but I don't think it's possible to ignore it either, especially in, say, an autobiographical work like Confessions of a mask. Not to mention the part that (male) body-worship played in his philosophy.

And, yes, I think straight authors stand to be examined from the POV of their "straightness", of course.

Sexuality matters.

jan 15, 2013, 12:19pm

Sexuality matters = biographical phallus-y

jan 15, 2013, 1:26pm

Wilde and Sade and a trillion billion others beg to differ.

jan 15, 2013, 1:30pm

I certainly don't think anyone's not "cool with it." But even the biggest, hardest, throbbingest Barthesian can still take an interest in an author like Mishima's highly distinct and hard-to-separate philosophy and sexual life, and to recognise that it constitutes a portion of the fabric of the text and the "innumerable centres' from which it's drawn. It's really if we refuse to do that that we're in a "School": the school of New Criticism. And Mishima's sexuality is clearly the most tempting lazyman's place to start.

jan 15, 2013, 1:42pm

Martin, I have a question--any ideas on the idea behind the blackening of teeth (for women) as an attractive quality? I can't make sense of what Google brings up. Basically, what was considered attractive about it? Were teeth rotten and better off not seen? Was it contrast with face? Mouth as a gaping black hole?

Any clues?

jan 15, 2013, 2:10pm

Hmmm, well, here is what I know, although I'm not sure where I learned it. Lacquering protects the teeth from decay, wear, chipping, etc., so it's both practical and probably aesthetic in the sense that you're not walking around with a mouthful of disgusting smelly rotten teeth. (I don't know what the state of dentistry was like in premodern Japan, or really anything about dentistry at all, but is it possible that there would have been reasons, e.g. technological ones, that Europeans would have been more able to have problem teeth extricated while Japanese would have had to rely on prevention?)

Regarding the black colour, maybe it was just the most lustrous? Red and black are by far the dominant colours in Japanese lacquerware (and plastic imitations)--you'll recall that distinctive red and black tableware they often have at Japanese restaurants. I think the red is cinnabar, but no idea on the black. (Apparently red teeth are also done in some places in Southeast Asia--perhaps this is related?) It's possible that they just got the same results with black. But google will show that the colour is quite aesthetically pleasing--deep and rich and even--and I'd like to be capable of referring to traditional Japanese aesthetics to provide a brilliant disquisition on this point, but I'm not sure it's required. Since the face was whitened, the "contrast/black hole" theory is plausible--face whitening among the upper classes in Japan, like other East Asian cultures, as far as I know comes from the anti-fieldhand suntan places you'd expect, later bolstered by global race relations.

One other point of interest, like many fashion practices, it was traditionally men and women, especially the nobility and samurai. According to the 'pedia, "After the Edo period, only men in the imperial family and aristocrats blackened their teeth. Due to the odor and labor required for the process, as well as a feeling among young women that they were aging, ohaguro was done only by married women, unmarried women who were older than 18, prostitutes and geisha." Now that I'm looking, I also see this: the lacquer was "a dark-brown solution of ferric acetate called kanemizu (かねみず), made by dissolving iron filings in vinegar. When the solution was combined with vegetable tannins from sources such as gallnut powder or tea powder." It doesn't seem like that should produce such a nice colour.

Redigeret: jan 15, 2013, 2:19pm

tc: you fell for the oldest photo trick in the book

all of ya: I brought up the homosexuality because the tetra was his last work of fiction and he ended it right before his very public and dramatic suicide--and because it will be at least two weeks before we start.

Mac, I have had the strange experience of being an up and coming literary figure who remained on the cusp (briefly, before sliding into the swampmuck). What that means is that I was interviewed a few times, and the experience is by nature surreal, for as you are being interviewed you cannot help but be aware that what you say is for public consumption (one time it was live radio, so it was definitely in my mind) and whether or not you act or speak differently from what you believe to be your self (I always felt comfortable and thought I was spontaneous) acting and speaking, your awareness of the nature of the process--speaking to the future, instead of how we normally do, for the here and now of it--alters the experience essentially even if the change is not detectable...it is altered by knowing it has to be altered.

At the same time, we all have our notions of, degrees of need for, privacy. In my case it's my freedom that matters; if the public has an interest in my sexual circumstances they would be welcome to what information I can provide. Alas my star did not rise.

I think in most cases the sexuality of the writer, or rather the writer's incorporation of sexuality into the work, is decipherable. Certainly critics can 'put it there' when it isn't, but in the case of Mishima and the examples Lola mentioned and Rabelais and Henry Miller to name the obvious...The sexuality is part of the discussion or they can't be understood well.

Redigeret: jan 15, 2013, 2:27pm

this was the rest of #40, inexplicably hiding beneath the postable:

Punkt 3_+++I have lost control of my keyboard//it went back to US settings

interesting experiment: turns out I was foiled by those less than greater than signs...now the rest of the post is up there

jan 15, 2013, 2:56pm


eschew obfuscation, espouse elucidation, pleez

jan 15, 2013, 3:01pm

the experimenter fucks the experiment

jan 15, 2013, 8:12pm

I don't think Tanizaki explicitly mentions blackened teeth, but he does give some information on the Japanese (or: his own) preference for the dark in general in In praise of shadows.

re: homosexuality. I have no problem in making this a point of discussion but these things tend to completely pass me by when I'm reading. Call me an innocent babe or an irreclaimable hetero, according to your preferences.

jan 15, 2013, 8:22pm

>49 RickHarsch: I know, I'm a sap, right?

#44, 45

I agree with Lola here. I think in the case of gay writers, sexuality does matter very much because of the social status of the writer - outcast, taboo, often illegal - cannot help but effect the way they write, the subjects they chose to write about, the very language they use because they cannot write the way they want, they have to encode things, especially in earlier times. I'm thinking of Dorian Grey and the Well of Loneliness, for example. In Mishima's case, it's very important because it adds an element of understanding to his scenes of male bonding, friendships between men etc, which are an important part of his aesthetic and one of his major themes. To what extent, for example is the relationship between Honda and Matsugae a lover's relationship? Honda searches for his friend through successive incarnations: is this not love???

Anyway, perhaps it's all a red herring and I shouldn't have offloaded like I did in my post, I know everyone here is totally cool. But recently I was slumming it in the Pro and Con group and was confronted with this:


and the resultant discussion on the 'causes of gayness' filled me with horror, because once you start down that road, it's pretty soon that one comes to start to think of gayness as a 'condition' with a 'cause', and by implication, a 'cure'. and that's obviously fucked up. But I know none here thinks like that.

I was just venting. Apologies for derailing the thread.

Anyway, I found this, which has some rather shocking pictures of M 'rehearsing' his own suicide. WARNING: MAY SHOCK.


jan 15, 2013, 9:13pm

> http://www.librarything.com/topic/146636#3776733

off topic but it reminds me of the minister of education (of all people) who made himself immortal for all the wrong reasons when he defended a list with 'early signs of homosexuality' that was presented to schools/parents so that 'actions' could be taken to 'remedy' the situation. The list was as insane as the whole idea by the way and rightfully ridiculed everywhere.

Since the lists are short, I post them here. It's probably best to laugh at them; they are too silly to waste indignation on:

"symptoms of gays":

- Have a muscular body and like to show their body by wearing
- V-neck and sleeveless clothes;
- Prefer tight and light-coloured clothes;
- Attracted to men; and
- Like to bring big handbags, similar to those used by women, when hanging out.

And "symptoms of lesbians":

- Attracted to women;
- Besides their female companions, they will distance themselves from other women;
- Like to hang out, have meals and sleep in the company of women; and
- Have no affection for men.

jan 16, 2013, 12:43am

jan 16, 2013, 5:36am

i think, TC, that your 'offload' was perfectly appropriate, and given the complexities of the sexual, in any style, preference, etc., we can assume that not everyone here is 'cool', maybe cool enough to be nice, but not necessarily in agreement.

Henk: v-necks?

jan 16, 2013, 9:53am

Rick, yes, v-necks. I wrote some more but I think we better steer back to Mishima.

jan 16, 2013, 10:38am

Martin, thanks, when trying less fancy search terms I get a lot of folk-lore (or urban legends) on the topic. There's one about "showing your teeth is like showing your bones" (a rude thing to be avoided, apparently).

Henk, I did think of Tanizaki but couldn't recall anything applicable in it, it had a strong architectural/interior decoration slant. And the wabi-sabi, mono no aware aesthetics don't seem to fit cosmetics or clothes fashion at all.

Onward and upward!

Speaking of gayness, literature and things Japanese, I hereby flog Edmund White's Forgetting Elena, a Western novel about gay life on Fire Island written in the mode of Japanese masters (Tanizaki and Sei Shonagon were invoked in a conversation about it), with meticulous aesthetic detail on ritual and manners, landscape and suppressed feelings.

jan 16, 2013, 10:46am

Some people blacken their skin round the eyes with charcoal to keep the flies away. Maybe it works for the teeth too !

jan 16, 2013, 11:29am

TC, I couldn't read all of that, but I am amazed by the didactic manner as well as the content. Haven't we all met enough homosexuals by now to know that they are not disaffected teens?

jan 16, 2013, 2:22pm

Aren't the writers of stuff like that usually disaffected teens themselves? At least, I find I get in fewer fights online when I assume that they are.

Oops, still derailiing. Does anyone want to talk about Mishima's friendship with Shintaro Ichihara, author of The Japan That Can Say No? We're all "oh, he wasn't a real fascist he just liked the boys in their uniforms" but this dude is a real fascist and he won 11% of the vote in the last election. Luckily he'll probably die soon.

jan 16, 2013, 2:31pm

'We're all "oh, he wasn't a real fascist he just liked the boys in their uniforms" but this dude is a real fascist and he won 11% of the vote in the last election. Luckily he'll probably die soon.'

who the fuck is 'WE' martini weenie?

jan 16, 2013, 2:44pm

It's the plural of "one."

jan 16, 2013, 8:10pm

I thought that was two??

Now I'm confused (again). Rick, but I feel like a disaffected teen. Haven't had one for a while......

So my partner (same sex, yesssss) coincidentally, happens to be reading Mishima at the moment, just finished Thirst for Love and started Confessions of a Mask, knows very little about Mishima, and nothing at all about this conversation, says to me last night, I love Mishima, he's so twisted and obsessed with death.

He read out to me over the breakfast table the long extract from Brothers Karamazov which serves as a epigraph to Confessions, you know the passage where Dimitry talks about God and Devil fighting it out in the human heart, and it occurs to me that this might stand as an epigraph for the whole of M's life and work.


More favourite bits from M:


jan 17, 2013, 11:43am

I need to grow up.

jan 17, 2013, 7:34pm

I'm here as uh an "invited guest" or otherwise as "an old friend" (and "old" indeed) of Mr Harsch and I've traveled a number of roads you could say as a sexual "searcher," including the idea that I might be "better" at being gay than as straight? (Cary Grant I think often thought it the other way around?)

What I discovered is that I was rather more asexual to most folks and I realized that I could never "have" or even "become" say Bridget Fonda so what the hell -- I tried to become a Catholic priest but the local bishop (a sly sort now in the pentagon er the Vatican) didn't "trust" me it seems.

So I've actually "returned" to my only REAL "love" (illicit AND otherwise) "the movies" and in the movies one may imagine some aspect of Gary Cooper for instance (I've become quite a "fan" of Mr Cooper lately) and his inordinate appeal to such as Jean Arthur, Barbara Stanwyck and one Lupe Velez, "the Messican es-spitfire!", who once observed that Coop's uh "equipment" was substantial but that his ass was too small to really get it "in there." She was a girl who knew a lot about such things -- "they" say.

Hollywood is/was of course a place of not only "rampant" sexuality but as per Tony Curtis ANYTHING and EVERYTHING -- well get a few hundred of the most beautiful people in the world together "by the sea" or "by the pool" and uh "imagine" what could happen?

(When the very young Shelley Winters came to sodom er SOUTHERN California with her mom no less, she was dated by Clark Gable in the early 1940s and her mother's apt advice was "Don't be TOO 'good'" -- I mean getting "it" via Gable was not necessarily to be avoided hmm. And as Marilyn Monroe remarked in "All About Eve" when her character mentions that a sable is something "a girl could make sacrifices for," the producer queries "Did you say 'sable' or 'Gable'?" and she prompts "Either one.")

Either one indeed...

jan 17, 2013, 7:56pm

^67 welcome. Your post made me spit porridge at the monitor.
I adore Hollywood gossip, especially of the Golden age. Have you read Gore Vidal's Myra books?
All about Eve is an AMAZING movie. how did they get away with it, I often wonder.

jan 17, 2013, 8:09pm

Double welcome. The Mishima central, since we're waiting for books and the starting gun, began with...well you can read it. Anyway, thanks for jumping straight in (no pun intended). Regarding Cooper: my favorite moment, unfortunately, comes in The Fountainhead, when his nemesis asks what he thinks of him, and Cooper delivers perfectly, 'I don't.'

Otherwise, High Noon, and the old sheriff's 'It's all for nothin, Will, it's all for nothin.'

jan 17, 2013, 8:22pm

I just finished reading this. It has old-timey Hollywood AND Japan, and it's by Truman Capote.


Redigeret: jan 17, 2013, 8:23pm

And (triple) welcome, Michael!

jan 18, 2013, 12:26am

Freeky, is that you ?

jan 18, 2013, 6:16am

I think the genesis for One-Eyed Jacks is there in the form of the script 'Burst of Vermillion'.

leading me to list Brando's great, but less known, films

One-Eyed Jacks
The Chase
Reflections in a Golden Eye
The Nightcomers
The Missouri Breaks

jan 18, 2013, 9:53am

I just got my books. Already a pretty interesting thread. Perhaps if you're still seeking a Buddhist monk is an alternative to the Catholic one?

jan 18, 2013, 12:48pm

I never was a Brando fan. His Bounty, was one of the most stupid films I ever saw. But that was because they allowed him to tinker with the script.

jan 18, 2013, 1:35pm

Mac, we must meet again and 'have words'. not a Brando fan...

jan 18, 2013, 1:47pm

The horror.

jan 18, 2013, 2:03pm

Mutiny on the Bounty from 1935, with Charles Laughton, is a much better movie, but then anything with Charles Laughton in it is a billion and twelve times better than anything without Charles Laughton.

jan 18, 2013, 2:20pm

78: Yes! Looks like our taste in actors is similar.

jan 18, 2013, 2:40pm

77, the Horror indeed, Brando is fantastic, when you don't see him, except the bald head,or when he appears and dissapears in the flicker of a camp fire. But by God, never in full on screen and please keep the script away from him !

jan 18, 2013, 3:00pm

I liked the mad max overacting of Mel Gibson, seamlessly impersonating a probably overacting Christian Fletcher.

Redigeret: jan 18, 2013, 3:01pm

A magician was working on a cruise ship in the Caribbean. The audience would be different each week, so the magician allowed himself to do the same tricks over and over again. There was only one problem: The captain's parrot saw the shows each week and began to understand how the magician did every trick. Once he understood he started shouting in the middle of the show:
"Look, it's not the same hat."
"Look, he is hiding the flowers under the table."
"Hey, why are all the cards the Ace of Spades ?"
The magician was furious but couldn't do anything; it was, after all, the captain's parrot.
One day the ship had an accident and sank. The magician found himself adrift on a piece of wood in the middle of the ocean with the parrot, of course. They stared at each other with hate, but did not utter a word. This went on for a day, then another, and another.
After a week the parrot said: "OK, I give up. What’d you do with the ship?"

jan 18, 2013, 3:03pm

An old sea captain was sitting on a bench near the wharf when a young man walked up and sat down. The young man had spiked hair and each spike was a different color.... green, red, orange, blue, and yellow.
After a while the young man noticed that the captain was staring at him.
"What's the matter old timer, never done anything wild in your life?
The old captain replied, "Got drunk once and married a parrot. I was just wondering if you were my son!"

jan 18, 2013, 3:55pm

People don't read anymore and one of our better local bookstores is closing and I just picked up the whole fourtet for four (4) buck, and they match. Going back later with a large tupperware.

jan 18, 2013, 3:59pm

*sigh* that is sad and yet inspirational, MM. I am tempted to get them just because they sound weird and unlike stuff I have read before - but i am in the middle of rereading IJ.

jan 18, 2013, 4:10pm

It's hard, right? I promised myself "only thesis reading till after my defence" (and it hurt to say no to the Jest; Enrique always makes you feel like it means so much to him) but then this came along and I went "wellll, I don't want to take those library books in the bath ...." Totally dishonest self-enabling behaviour. Okay, back to Frege.

jan 18, 2013, 5:41pm

great joke martin.

mac--check the good Brando. watch him clear the table in streetcar. watch his face when his brother pulls the gun in waterfront, watch him scream fucking god! at the beginning of last tang...and on and on and on...watch the gunfight scenes in One-Eyed Jacks, the way his face lights up when Johnny Fontaine shows up at the wedding...

ladies, I realize chuckie laughton was attractive, but looks mustn't cloud your judgment. I agree with MM that Gibson was a good Fletcher, but then the whole movie was better in its way. but if i had to see one and only one and one last time, it would laughton and gable.

Hard? Shit, I had no intention of reading anything suchlike and suddenly I was nominated leader. But I find the focus inspiring. And i got my friend Michael in. I don't know if he'll read the books, but he'll have some interesting contributions.

back to japan: Three cheers for Toshiro Mifune!

jan 18, 2013, 7:21pm

He could have taught Mishima a thing or two.

jan 19, 2013, 4:11am

He taught Lee Marvin a thing or two. And then came Point Blank, a one man army.

jan 19, 2013, 9:45am






Oh, no, not another one... I was just reading about HMV closing. There will be nowhere left to browse for anything anymore... except rags and badly-made-in-China shoes.

Y'all keep Mifune, I'll take Tatsuya Nakadai all for myself.

jan 19, 2013, 8:10pm

Can't let Lola have the last word. Toshiro was one of the three greatest actors ever. And I can prove it.

jan 19, 2013, 8:15pm

Okay, I looked up Nakadai--I've seen him in a couple films, but have some catching up to do. I also like Takashi Shimura a great deal.

jan 20, 2013, 4:20am

My preference goes to Chanko Nabe

jan 20, 2013, 4:39am


Redigeret: jan 21, 2013, 1:06pm

My copies have yet to arrive from Germany via Sam, or is it Sam via Germany, but to continue the discussion, rather than concentrate on the gay aspect, why not think a little about the writer and celebrity. I think Mac's main point early on was that it is the text that counts and the rest is gibberish. I agree largely because I believe that there are/were gay writers who one would never know were gay. I believe that a semi-sophisticated read of Mishima's final four novels would lead readers to think he was probably gay (maybe definitely, but i haven't read these books for twenty years or so). The question that comes to mind, then, is what to make of the writer as celebrity, and the writer's books once they are celebrities. I find that in most cases the more I see and hear of a writer the less I like them.

What say you all out there?

jan 21, 2013, 1:15pm

An review of a book on Mishima, by LTer dcozy, that came up in the Suicides thread:


jan 21, 2013, 3:04pm

I find that in most cases the more I see and hear of a writer the less I like them.

Also most famous people.

jan 21, 2013, 3:08pm

>96 LolaWalser: oh, let's read that!!

"Mishima killed himself before he had the chance to try a Spicy Mos Burger with Cheese."

Redigeret: jan 21, 2013, 3:24pm

"passed a group of SDF soldiers . . . excitedly playing volleyball." anyone else lqarl at that?

or this: "Gore Vidal once remarked that America is the only country that could have created a Hemingway and not seen the joke."

jan 21, 2013, 4:00pm

the things you people read !

jan 21, 2013, 4:12pm

I have not and never will try a Spicy Mos Burger with Cheese, but I do get the joke.

jan 21, 2013, 5:02pm

Wait--this isn't the conversation I was after...

What about Hemingway? Are his books worth a shit? Were they ever? How could his personality be so strong as to turn Dos Passos conservative, writer of that excellent trilogy?

jan 21, 2013, 5:32pm

He can be a joke and still worth a shit. He IS a joke and still worth a shit! And I mean, obviously he was in on the joke too, even if the American people weren't. (The inverse of Mishima, then?)

Redigeret: jan 23, 2013, 2:41pm

Okay, probably I agree, but for those who don't: How is he worth a shit? Certainly not for his description of Caporetto (now Slovenia's Kobarid, before Austro-Hungo's Karfreit something I have cogenitally).

jan 21, 2013, 5:43pm

Separate question: do we have more respect for Mishima's suicide than for Hemingway's?

jan 21, 2013, 8:31pm

From a cursory glance on wikipedia, I get the impression that Hemingway's suicide was more the direct result of a medical condition than of a conscious choice. I find that incomparable to a 'sane' person who takes his life for whatever kind of ideals. So, to answer your question, no. Quite the contrary.

jan 21, 2013, 8:44pm

I have more respect for Mishima's writing than Hemingway's, don't know about their suicide. Although, Hemingway's was a bit of a cop out, wasn't it? I mean what could be easier and lazier than a bullet through the head? At least he could have thrown himself into a bullring or something.

I love that Gore Vidal quote.

jan 21, 2013, 11:53pm

Ditto Henk. It doesn't seem like Mishima actually even though his suicide would spark any kind of yamato damashii rebellion or anything. It seems like he was just caught up in the theatre of it all.

jan 22, 2013, 6:01am

I may know less about Hemingway's condition than I thought. i read a couple biographies thirty years ago. I thought it was frustration over the inability to write well and good and clean anymore.

jan 22, 2013, 6:03am

But again, was it necessary to know so much about Hemingway as he lived? Norman Mailer quite brazenly sought publicity, but I like what he did with it journalistically. Nonetheless, he often came off as a monkey in over his head.

jan 22, 2013, 8:44am

But Mailer was a monkey who revealed other's comic side in a truly wonderful way. He wasn't afraid to make an ass of himself as long as he took some others down with him.

That, my friends, ought to be the true definition of bravery.

jan 22, 2013, 10:38am

I've been following this thread and I'm torn. I don't like the idea of a group read (the Bible is a special case), because I feel that reading is a very personal experience. But on the other hand you guys are so enthusiastic, not to mention funny and smart, that I'd hate not to take some part in it. And anyway I should read these books. I guess I'll try to find them and see how things go. I think there is now a French translation from the Japanese, but I need to find my way to the local library (I haven't been there in ages) and check. It's not available in electronic form unfortunately.

jan 22, 2013, 10:48am

Reading and talking are different things. Sometimes the conversation helps with my reading, especially when something is "difficult" or has many potential readings, but sometimes the reading and the conversation are just both fun but separate things.

And I have no idea what it means for reading to be difficult. It may just be that sometimes I get confused and want to blame the book instead of revealing my own shortcomings.

jan 22, 2013, 6:15pm

FA, last year I was very enthusiastic about the Moby Dick group read. I had read MD three times and was thrilled that it was chosen. But something happened and I couldn't read, but I followed and it was a terrific intellectualy experience. This time it will be different, as different as me and A_M, but we will both be here and I think whether you read with us or not, it should be a gas.

jan 23, 2013, 2:41pm

Yes, that's right a gas, and I will not let pass a day without something. I have yet to receive my books from jourmany, and wonder if perhaps they were sent from old jermany, maybe Danzig, or Stettin, or Kamerun.

jan 23, 2013, 2:43pm

Please observe post #104 where Freud had me write cogenitally instead of congenitally. Is there none amongst ye to tear me apart? Have ye no talons? Not a vulture amongst?

jan 23, 2013, 3:30pm

Books should be there any time now; the window for delivery they gave was something like the 20 thourhg 25.

jan 23, 2013, 4:19pm

>116 RickHarsch: Try "congenially." I hear it's good vulture bait.

Probably Hemingway would have some suggestions in that regard too. Calf carcass? The tears of the good and gentle and brave? I hear we're tastiest at the broken places.

Redigeret: jan 23, 2013, 7:51pm

The tears of the good and gentle and brave?

not enough prepositional phrases. There needs to be at least 10 to make it truly Hemingwayesque.

The tears of the good and gentle and brave in the mountains by the hills across the river up the creek above the tree line under the skies under the stars under the CIA satellite beyond the village near the shootin' range almost done by the old rock in the pool on the dust of the plains.

There, one extra for the same price.

jan 24, 2013, 2:31am

Fine and clean and good.

jan 24, 2013, 9:40am

Dead and cold and stiff.

jan 24, 2013, 9:58am


jan 24, 2013, 2:37pm

I'm not "around here" often so I regret my remarks are not as topical but I confess I actually LIKE the Brando "Mutiny on the Bounty" albeit it is no more "history" than the Gable-Laughton version.

There is though a homosexual aspect to "Mutiny" in the tension between "Christian" and "Bligh" (in ALL the versions but especially "The Bounty" with Hopkins and Mel Gibson eh) wherein the "native girl" always gets uh "between."

MY favorite scene in the Brando film is when "the girl" swims to the now captured ship with Brando the desperate and self disgusted mutineer captain and she observes his uh "cabin" and rants "Pig! Pig! You pig all over!" which may on occasion been many a "wifely" exclamation re Brando and any number of husbands, Hollywood and elsewhere?

Van Johnson, a particularly popular and oft underrated (see him as "Maryck" in "The Caine Mutiny," another "mutiny" theme!) "quietly" gay actor, told Johnny Carson once how he used old toothbrushes to scour out the corners in cleaning his kitchen. Johnson to Brando: "Pig! Pig! You pig all over!"?

Reputedly there's a photo of Brando's friend and apartment mate in old New York, Wally Cox (no uh well "intended" huh), giving him a blow job -- Tennessee Williams' envy? -- and later Wally became "best friends" with Marilyn (she liked HIM better than Dean Martin and maybe even her erstwhile lover Brando hmm) in the making of "Something's Got to Give," MM's last (uncompleted) film.

I don't know where all this leads to -- "Kevin Bacon" somewhere? -- but homosexuality is ubiquitous and in particular in Hollywood where it resides also in a kind of bisexuality that has Cary Grant living for a time -- until "the studio" put a stop to that! -- with cowboy star Randolph Scott. "Gay brothers and sisters" Obama mentioned in his latest inaugural -- "Hooray for Hollywood!"?...

jan 24, 2013, 4:22pm

gets uh "between"

I'm saying this later.

jan 24, 2013, 4:43pm

Tennessee Williams envy, I like that.
I use my old toothbrushes for my old teeth--I wonder what that says about me.

There's a joke here in Slovenia: What do you call a man between two Slovene women? In the way. I don't know how that was assigned...

jan 25, 2013, 2:10pm

Spring Snow. In the US it meant more shit in the midwest. In Slovenia it means a burja (italian: bora), a cold northeast wind, snow up in the karst blown down to the coast.

What does it mean to you?

jan 25, 2013, 2:34pm

For me it's associated with Japanese literature, probably because I saw Mishima's title a few times. I would probably have associated it with Kawabata to be honest, he's the Japanese author I know best, probably (not that good really, but).

I've never lived anywhere where spring snow could be an actual event.

jan 25, 2013, 2:37pm

Groundhog saw his shadow, so there will be six more weeks of skiing. On little ice pebbles.

jan 25, 2013, 3:53pm

Florence A: Spring Snow is on its way to you.

Redigeret: jan 25, 2013, 5:00pm

Makes me think of a Japanese style picture with Fuji in the background, snow on the ground and cherry blossoms bright against it. ETA: I know it is a cliche. I am not real knowledgeable about Japan.

jan 25, 2013, 5:17pm

It makes me think of a chicken, stuck in the snow, in spring.

jan 25, 2013, 5:19pm

So much depends on....

jan 26, 2013, 12:05am

Back in the Netherlands: Aprilletje zoet geeft nog wel eens een witte hoed (Sweet April sometimes gives you a white hat).
Here in Malaysia: Spring? Snow???

jan 27, 2013, 3:43am

Years ago there was a humorous web page that started something like this: “Japan is a country like no other. One of the things that makes it unique is that it has four seasons.”

Seasons are an important element of Japanese culture, and the Japanese may indeed have a tendency to consider they have a monopoly on them. I remember that I amazed a Japanese co-worker when I told her that we had kouyou (紅葉 - autumn foliage) too in France.

Like everything else in Japanese culture, seasons are highly codified and ritualized. There is still, I think (?), a set day in the year when you are supposed to switch from winter to spring/summer clothing. In food there must always be a seasonal element. Even in the prepared food section in supermarkets, you will always find at least a chrysanthemum in the sushi in autumn, for instance.

And of course, spring is the Japanese season par excellence, yes? Where everybody goes in troops to the public parks to get drunk under the cherry trees.
Snow is also something that is very present in Japan in winter, but I don't think the Japanese consider they have a special claim on it.

jan 27, 2013, 5:16am

I swear winter pear chu-hi gets you drunker than spring green apple.

jan 28, 2013, 9:35am

I love it. There is a strong sense in New England that autumn and its multicolored maples are our unique posession, too. Maybe one we share with our fellow syrupers north of the border, though they have more pines.

Unique things we share.

jan 28, 2013, 1:21pm

The Japanese may have kouyou, but fall definitely belongs to eastern North America. Until I spent a September in Ottawa I had no idea that autumn leaves could be anything but brown and damp.

Redigeret: jan 28, 2013, 2:00pm

Last July there was a huge dust storm in the central valley of Arizona where I live (in Tempe which is east of Phoenix and west of Mesa and west of Suez and well, enough) which I barely noticed except that it appeared "hazy" outside and sort of uh "yellowish."

The storm was called on various tv news stations an "haboob" (uh a term "pregnant" with possibilities?) which is Arab middle eastern and consequently (this is Arizona but then it isn't Arizona alone eh) some fuss was raised that "we" don't need no stinkin' A-rab words; we'll jus'n call it a "DUST STORM" pod'ner an' leave it at that you betcha!

(Interestingly it's been raining for TWO DAYS here now which is hardly rare for say La Crosse Wisconsin where Harsch and I first became acquainted and which he has uh "immoralized" in THREE novels. But "we" in Tempe had over ONE INCH of rain which is one uh seventh I guess of this year's rainfall!

(What is the rainfall I wonder in Timbuktoo where the French are and where we aren't -- at last? Anyway there is a movie -- and there always is! -- with of all folk John Wayne, Sophia Loren and Rossano Brazzi titled "Legend of the Lost" and directed by the prolifically competent Henry Hathaway which is set in first Timbuktoo where Loren runs about as a prostitute/pickpocket while the somewhat dour Wayne periodically bails her out of jail.

(They get taken up by Brazzi as a "humanistic" treasure seeker looking for old Roman ruins in which his father had disappeared while discovering. Seems complicated? But that's your "McGuffin" as Hitchcock termed it. Well the three end up in the great desert north or west of Timbuk eh and in trouble with Taurog rovers and Brazzi's inadequately contained lust for Loren. Things end up sort of badly but not quite; anyway it's interesting to have Wayne away from "the west" and among those not of his original tribe and it ain't a bad movie, "entertaining" and even a bit "odd" which I find appealing.)

Harsch often has defended me in the past from those who note that I'm forever off on a "tangent"; once RH said (I liked it although I myself don't know if it's really accurate) that MY "point" was usually that "tangent" after all. Well I was thinking of storms re "burja" and "haboob" and then Timbuktoo and the French and -- well I wrote a whole SERIES of "tangents" hmm...

jan 28, 2013, 2:26pm

And again thanks to David Cozy, Nagisa Oshima's movie about love among the samurai, Gohatto.

I understand the Western version of the title, "Taboo", may actually be a misrepresentation, distortion. It certainly doesn't look like homosexuality is in any way treated as taboo--a problem, perhaps, because of the disruption in the ranks, but not in any way looked upon as law-breaking as such.

Easy to see where these attitudes could be idealised in later, more restrictive times.

jan 28, 2013, 3:11pm

Are the French in Timbuktu? I think Rimbaud was there. Or not. I don't know. Where is Timbuktu anyway? It's the kind of place that sounds very exciting and exotic but, from what I've heard, it's just a boring little hole.

Um, tangents, tangerines, Tangiers, another boring hole probably. Ok, I should probably stop here.

Redigeret: jan 28, 2013, 3:44pm

I had a sister in Bamako for a while. She liked Timbuktu . It has been a mixing place for a thousand years.

The French are in Timbuktu. There is now confirmation that the bastards burned a key library on their way out. It included a whole series of only recently unearthed twelth and thirteenth century manuscripts, ones that could be critical to studies of Islam and Africa in the period.

My impression is that Timbuktu is a hole with class, not just any hole.

jan 28, 2013, 3:39pm

jan 28, 2013, 3:41pm

Yes, Flor, you should stop disparaging exotic north African cities I haven't visited yet. Timbuktu is very oddly placed, in the very oddly shaped Mali. The French were supposed to be preventing the 'Islamists' a whole haboob of them, from taking the black Mali capital and capital of Bamako, but they bombed so well they've made it up to TmBKToo. The complicating folk are the Tuaregs, who are blacker than the 'Arabs and Islamer than the Islams.
Rimbaud was probably there--I don't remember, but he died west of Sudan, with his money belt intact, as I recall.
I have no doubt that Bacall ran off with a handsome Tuareg.

As for winds, I have long planned to make a list, beginning with simoom, but have yet to do so, I am such a haboob.

jan 28, 2013, 3:45pm

Huh, look at that. Bamako is a lot bigger than Timbuktu - she'd always talked of it as more of a pit and Timbuktu as a fun place to go.

jan 28, 2013, 11:59pm

"A spokesman for the al-Qaida-linked militants has said that the ancient tombs of Sufi saints were destroyed because they contravened Islam, encouraging Muslims to venerate saints instead of God".

Yeah, they have a point here, WTF, what is all this bull of venerating saints ! Before we know it we will venerate pop-stars, soccer players, billionaires, movie stars...

Ah torch it all !

Read more: http://montreal.ctvnews.ca/religious-extremists-destroy-ancient-library-in-timbu...

jan 29, 2013, 4:48am

One thing I think it is important to remember is that what set bin Laden off was the presence of US warriors in Saudi Arabia...the Intrusive presence of the US (in particular) creates a mood that feeds the energy of fundamentalist Islam.

jan 29, 2013, 8:01am

Which brings us right back to Spring Snow and the rest of the tetralogy. Where is it. Sam had the generosity to purchase it for me, but, alarmingly, it has yet to find Izola. Last week the nation's publich sector struck, accounting for a day or two of delay, the good thing about that being that the ruling coalition seems to have fractured, which could lead to a no confidence vote for our fascist, which could lead to a generaly elections, which should feature an anti-austerity candidate.

jan 29, 2013, 9:24am

I went to borrow spring snow from the library and saw a cute small book called Sun and Steel that I also picked up. I'm about 1/3 in and it's maddeningly impenetrable. What I get so far is that YM thinks that as a child he developed the abstract before the concrete. Abstracts overlaid reality so by the time he started discovering reality it was already distorted. Also this dichotomy seems in his view to be identical to spirit/words vs. body. Because you can not write with authority about reality/the body when your own view of it distorted and because a bulging belly is a sign of softness in the head he started using steel to for his muscle and his muscle started resembling steel.

I'm probably going to have to revise my interpretation of this heavily after finishing the text but I just wanted to share my thoughts. Anyone read this title? Anyone found it to make sense? How does it relate to the sea of fertility? To his suicide?

jan 29, 2013, 9:58am

I am checking to see what's up. It should have been there.

By the way, I don't think he likes his central character much.

Redigeret: jan 29, 2013, 8:19pm

>123 Michael_Welch:
Who would you have play these roles?

Sola scriptura:

1sa.18.1 And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul. 1sa.18.2 And Saul took him that day, and would let him go no more home to his father's house. 1sa.18.3 Then Jonathan and David made a covenant, because he loved him as his own soul. 1sa.18.4 And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was upon him, and gave it to David, and his garments, even to his sword, and to his bow, and to his girdle.

1sa.20.16 So Jonathan made a covenant with the house of David, saying, Let the LORD even require it at the hand of David's enemies.† 1sa.20.17 And Jonathan caused David to swear again, because he loved him: for he loved him as he loved his own soul.

1sa.20.30 Then Saul's anger was kindled against Jonathan, and he said unto him, Thou son of the perverse rebellious woman, do not I know that thou hast chosen the son of Jesse to thine own confusion, and unto the confusion of thy mother's nakedness?† 1sa.20.31 For as long as the son of Jesse liveth upon the ground, thou shalt not be established, nor thy kingdom. Wherefore now send and fetch him unto me, for he shall surely die.

1sa.20.41 And as soon as the lad was gone, David arose out of a place toward the south, and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed himself three times: and they kissed one another, and wept one with another, until David exceeded.

1sa.23.16 And Jonathan Saul's son arose, and went to David into the wood, and strengthened his hand in God. 1sa.23.17 And he said unto him, Fear not: for the hand of Saul my father shall not find thee; and thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee; and that also Saul my father knoweth. 1sa.23.18 And they two made a covenant before the LORD: and David abode in the wood, and Jonathan went to his house.

2sa.1.26 I am distressed for thee, my brother Jonathan: very pleasant hast thou been unto me: thy love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.

All quotations from the The Bible KJV.

jan 30, 2013, 6:48am


Given Charlton Heston's age...

jan 30, 2013, 6:54am

Spring Snow has arrived. When shall we begin?

jan 30, 2013, 7:07am

Yea! I already have but just barely but I thought we said beginning of feb?

jan 30, 2013, 8:59am

I just read the first two pages, so I'd say: anytime!

jan 30, 2013, 9:27am

150> Not sure how much we should read into these quotes. Some cultures (I'm thinking of ancient Greeks and Romans) placed male friendship on par with or above love between sexes, but that doesn't necessarily mean there was a sexual aspect to it. Though there might have been an underlying sexual tension I suppose.

Here's a page that explains it better than I can:

jan 30, 2013, 12:35pm

Ten chapters a week? 100 pages a week?

Do you admire General Nogi's example, committing suicide to follow the Emperor in death?

It seems silly to me. But on the other hand wouldn't it be nice to have the death of some power figure really mean something? We (the U.S. we) have an empire with a degrading process for determining who gets to be the emperor, and we have a political economic system that is a monster, a dragon far more powerful than the emperor...

jan 30, 2013, 1:55pm

>156 RickHarsch: right? The calendar starts anew with the accession of each new emperor. That's fucking cool.

>155 FlorenceArt: I will be so disappointed if there wasn't an underlying sexual tension in Greek man-friendships. Unless it's because the tension was broken by all the man-sex they were having. But seriously, this has always been right at the core of what the Greeks were all about, in my understanding. Buncha ephebophiles.

jan 30, 2013, 4:38pm

157> I don't know that much about it really, but I think we're mostly projecting our own views on the Greeks. For us, love is a strong feeling of attachment toward another person that you consider your equal, and have sex with (exclusively, in theory). I don't think the Greeks necessarily linked together strong attachment to an equal and sex, as we do. I don't think that love is the universal notion that we assume it is. I don't think we really understand what love and friendship may have meant to an ancient Greek or Israelite or Roman. Or samurai?

jan 30, 2013, 6:00pm

>158 FlorenceArt: I was mostly being silly, but maybe I misunderstood you as well. I agree of course that the Greeks (and Romans) didn't necessarily link storng friendship and sex, but nevertheless I was under the impression that man–adolescent boy sex was an accepted practice and that sexually, boys were often (sometimes?) considered more appealing than women by adult men. Perhaps this was just a practice of dandies, or hoplites, or tutors, or the Emperor Hadrian.

jan 30, 2013, 8:19pm

>156 RickHarsch: 100 pages/week would set the stage nicely to finish it in a month (based on the paperback at least). Sounds good to me.

Redigeret: jan 30, 2013, 9:28pm

Martini is right. The notion that men on men friendships did not include a sexual element for the ancient greeks and romans and samurais is just suppressed homophobia. Greek, roman and Japanese art from the period is full of depictions of men on men sex. They happily did not have the disgust towards the expression of friendship through sex that has been engendered by Christianity and Islam. We are simply projecting our own attitudes on the past when we assume that there was no sexual element in male male friendship. There quite clearly was, and the attitude of those concerned was one of 'yeah, so what?', as records, letters, dairies and records attest in abundance.

That link you posted, flo, is nonsense, sorry to say, and is a clear expression of suppressed homophobia - these dudes can't possibly be GAY!!!!!!. What you are looking at in many of the pics, is gay relationships, hiding under a cloak of an asexual friendship because openly revealing the love that dare not speak its name results in prison. simple as that.

The love of the Samurai
Male Colors, The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan

Redigeret: jan 31, 2013, 1:31am

>161 tomcatMurr: while this

They happily did not have the disgust towards the expression of friendship through sex that has been engendered by Christianity and Islam.

makes me shake my fists at those reprobate faiths, this specifically

disgust towards the expression of friendship through sex

makes me mist up and weep for the folly of man. Right here in Earl's.

jan 31, 2013, 2:12am

161> I agree about the link I posted, it's full of not very well repressed homophobia, but I posted it anyway because I thought the description of heroic friendships was good.

Of course I know that homosexuality was an accepted practice among the Greeks, but I'm not so sure that they associated it with love? Again, I don't think they had the same definition of love that we do.

The Romans on the other hand rather frowned on homosexuality I believe (which of course does not preclude the practice of it), but they did not hate it the way Christians and Muslim may do.

What I meant, really, is that reading a story about a passionate friendship between two men does not automatically mean that sexual love is implied, and especially not if we project our own definition of love on these texts. But maybe I'm wrong. I tend to be very literal and rather blind to everything that is unsaid.

jan 31, 2013, 2:37am

Not sure if I'll be able to take part in the read (Not participating in the Infinite Jest read is a full time job), but thought I'd just pop in to mention that there's a new and massive Mishima biography out: Persona: A Biography of Yukio Mishima. I haven't read it, or heard much about it yet, so I'm not sure how good it is, but for what it's worth . . . .

Redigeret: feb 7, 2013, 2:21pm

Last night I watched the 1953 Kenji Misoguchi film "Ugetsu" of which I had recently read (and been inspired to see) in movie critic David Thomson's latest study of world wide cinema "The Big Screen."

Harsch and I share a fanship for Akira Kurosawa, the best known (in America) Japanese director ("the John Ford of Japan" even it seems according to John Ford) whose 1954 "Seven Samurai" is yet probably the best "western" ever made though copied as John Sturges' good but pale shadow of the original, the 1960 "The Magnificent Seven" with Yul Brynner as "Takashi Shimura" so to speak and Steve McQueen as an amalgam of Kurosawa's other characters.

"Ugetsu" is as per "Seven" set in the "turbulent" 16th century of Japanese civil wars and "failed statehood" I guess but it strikes me also as an attempt to address the second world war, something the Germans have apparently become pretty good at (to the point of boring their youth with Adolf, et. al.) but the Japanese STILL have difficulty with.

"Ugetsu" is about some town folk, specifically a potmaker and his rather noble wife plus his buddy who longs a la Toshiro Mifune to become a "real samurai," who decide "war is good for business" and set about making and selling pottery that goes like proverbial hotcakes because I'd suppose all these wars break a lot of crockery eh.

Anyway bad things happen to both "good" and "bad" people -- one being the potter is seduced by a ghost, "Lady Wakasa," who is portrayed by the lovely Machiko Kyo who also is the "raped" ("Legitimate" rape? Ah that's the question in this movie!) wife in Kurosawa's great "Rashomon" AND -- get this Brando mavens! -- she played "Lotus Blossom" in the American fairy tale about an Okinawa and US occupation of purest fantasy (but then what are the movies BUT --), the appallingly charming (hard to resist in spite I assure you) 1956 "Teahouse of the August Moon" in which Brando has his eyes pulled back and plays an Okinawan interpreter of unusually big muscles and well fed frame for 1946!

Kyo's awfully cute in "Teahouse" but she's very appropriately "ghostly" in "Ugetsu" as she is also appropriately ambiguous in "Rashomon." Since she didn't speak English there was no "career" ahead of her in Hollywood (unlike for Bergman's mistress-actresses Bibi Andersson and Liv Ullmann who probably both should have "stayed at home"?) but she might forever say that SHE did a pic with MARLON BRANDO!?

The discovery of samurai who behave like the barbarians who destroyed Timbuktoo and the fact that money made in war by small folk is just as easily stolen from them by men with swords and spears has at the end the would be samurai throwing his weapons in the river and vowing to be a "hard working" farmer as his much put upon wife demands.

War is well "ugly" in "Ugetsu" and the sense I have is that there'd have been MILLIONS of Japanese watching this "medieval" story who were able to place its events rather "exactly" in their own experiences? But "Ugetsu" is also beautifully filmed (in black and white of course by Kazuo Miyagawa), especially the uh "haunting" sequences of the two couples rowing across a local lake in heavy fog and in the ghosts of the nurse and the "Lady" leading the potter to another sort of Japanese fantasyland of the uneasy and yet lusting dead.

Well another "tangent" interrupting your discussion but I hope it might "add" something to the "atmosphere"?

Your "FRIENDLY" ghost, "Capsper" Mike...

jan 31, 2013, 7:24pm

I think the discussion will spend much energy on the wars Japan engaged in during the 20th century. so far Spring Snow, up to page 70, to my mind already is setting the stage for irrepressible internal conflict that must throw up something that could turn monstrous.

jan 31, 2013, 11:29pm

Tangents suggest straight lines intersecting curves. Seems like too much continuity and regularity for this place. Perhaps another randomly placed point on the canvas.

feb 1, 2013, 4:22am

Titling the chapters

!. The seductive glance of Princess Kasuga

feb 1, 2013, 5:38pm

Please contribute an alternate title and suggest titles to further chapters. I found that first chapter interesting in that it started with a short bit on the Russo-Japanese war and went on to Kiyo's already odd sexuality.

feb 3, 2013, 5:22am

First chapter: contrast between individual and formalised memory of a war, contrast between traditional Japanese and western culture and contrast between individual sensitivity and traditional reticence.

RH, I like your title only I don't think the princess' glance was meant to be seductive, so I give my alternative:
1. The train of the princess.

feb 3, 2013, 6:53am

I agree, it wasn't meant to be seductive, but our sexually intriguing protagonist sees much in it. Thanks for the summary. Formalised memory of war...

feb 4, 2013, 10:31pm

We are finally reading: where are ye?
please vote on or submit a title for chapter one.

feb 4, 2013, 11:17pm

I'm clearing my plate. Edwidge Danticat is a harsh mistress.

feb 5, 2013, 12:02am

I stopped after chapter 13, having reached the target for week 1. Are you looking for other chapter titles as well? Are we going to do dream analysis or look for symbolism elsewhere?

feb 5, 2013, 1:15am

Chapter 19.

feb 5, 2013, 6:58am

I got to chapter 8 before my wife took the book to begin reading; I may need a second book.

Title "images"

Redigeret: feb 13, 2013, 4:33am

I was hoping to use chapter titles to kick off discussions, yes.
dream analysis, why not?
symbolism? everything anyone notices or thinks of...

Chapter 2. Honda Brings Kiyo to Life
The Fastidious Beauty of Youth

feb 5, 2013, 9:01am

Chapter 2: The maple on the lake

First foreshadowing of death: a dream of his coffin, the water of the lake, and the autumn leaves of the maple. I think it's significant that they land 'where a single maple stood among the pines'

Kiyoaki was clearly impressed by the princess. Is his subconscious rejecting this by throwing out the coffin dream with the woman hanging on?

feb 5, 2013, 1:07pm

Look, Henk, if you're gong to one up me every time...

I sometimes wonder if I am hindered by being a writer myself and finding almost every review of my books, which were mostly positive, off the point, and so I am reluctant to determine what another author is saying. I will try to get past that. Meantime, Mishima is certainly a complex writer.

feb 6, 2013, 12:13am

Sorry Rick, didn't mean to do that. Will tone it down a bit from now on.

Redigeret: feb 6, 2013, 6:38am

No, no, Henk. I am not only appreciative, I am in need of just that kind of help. I was entirely joking (I am not at all sensitive in that particular way). Please continue.

In fact, from the beginning I was asking for a co-leader.

feb 6, 2013, 6:38am

That said, after being directed by TC to the Pro and Con group for an example of high swinery, I have spent a little time there and found that the group is overflowing with ugly personalities. This group, Salon, deserves general praise for the combination of strong intellects and extreme generosity of spirit.

feb 6, 2013, 8:24am

Chapter 3: The snipers.

A line from the beginning: "And so they stared from their hiding place like two young snipers."

A line at the end: "Kiyo, what would you do if all of a sudden I weren't here any more?" Satoko asked, her words coming in a rushed whisper.

Foregrounding, Foreboding, foreshadowing. For what? I don't yet know.

Going back to the suicide issue, I think it is hard in the context of my own cultural background to really understand suicide as an act of grief or mourning, but somewhat easier to understand it as a form of protest. I was just raised too much of an individualist to really comprehend making a statement of mourning through that kind of act. But I look at the Tibetan self-imolations or the self-imolation that touched off the Arab spring, and have some better emotional understanding of why the sacrifice. But is a suicide in mourning for the Emperor really that different, other than it being a sacrifice not to change the status quo, but to celebrate and reinforce it?

feb 6, 2013, 9:20am

>183 A_musing:. I agree. It's a paradox on the surface, but I would imagine the suicide for such an abstract as a state one way or another resembles the protest, but actually the protest suicide I would think involves immediate emotions rather than formal abstract ones.

(Please grade using the gibberish quotient)

feb 6, 2013, 9:32am

>181 RickHarsch:,182 Glad to hear that and thanks for the kind words.

>183 A_musing:,184 (We are talking about that general right?) I think there might be an element of honour involved. If you say the Emperor is your life then it seems dishonorable to go on after he has died (and perhaps claim that the new Emperor is your life?). Or put it differently: if there's nobody left to die for, there's nobody left to live for.

chapter 3: watching the sky
(after reading sun&steel I couldn't help but be struck by that)

Also, this chapter introduces buddhism and the idea of reincarnation.

feb 6, 2013, 1:08pm

Chapter 1: Too, Too Exquisite, Kiyoaki!

feb 6, 2013, 1:40pm

And, well, it's not like you kill yourself for the emperor because he's such a great guy, right? "The king is dead (I have nothing to live for), long live the king (and me)!" seems like a workable general principle for all aside from the occasional enthusiast.

feb 7, 2013, 2:21am

Chapter 2: Learn Something from Your Friend, Kiyoaki!

feb 7, 2013, 8:55am

But don't the occassional enthusiasts make life (or its obverse) interesting?

Kiyoaki really does need some clues, though, doesn't he?

feb 7, 2013, 9:23am

he's frustrating

feb 7, 2013, 2:01pm

Teaser: Chapter 22. Satoko Finally Gets Her Chapter.

feb 7, 2013, 2:54pm

Harsch tells me I'm not unduly or rudely "interrupting" or at least there's a modicum of interest in what I'm saying though I don't know that I do more than "self indulge."

I started after all talking about Gary Cooper and I rewatched a rather "obscure" Coop film the other night, the 1936 "Souls at Sea" directed by that "prolific competent" Henry Hathaway and featuring a lovely Frances Dee (married fellow actor Joel McCrea and ONLY Joel McCrea -- ditto JMcC re Dee -- a Hollywood "wonder" indeed!) plus a captivating -- get this! -- George Raft (ever hear of him?) as "Powdah," a refreshingly candid "prole" type, a mate on a slave ship, who nevertheless loves (love IS the word really) "Nuggin" (Cooper) who reads Shakespeare and recites various sort of popular poetry.

Dee is the English middle class who falls for Coop and the engaging Olympe Bradna plays the "lady's maid" headed off to America to escape her class consciousness and she of course falls for Raft who pretends he's a merchant prince of sorts.

The "story" deals with the slave trade though there's only one sequence with the hold full of chained black men ("bold" for a 1930s movie I'd say; probably didn't play uh "well" in say Atlanta or especially Savannah -- if at all; "Gone With the Wind" much more THEIR style) but also with the proposition of what is permissable in a life or death crisis. Coop ends up on trial you see for killing some (white) folks when a ship sinks due to an accident that will surprise you (if you ever see this film) in its uh "candor" is the best word I can find at the moment in order to save others in the one remaining lifeboat. (No especial nobility here as per "Titanic" eh.)

Anyway I saw the movie (by "accident") on tv oh a million (or at least fifty) years ago and it always "stuck" with me for its theme(s) and singular characters and performances. Oh and I rewatched the 1936 "The Plainsman," a Cecil B. DeMille pic with Cooper and Jean Arthur about "Wild Bill" Hickok and "Calamity" Jane and it's random "history" but vivid moviemaking. Harsch by the way once particularly impressed me by noting that DeMille, despite his tendency to the "corn," is superb at creating an "environment" which is not really oh ancient Egypt or Israel or the American west for that matter but DEMILLE's version of so that nevertheless has its own "living" reality. CB was a man who kept his eye on "detail" you might say.

Okay "Mike Interruptus" again -- a diversion from topic which I hope may, with some pleasure, "divert" for a few minutes?...

feb 7, 2013, 4:20pm

>192 Michael_Welch: nah, you're great. Don't even worry.

I've been catsitting for this couple who seemed really weirdly eager to get me using their Netflix account as some kind of make-yourself-at-home gesture (like, calling to check in: "How are things? I bet you've been enjoying the Netflix.") and I finally busted it pen the other day and I was all excited about de-ignoranting myself some on some classic film but it's all Disney and HBO and the exact same shit that's available everywhere on TV and for download. I am seriously disappointed. I get why the video shop has a billion copies of the Avengers and none of "Souls at Sea," but surely the rights for old movies are cheap and storage isn't an issue for Netflix ... I don't get it.

(Sure enough, no "Souls at Sea.")

Has anyone seen the 2005 Spring Snow? I don't know the director, but it stars Satoshi Tsumabuki from Waterboys as Kiyoaki and on the basis of the first two chapters I'd say that casting is as perfect as cherry blossoms floating on the still surface of a high school swimming pool.

feb 7, 2013, 4:44pm

Ah, the cherry blossoms and between the reflection of the maple body of Mrs. Schmarniger, the gym coach...

feb 8, 2013, 11:33pm

Chapter 3: The One That Should Have Ended, "And Then She Turned to Him, And Her White Teeth Flashed Against a Mouth Dark and Red Like the Black Dog's, and Then the World Spun and Darkened and Kiyoaki Knew No More"

feb 8, 2013, 11:35pm

Chapter 4: Friendship=Mutually Assured Destruction

feb 9, 2013, 4:22am

In chapter four I was struck by the similarity between the Hosso skull-vessel parable and my favorite explication of Hinduism, the parable of the Snake and the Rope. The emphasis is different, but both are about the relation between the real effects of perception and reality. When the skull drinker realizes he has been drinking from a skull he nearly vomits. When the Hindu finds that his fears were from a false perception of a rope as a snake he is relieved. But the essence of the snake and rope story is that despite the fact that the snake was not real the perception created a thorough reality, which representative of the concept of maya. The Hosso story is not conclusive; it brings about the question whether with clear knowledge the drinker can recover and deal with the reality that caused a re-evaluation of the nature of reality.
The chapter ends with Honda perceiving that Kiyo is pleading that he not be faced with the real. The perverse relation between his self-perception and the world is the skull, and he doesn't want to find that out, even though it would lead through a web of irrationality to something real.

Chapter Title: The History of Gesshu Temple

feb 9, 2013, 4:47am

The chapter ends with Honda perceiving that Kiyo is pleading that he not be faced with the real.

Oooh, yes, true. Nice. It also gives Honda a darker cast than previously--he likes holding that power over Kiyoaki, sword of Damocles–style.

feb 9, 2013, 6:43pm

Very nice, Rick.

The interplay of story and religion is very deft and matter of fact here. We are being set up. I expect Martin's flashing white fangs to be bared eventually, but not yet.

Poor dog.

Redigeret: feb 9, 2013, 10:11pm

The Thai princes really kicked it up a notch for me. (...bam.)

Redigeret: feb 10, 2013, 7:25am

I like the Thai princes, too, but still, halfway through, I can't explain them. Likely at the least they represent a society not in transition as well as a counterpoint to a militaristic country, or a country with an active martial ethic.

feb 10, 2013, 10:07am

Ch. 5. Stomping out the fires of good luck

feb 10, 2013, 12:44pm

In this chapter, Satoko is not present, just her few words, which are finally the focus of the chapter. Watch the way Kiyo responds, first with relief, a clear awareness of his own feelings, and later allows his ego to interfere and twist the matter out of recognizable form.

feb 10, 2013, 4:38pm

I imagine we'll be seeing more of that.

feb 11, 2013, 5:15am

The Thai princes re-emerge as funboys later on, and I should have mentioned another use of them is the rather 'normal' pure love Chao P. holds for Krid's sis, which contrasts with our frustrating protagonist's restless mindlove.

feb 11, 2013, 5:17am

I am hoping Henk comes out of hiding to set us straight on the chapter titles and provide summaries. Those following and not reading benefit and are given enough to go on to get involved, I think.

feb 11, 2013, 9:00am

Ch. 6. A Rash Letter

feb 11, 2013, 9:06am

Ch. 7. Honda Ponders Law
Ch. 8. The Oppressive Real

"Yet he knew their (the Thais) thoughts were elsewhere, adrift on some broad ocean. But he was pleased by it, for to him the idea of human emotions remaining steadfast and inextricably anchored in the body, in the here-and-now, was unbearably oppressive."

feb 11, 2013, 9:10am

Ch. 9. Austere Reverence and the Wild Horse of Sexual Excitement

Through the first half of the book there are three references to the saliva of horses!

This chapter is a fun one. The sadsack Iinuma ends the chapter with a surprise erection. Later we find out why, but it comes as such a surprise Iinuma fails to bring the book down.

feb 11, 2013, 9:14am

10. Conspiracies

feb 11, 2013, 9:45am

It was Chinese New Year :)

>197 RickHarsch: Nice!

You put too much faith in me; my notes are so sparse! And no titles!
Ch4 The reader becomes aware that Kiyo has feelings for Satoko, but K is in denial.
Ch5 K realises his love for S; K rejects his father's offer to pay for sex (loyalty to S?). Development of what looks like love-hate relation
Ch6 The Thai princes flaunt their girlfriends and K feels obliged to organise a meeting with S in the theatre.
Ch7 Honda's study; incident with Fusako
Ch8 The play (theatre)
Ch9 Iinuma's disappointment
Ch10 Iinuma blackmailed to become go-between

My turn to have kurt contributions, I guess.

feb 11, 2013, 10:06am

I'm wondering if our Thai princes will be a counterpoint to the west in some way. Clearly, the so-called west haunts this work, and these fellows have a certain comfort in their skin so far that seems very contrary to Kiyo and many of the other Japaense characters.

I'm also trying to really place the setting in Japanese history still. Mishima writes in the 60s, and is depicting the post Russo-Japanese war aristocracy. Japan is about to launch three decades of intense imperialism. The period we're in seems a bit of a lull in some ways, and certainly feels like it.

feb 11, 2013, 2:51pm

Though many references are made to that lull being a state of flux before change, or final change...

A blurb on the back of my book calls this an 'austere' love story? Is this an austere love story?

feb 11, 2013, 4:27pm

"Yet he knew their (the Thais) thoughts were elsewhere, adrift on some broad ocean. But he was pleased by it, for to him the idea of human emotions remaining steadfast and inextricably anchored in the body, in the here-and-now, was unbearably oppressive."

And for the Thais, probably, they'd be much happier if their thoughts were in the here-and-now--whether that means thoughts joining them in Japan or them meeting their thoughts back in Thailand.

I'm interested in Iinuma as the hatching of the protofascist spirit that will end the "lull." Taisho democracy seems like such a blip to us (me), with the telescoping that accompanies the passage of time and its placement in between the charismatic, politically mad mad mad mad Meiji and Showa eras. But it was fourteen years, in fact, and the "democracy" lasted somewhat longer. Plenty of time for a young guy like our sadsack to feel like the age of heroes had passed (he seems like the type to do something seriously fucked up later and come to a bad end, but if he sticks around I can imagine him having a gruesome career in the thirties doing blackshirt stuff).

Then blurb on mine is fantastic. I will reproduce it in full when I have book in hand.

feb 12, 2013, 2:02am

Martin, your unseemly fascination with the fascists is...wait, this isn't Pro and Con...sorry...

Redigeret: feb 12, 2013, 4:26am

Ch. 11 Fortuitous Dream Leads to Invitation

Bit prosaic, sure.

Anyway, I don't remember enough about this, but I was struck in the past by Hindu philosophy's regard of the dream life as just as much a part of life as the waking life--or just as real. I believe even dreamless sleep is regarded as a reality on a par with the perceived daily life. This would make sense, of course, for the dreamless sleep is likely to be free of false perceptions, behaviours based on false perceptions. So I was struck by 'He could never be certain that these day-to-day emotions were part of his true self, but he knew that the Kiyoaki of his dreams, at least, was real.' And of course his behaviour is too often governed by maya, his false interpretation of the real...

In his dream he is wearing the ring Chao P. was given by his lover...

feb 12, 2013, 4:26am

ch.12 One pure moment

Wherein, during a ride in the snow, Kiyo and Satoko have their meeting of lovers before anything has been done to set a tragedy in motion (Kiyo's letter, at his point, could still have been forgiven and seems to have been, but...)

This chapter contains the following fine paragraph:

'A moment later, the shaking of the richshaw was about to force their lips apart, but Kiyoaki instinctively resisted the movement, until his whole body seemed to balance on that kiss, and he had the sensation that a huge, invisible, perfumed fan was slowly unfolding where their lips met.'

feb 12, 2013, 4:27am

ch 13 Lover's Spat

Honda sucks up to Kiyo.

feb 12, 2013, 4:28am

Ch 14 What to do in a Library if You Don't Feel Like Reading

Redigeret: feb 12, 2013, 4:34am

Hey, I didn't know this book was gonna be full of fascists! My copy's blurb:


Her lips, with an incredible, liquid smoothness, that intoxicated him, kept twisting one way, then the other, against his own. The firm edge of her resolve was melting away like a lump of sugar in hot tea, and now a wonderfully sweet dissolution had begin.

Her entire kimono swirled in revolt as he tore frantically at the folds of silk that bound her breasts. Then right before his eyes, he saw the tiny, well-guarded triangle of white before her throat spread into a rich and fragrant expanse of skin . . . .
"A love story, related to Romeo and Juliet. . . a work of superb, fantastically sensual, fictional art . . . ." –Mademoiselle

And then it has has what looks like Davy Jones in a turtleneck and white boots, embracing Faye Dunaway in a black wig, arms artfully draped to hide and yet reveal, her kimono swirling in revolt, just like it says on the tin.

feb 12, 2013, 4:35am

It makes me feel trashy just looking at it.

feb 12, 2013, 5:31am

I type with my left hand, my right thrust downward to detain the treacherous, surging boner that will not be denied the back of your book...Now look, a hole right through my palm. Geez.

feb 12, 2013, 8:59am

I enjoy the role of books in here. Sotoko's house is filled with them, out everywhere. Kiyo's house has them locked away in a room with the rats.

Redigeret: feb 12, 2013, 5:37pm

Matsugae Kiyoaki, by the way (松枝 清顕): "pine bough," "clear, unconcealed," roughly. Both the characters in Kiyoaki contain meanings related to purification, clarification, exposure. Irony?

Ayakura Satoko (綾倉 聡子) is harder--her given name means "sagacious/discerning child," and 綾 is "figure, design," which seems appropriate. 倉 is usually "warehouse," but kanji were adopted for the sound only in many cases; perhaps there is a small irony here too, since it's Kiyoaki's family that are the nouveaux riches. The Asakura were a major aristocratic family historically, so maybe there's an echo there. Actually, that's interesting--Asakura Yoshikage was handpicked by the shogun to lead the coalition against Oda Nobunaga, another rising upstart, and failed completely, and the family were destroyed--and it certainly wasn't typical for the nobility to partake in the samurai tradition; as far as I remember the Asakura were the only ones that did, and they were eliminated by Nobunaga after he marched into Kyoto. I've seen Yoshikage depicted in books and video games about the period as craven, effete, pompous.

Like with the book symbolism, the parallels are pretty obvious! Now somebody just needs to interpret the role of boners for us.

feb 12, 2013, 8:13pm

Ch. 13: "Honda fails to disprove the existence of a Christian God"

Redigeret: feb 12, 2013, 10:47pm

In the English translation this melody was silent.

I'm too lazy to look up the places, but I've felt this a few times already.

feb 13, 2013, 9:35am

Ch 11: Dreams of power.

What is the relation between the throne, ring and the girl's reflection? Why does she disappear when he shakes his hand? Why can't he be bothered to think such questions over for himself? I'm not his psychoanalyst...

Ch 12: Ride in the snow

Ch 13 Honda's philosophy

Free will vs determinism. A debate as old as the world, methinks.

I was also on the lookout for fascists, I mean, we all know what happened next.

I'm not entirely sure about the Thai princes. I don't think Mishima would introduce foreigners, even if they're Asian, to represent traditional values. I thought they represent the Buddhist element, rather.

Redigeret: feb 13, 2013, 11:26am

They certainly bring in some of the Buddhism, but the love story of Chao P. is set up to stand aside Kiyo's I think. But you're right that Mishima didn't need foreigners for that. But you see later that the princes' Buddhist feelings are contrasted to that of Kiyo and Honda.

feb 14, 2013, 8:49am

I'm not doing a very good job am I? I think problem lies with the lack of enthusiasm on the part of everyone else. This kind of thinking helps me sleep at night.

Ch. 15 is remarkable. Satoko writes at the end of a genuine love letter, mocking Kiyo: 'Please be kind enough not to forget to throw this letter into the fire.'
Of course Kiyo still thinks his nasty letter was indeed thrown into the fire and he misses the mockery. He then spends a page or two twisting things around in his mind until he is moved to write another nasty letter,; but he can't manage and writes a boyish love letter.

feb 14, 2013, 8:55am

Ch 16 'He Liked the Word Declline'
Ch. 17 The Thai Princes Remind Kiyo that He is in Love
Ch. 18

Perhaps my favorite excerpt from the book:

Any sort of serious thought was beyond the Baroness, who was amazed at the intellectual awakening among Japanese women. She observed it with the same excited curiosity that might have been aroused in her by hens laying eggs of some novel shape--pyramids, for instance.'

feb 14, 2013, 8:57am

Ch. 19 Rick Needs Help

Please offer your interpretations of Satoko's remonstrance. Why then? Why the ride in the snow and then this? What is up with this woman?

feb 14, 2013, 9:17am

You're doing great Rick. But things kept on interfering on my end. I was in the commuter this morning making notes when my wife called me to make a u-turn as there was something in my son's school. When I came out holding my books underarm and trying to call the office while navigating a ditch my notes slipped. Luckily they floated and a very helpful taxi driver came rushing up with a dustpan to fish them out so they're only a little wet. Please do not complain if my comments have a smell though.

ch14 Where Kiyo and Satoko have the innocent celebration of their love in the pure snow of a blizzard, in this chapter we find Iinuma consuming carnal love with a flipskirt maid in that corner of the library 'closest to the dirty snow'. Though Iinuma was manipulated by Kiyo/Takeshina I didn't notice him putting up any resistance at all. The phrase that stuck: 'is this my way of finding pleasure'. Well may Iinuma doubt himself.
Chapter title: dirty snow (and for ch12: falling snow)

ch 15 I liked the phrase 'it was the kind of letter that ought to transport a man into ecstacy' (my emphasis). The message is clear: kiyo isn't a man, he's an adolescent boy, overly romantic. And since the stuff of the romantic is unrequitted love, nothing is more deadly to it than an actual love affair, hence his reluctance to accept Satoko. But there may be a little hope for him yet as he apparently sends the boyish love letter instead of the nasty one.

feb 14, 2013, 9:19am

ch 16 A death marked by elegance
ch 17 Spring is in the air

feb 14, 2013, 9:27am

ch 18 This felt like a pivotal chapter due to it's length and constantly shifting perspective. But. I haven't figured out what I think of it.
Nice quote from RH, another one: 'Why can't I be on both sides of the pond at once' (the baroness lamenting her inability to view firsthand the impact of her dress...)

Let's see some contrasts:
baroness vs baron (chatterbox/scatterbrain vs studiedly silent fella)
geishas vs Satoko (shifting eyes vs serene look)
Some active/passive thing going on with passive coming out on top?

The thai princes pretend to be good school boys in front of the prince (well, who wouldn't?)
What's the fuss about Brits asking whether to pour the tea or the milk first if a Japanese tea ceremony takes hours?

feb 14, 2013, 9:50am

Yeah, the artifice...the bane of the Ayakuras who are watching their world slip away, the only weapon the wife's disdain...

feb 14, 2013, 3:17pm

I'm plugging away--just busy, and consumed with resurgent fears related to (not) finishing my thesis. I liked Miné a lot--so many characters in this suffer from different kinds of emotional reserve with weird twisted parts underneath, but she seems a good sort. In general, I find the writing austere and difficult to love, but at times Mishima can slay you with the right observation, like the Baron, and at other times the aggregation of small, moderately interesting details on people's mutual reactions mesh into a cat's cradle that sits over the (also diligent) evocation of a landscape or a festival, another ghostly scene overlying the physical setting or events. When Mishima does that (Ch. 18 is one) this feels like Faubert or Proust at moments, yet (in contrast????) I think it would also make an amazing play. Ch. 18 needs a Falstaff or a Mrs Malaprop.

Rick and Henk, I like your hints about revelations to come (the letter, the Thai princes). Regarding milk and/in tea, I think it has to do with the food history of the Meiji era--as Japan Westernized, it was decided that the European diet (along with everything else European, of course) was more nutritious, and traditional taboos on meat and dairy were done away with from above by means of ads: The Emperor himself enjoys meat! The Emperor drinks two glasses of milk a day for strong bones! My understanding is that the meat thing caught on pretty quick, but there was a lot more resistance to dairy, which was taken mostly quasi-medicinally. It's well known that lactose intolerance is normal in East Asians. Dairy didn't really enter people's diets until the sixties, according to the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Food, with the advent of Japanese wonderbread; it never made significant inroads into native Japanese food (you can get a cheese gratin (or a wrapped Camembert) at any Japanese restaurant (supermarket), but cream cheese in sushi, which is common here in Vancouver, I suspect would be seen as an abomination.

All of which is to say that the place of food in culture and the place of tea in Japanese food culture made the Baron's comment ring really true to me. I was living in Tokyo when Starbucks introduced matcha lattes a decade ago, and nobody bought them and everybody was horrified--although royal milk tea, which is black tea boiled with milk and sugar, was common. (And despite the normality of dairy by that time, some people still used to say that white people smell like butter).

So while the Baron is playing this pseudo-British global cosmopolitan, the tea story will be felt novel by the listener in a way that unites him and his audience in a presumed, shared Japanese reaction. It makes him (to people in his milieu) more relatable, less grotesque and less potentially funny, and lets him get away with his eccentric way of being. I thought it was a really good touch.

Redigeret: feb 14, 2013, 3:28pm

Fodder for the facist-hunters: in ch 35, Honda is reading the forbidden book The Theory of Japan's National Polity and Pure Socialism by Terujiro Kita, who is described as "the Japanese Otto Weiniger" (author of the notoriously antisemitic Geschlecht und Character ).

feb 14, 2013, 3:32pm

And here I secretly thought it was a hint of interracial sex.

Jesus Martin, and I mean that, The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Food?

Thanks, excellent stuff.

As for the writing being difficult to love...I have wondered often how Japanese is translated, rather whether a great translation is possible. With this one I stopped thinking about it, because I like Mishima's capacity to surprise me, usually with a comment or someone's behaviour that strikes me as perverse.

feb 14, 2013, 3:32pm

By the way, I finished the novel and I go back chapter by chapter. Where should be 'all' be by now?

feb 14, 2013, 4:20pm

My mistake, it's the Cambridge World History of Food. What?

And yeah, With this one I stopped thinking about it, because I like Mishima's capacity to surprise me, usually with a comment or someone's behaviour that strikes me as perverse., I'm coming around to this way of thinking too.

I'm at the start of Chapter 19.

feb 15, 2013, 12:59am

I'm only on chapter 14, and your folks are too far ahead of me for me to participate. But I'll catch up.


feb 15, 2013, 1:52am

I would still love to read your thoughts on earlier chapters Robert, feel free to share.

feb 15, 2013, 2:10am

Actually I don't have many. I have a feel for what Mishima is describing but not for the trajectory of the book or the characters. So when I get caught up I may be able to respond to what others say, but I don't at all feel sure that I'll be able to originate anything.

But thank you for your kind regard,


feb 15, 2013, 10:05am

I am still waiting for a discussion of Satoko's behavior before moving on. I think it is crucial to understanding the book.

1.She read Kiyo's immature, wounded boy letter though denied it.
2. she subsequently went on a kiss ride in the snow with Kiyo that she instigated.
3. She told him off in Ch. 19

feb 15, 2013, 10:48am

Martin, thanks for the pointer on the food/tea. So the fuss wasn't about the English taking a extra time with their question but simply the fact that they put milk in the first place. Now you mention it, I seem to remember reading/hearing that Japanese value purity in food and look askance at the foreign custom of dumping varied and sundry herbs and spices in a dish. Not sure whether that's true.

Pim, thanks for the pointer on the fascist link. Will keep that in mind, though I don't think I have the stomach read either of the books you mention.

ch 19 my take on it: Satoko, refined aristocrat that she is, enjoyed teasing Kiyoaki as long as it left Kiyo confused. But the boyish love letter brings their romance down to a level she considers below her, therefore she scolds him now for being a baby and leaves in a huff. (Of course Kiyo must be a baby; we have about 3.75 more books for him to grow up ...)
I like the image of darkness falling that opens the chapter. title, Darkening Blossoms

ch 20 Iinuma has become another person now he does not fight his urges day and night anymore. It makes him seem more human. He tells Kiyo that Satoko did read the letter and asked the kiyo's father for the truth about the brothel visit. She misinterprets the mention in the letter for bragging which, apparently, fits her ideas of refinement. Kiyo's darker, more destructive motive is beyond her grasp. The chapter ends with a faint echo of Satoko's snub of Kiyo when we witness, through Iinuma's eyes, an increasing near-erotic tension which Kiyo, characteristically selfabsorbed, dispels by curtly ordering Iinuma to leave. Title: post-script.

I read the entire novel so long ago that it doesn't count anymore (like Kiyo, I wasn't sure whether Satoko had read his letter ...) I'm commenting here as I'm rereading, I'm not rushing ahead.

Redigeret: feb 15, 2013, 1:53pm

Yeah, I see Satoko at this point (start of chapter 19, so this is very open to revision) as crushing on Kiyo but seeing herself as above him, and as bearing a certain social responsibility to remain above him--not only her own dignity but that of her ancient name and the entire Japanese ethno-divino-military-aesthetic-industrial-cultural complex. At a personal level she reminds me of Catherine in Wuthering Heights, and its easy to see why Kiyoaki would be made defensive by her even if she weren't palying it cagey. That combination of to the manner born and bursting with beauty and exuberance. In complex ways that it would be beyond me to comment on, she seems to take us into the wters of Shinto-derived Japanese aesthetics: some shifting face (different but perhaps aligned in some way with the combination of traits just mentioned) of miyabi and yuugen. It's the weird paradox of Japanese aesthetic/class/cultural history that the Classical comes before the Archaic, in a way--the stylized elegance of the Heian court before the dismaying death obsession (dressed up as Zen and mono no aware, the unbearable lightness of being) of the samurai.

Certainly despite Mishima's much-discussed love of bushido, I'm not convinced that Kiyoaki exhibits any of the finer virtues of his civilization or that his various counterparts--especially Satoko but also Honda and the Thais and perhaps even Iinuma--can be intended to do anything but play this up. He's pure yabo at moments, nothing but a magnificent body and a chip on his shoulder. This gets us into historical and cultural waters I don't by any means have a great understanding of, but I keep seeing something samurai-analogous-in-a-bad-way in Kiyoaki that is trumped at every corner by Satoko's eternal Japan. But this is the Taisho era, one of vulgarities that renders old elegance cheap, and one wonders if the boorishness that Kiyo and Iinuma (I'm seeing Iinuma at this point as basically a mine canary for Kiyo's development) exhibit requires to be forged as a sword. Maybe we're seeing the raw material that needs to be guided to its triumph of the will? As Henk says, he has a lot of growing up to do over four books, and a nuanced defence of samurai virtues has plenty of time to emerge. It'll be interesting to see how Kiyo and Satoko's relationship proceeds in that regard--I hope they stay human under all the historical forces wrestling through them.

I haven't read Chapter 19 yet, but the stuff with the letters is very Genji, isn't it?

feb 15, 2013, 3:56pm

So I am not reading this trilogy but am finding the thread fascinating.

Especially this from henkmet in #246:

"ch 19 my take on it: Satoko, refined aristocrat that she is, enjoyed teasing Kiyoaki as long as it left Kiyo confused. But the boyish love letter brings their romance down to a level she considers below her, therefore she scolds him now for being a baby and leaves in a huff. (Of course Kiyo must be a baby; we have about 3.75 more books for him to grow up ...)
I like the image of darkness falling that opens the chapter. title, Darkening Blossoms

ch 20 Iinuma has become another person now he does not fight his urges day and night anymore. It makes him seem more human. He tells Kiyo that Satoko did read the letter and asked the kiyo's father for the truth about the brothel visit. She misinterprets the mention in the letter for bragging which, apparently, fits her ideas of refinement."

So that is a very interesting idea of "refinement" - bragging about a brothel visit? Or am I misunderstanding this? Is she a likeable character? She sounds like a jackass from the weird partial ideas I am forming from the thread (esp Martini's comparison of her to Catherine from Wuthering Heights, who I absolutely despised)...

feb 15, 2013, 4:31pm

By chapter 20 I don't think Satoko's been fully enough described to determine that she's a jackass. I thought that Kiyoaki's geisha visit, though a lie, was bragging, and she managed to call him on it.


Redigeret: feb 15, 2013, 7:19pm

i think she's borderline jackass at times, and gets cut a lot more slack than most. which is pretty much how I felt about Cartherine, so your mileage may vary:) I think, though, the difference is that with Catherine we got to see her bully Edgar Linton, whereas Kiyoaki's more of a force to be reckoned with (though less so than Heathcliff). But yes, it's still early day, so we'll see what she becomes.

Redigeret: feb 15, 2013, 7:32pm

Ha ha, oops, I'm mixing up my Catherines--it's been a long time since I read Wuthering Heights. I was thinking of young Cathy and Linton, rather than old Catherine and Edgar. Cathy's who I meant to compare Satoko with.

feb 15, 2013, 11:32pm

>248 anna_in_pdx: Anna, placing the girl you love front-center stage to the exclusion of everything else is the opposite of refinement, it's puppish. Bragging about sexual experience (and realising that visiting geisha's is far more acceptable in Japan than whoring is in the west) is a way to make the girl know that you're not simply some besotted slob. That's the light in which I read it, but you're absolutely right that refinement and paid sex are odd bedfellows.

Satoko likeable? I see her as a bit of a cocktease; that doesn't necessarily make her unlikeable, but the way she carries on her own games regardless of how uncomfortable Kiyo is with it makes her appear very self-centered.

Martin, it's so long ago that I read wuthering heights ... I only remember I couldn't really get emotionally involved in the story. Maybe that's telling about my own character?

feb 16, 2013, 6:47am

Henk, for shame, Not getting into wuthering heights. It's the only book in the western canon in which heights wuther at all.

Spring Snow is so centered on Kiyo that I view Satoko through the lens Mishima creates through which we see Kiyo relating to others. In that light I find Satoko more sympathetically. Which is why her outburst genuinely puzzles me. I now thing that, all very good cultural and historical references aside, it was done to accomplish what it actually did, perhaps, which is deepen Kiyo's capacity for love for her.

feb 16, 2013, 11:29am

Reading this with interest; I had gotten up to chapter 18 but had to step away most of this week and will be reading more over the weekend.

I have some sympathy for Satoko, and for everyone stuck in what is clearly a kind of twisted albeit priviliged world. I think Anna's read on Satoko is dead on, but would go even deeper and say I see Satoko herself as someone torn by her dismissal of the pretty boy. Yes, she's above him, but she's also fond of him besides being interested in him and playing with him.

Mishima's art seems to be letting us half-inside his charcaters. He plays with us, too. We see some of them, we must guess at more. This is not the probing omniscience of Dusty. I think this is what you mean, Rick, about seeing Satoko through the lens Mishima creates.

Redigeret: feb 17, 2013, 6:57am

I hope so, it would lend me some relevance

feb 17, 2013, 4:59am

Chapter 24: I used that same candle metaphor in a song I wrote when I broke up with my girlfriend in grade 11. Oh, except I was for the dissolving into hot wax and not the standing alone in the dark.

feb 18, 2013, 11:16am

I did another hundred pages last night. After taking a bit of time to warm up to the book, I am now really enjoying it. Mishima is a catty fellow, who seems to rather enjoy poking fun at this world of fools and foibles.

feb 18, 2013, 11:45am

Ch 20 The Consequences of Correspondence: Satoko DID read Kiyo's letter.
Ch 21 Farewell Iinuma
Ch 22 Farewell Satoko: comedy of manners...

feb 18, 2013, 1:06pm

How about "Modern Education" for chapter 20?

feb 18, 2013, 1:10pm

By the way, Mishima went to Peers himself.

feb 18, 2013, 2:09pm

>259 A_musing:, not without an explanation, please.

feb 18, 2013, 2:25pm

Ch. 28: The one where I finally warm up to Kiyoaki.

feb 18, 2013, 3:53pm

"Yes, as a matter of act, I have a very serious matter I want to discuss with you, Marquis Matsugae. I wonder if I might inquire as to your views on education."

It is the perfect lead-in to her disclosure of the contents of the letter, resulting in a discussion of Kiyo's sexual education, the educating of Satoko that the letter was false bragging, the education of the father as to his son's relationship with Satoko and of Mine and Iinuma....

This is where the unraveling begins.

feb 18, 2013, 5:06pm

Yeah, and then it's followed up by the sexcrime--and then a trial, but displaced onto poor Tomi Masuda, and then a kind of preoccupied-yet-idyllic wait for the hammer to fall, but displaced on (or, like, interpolated through) Chao P and his lost ring. Feels like a calm before the storm to me, and I wonder how long Kiyoaki will continue to walk on water.

feb 18, 2013, 5:28pm

Good point, Sam. Thanks

feb 18, 2013, 7:02pm

Kiyoaki must fall, and Satoko with him, and we're going to take a guilty pleasure in it, aren't we? Honda and/or Iinuma and/or the Siamese Princes will watch with us from the side lines with mixed emotions. This is kind of like a Greek play: I know there will be a chorus at the end bemoaning these poor foolish mortals, but I'm still going to enjoy the ride up, the twist at the top, and the plunge down.

feb 18, 2013, 8:23pm

That's a naughty business, Sam, enjoying the downfall of such fine--looking people.

feb 19, 2013, 7:12am

Ch. 23 Iiunma and Satoko are gone
Ch. 24 Kiyo has the sensible thought: In his heart, he always preferred the actuality of loss to the fear of it.

This was the point in the book that I feared boredom: I know what's going to happen (I think): how is Mishima going to keep me interested when I am not even half through. He managed.

Horse saliva mentioned again.

Ch. 25 I love Satoko (and since he is Kiyo, the book will thus gather steam)

feb 19, 2013, 7:13am

Ch. 26 Blackmail

feb 19, 2013, 7:14am

Ch. 27 Sex
Ch. 28 Martin begins to like Kiyoaki

feb 20, 2013, 9:18am

Um, Ch. 40: Is this some kind of misprint or just a godawful bad translation?

Count Ayakura was a hopeless coward in the face to the Countess at once, and when she in turn handed it quite a disturbance on the morning that Tadeshina did not get up. The suicide note left on her pillow was brought of such things as injury, sickness, and death. There was over to her husband, he opened it at fingertips' length, as if it were germ-ridden.

Ohhh, now I see. Hey, is it true Book 3's about assassins?

feb 20, 2013, 11:01am

Ch 40 My copy has some of those words in it.

feb 20, 2013, 6:40pm

I kind of like it. I also note that book 2 is going to be about a princess who travels to Thailand and other places. I think it's pretty clear Satoko is going to fake her own death, learn unbeatable fighting styles from the masters of the East, become a princess who's also an assassin, and kill Roosevelt in 1940.

For real, one thing I find troubling about this book is the matter-of-fact way it dwells on the unbearably-tragic-beautiful human thoughts and feelings of its characters and then goes out of its way to make them unlovable the next. Like, Kiyokaki in the scene with his family is pretty unsympathetic for a guy who's getting beaten with a pool cue--so useless--but then we have him in despair with Satoko at the train station and I had to unbend a little. I guess that's part of what made me think of Flaubert and Proust, but Mishima strikes the balance better than them--I still basically rooted for Emma and for Swann, but I'm not sure what I think Kiyoaki deserves.

feb 20, 2013, 6:46pm

Not a pool cue, that's for sure. But I hate to disillusion you, Double M, but it's book three where we go to Thailand, and it is Honda who goes, not a princess. Unless i am missing something from the back of one of your copies from the good old blurb days.

feb 20, 2013, 7:06pm

The captions probably just got scrambled. Cheap pulp trash.

feb 20, 2013, 7:10pm

Why throw my life story into a post, Martin? What have I ever done to you?

feb 21, 2013, 2:38am

Well, you didn't warn me about the tragic ending where everyone but Horatio, I mean Honda, dies.

feb 21, 2013, 6:28am

Okay, so for all of you readers who are not near the end, let me just say that Martin may or may not be being ironic. (Actually, Horatio makes a cameo).

feb 21, 2013, 7:09am

As the dictator of this thread, I suggest that now that the cat is out of the bag tossed into the killing pond we move into a general discussion rather than going chapter by chapter. What say?

feb 21, 2013, 8:54pm

Gnaw. I still want to see how it develops, and I'm reading another book at the same time.


feb 22, 2013, 2:01am

The voting is in: 1-0 for the slow approach.

Ch. 29 Court observers use the long nails of their little fingers to dig sulfur-colored deposits out of their ears.

feb 22, 2013, 2:20am

Ch. 29 Court observers use the long nails of their little fingers to dig sulfur-colored deposits out of their ears.

Mishima's madeleines.

feb 22, 2013, 8:28am

I'm for the slow approach, too. I note, though, that I'd already said I expected the greek tragedy ending. Whether they die or wander blindly through the world trying to free their mind from making the beast with two backs with Mom is irrelevant; the pretties are all doomed.

Redigeret: feb 22, 2013, 9:06am

Whether they die or wander blindly through the world trying to free their mind from making the beast with two backs with Mom is irrelevant; the pretties are all doomed.

I want this on the back cover of every copy of Oedipus Rex, Spring Snow, and Jonathan Livingston Seagull from now on.

feb 22, 2013, 2:05pm

I have always wanted to get a blurb on Jonathan Livingston Seagull. This will fulfill a life's aspirations!

Redigeret: feb 23, 2013, 4:34am

I'm getting behinder and behinder

21 Kiyo keeps his cool when Satoko receives a marriage offer from a third party.
22 Satoko doesn't really like Harunori; empty pomp vs the over-the-top sensibilities of kiyo. Proceedings started
23 kiyo sees a beetle! Omiyasama festival in decline; seems only Iinuma really took it serious.
24 kiyo 'preferred the actuality of loss to the fear of it.' Two poems on the past but differently voiced; Kiyo's melancholy, Satoko's fond memory. Empty dreams, crossroads. Chao P is not ashamed of missing his girl friend.

feb 23, 2013, 5:09am

>286 A_musing: I'll print the blurb and henceforth vandalise any copy of Jonathan Livingston Seagull I see with it.

feb 23, 2013, 8:15am

23 kiyo sees a beetle!

That should be a whole book on its own.

I have to say, Satoko's shock move in 44 (ish?) really won me over. Don't usually get ravished by grand gestures like that.

feb 23, 2013, 9:33am

Martin, explicify please

feb 24, 2013, 12:33pm

It might not be 44. (My book broke in haf and now I am discarding each chapter as I read it. I didn't want to give away SPOILERS, but I mean with the convent.

feb 24, 2013, 1:08pm

As if she had that out in mind the whole time. Did she?

feb 26, 2013, 1:17am

I don't know! I expected a confrontation! If at least by proxy.

feb 26, 2013, 4:57am

That would have been awful--either direct or not at all for these two.

feb 26, 2013, 5:26am

Yeah, I can't say I'm not relieved. The grave's a safe and quiet place, as quiet as a nunnery.

feb 26, 2013, 9:56am

some random thoughts:
I was quite impressed by the grandmother.
Kiyo's self-centeredness knows no bounds. When Iinuma vilifies his family in a right wing rag he thinks it's a ploy to let him know I's new address.
Water apparently has significance, like in western symbolism. It has something to do at least with death (the dead dog, the white cutesy that Kiyo flings in the water) but there are also many references to boats, floating...
I don't think a confrontation would have made much sense in the end. It would be flogging a dead horse IMHO.

feb 26, 2013, 3:28pm

In re water, there's that part about power and failure, a globe-spanning empire falling to pieces just feet away from where Honda sits on the beach. We were driving back to Vancouver from Whistler the other day on this road that hangs off the side of a mountain and looking out at the islands and talking about the same thing, kind of--the magic of a border, where you can see two directions at once, how things are and how they might have been? Maes me think of Honda's musings on fate a little too, and the skull parable. You're always on one side of the border or another, and you never know which side or what border until ... you do?

Redigeret: feb 27, 2013, 3:14pm

I finished reading Spring Snow last night. I don't feel that I am taking anything away from the experience. The word that comes to my mind so far that encompasses the novel is 'vapid,' and it seems sufficient. I will continue to follow the comments here in hopes of being corrected.


feb 27, 2013, 3:44pm

Mr. Durick,

How can anyone possibly change THAT opinion. Anyway, I hope that the next one goes down better. (I hope you'll read it.)

feb 27, 2013, 4:08pm

It's a sort of Japanese novel inspired by the Barry Lyndon film - a beautiful period piece, with some strange stuff lurking under the surface. I am still figuring out how interesting that strange stuff is.

Redigeret: feb 27, 2013, 4:52pm

Okay, I'll order the next one, but not until the end of that credit card's billing cycle on March 5. I wish it were more of a period piece (we could probably sit with a pot of tea between us and argue about whether all of the details added up to a picture); I liked Barry Lyndon against the advice of all of the experts.


PS Oh oh! Runaway Horses is not available from BN.COM.


feb 27, 2013, 4:56pm

Did the experts not like Barry Lyndon? Why? I dunno, I thought Spring Snow worked as a period pience (not that I wuz there or anything). The characters felt plausibly Taishovian.

feb 27, 2013, 5:18pm

I didn't get to Tokyo very often back in the mid-sixties to mid-seventies (my time for being in and out of Japan) for a variety of reasons, but I have a hard time imagining the mountainous back yard at the Matsugae's. I caught a lot of the details like the brands of automobiles and how they were coming into use, the Western style buildings or rooms, the impression that religious reverence made on the protagonist, the role of newspaper reporters in the reputations of people who need reputations, and so forth, and so forth. I just don't have a picture, whereas the movie, probably because it had pictures, did give me a picture.

Change of subject:

Roger Ebert's refutation of the critics
Wikipedia on the film's reception

It was greeted as a long costume drama without sufficient drama to draw interest over the full course of a screening. It, however, held my interest. I didn't know that it had been rehabilitated; back from Kolyma for Kubrick.


feb 27, 2013, 5:47pm

Just to be clear, I meant my Barry Lyndon thing to be a compliment - I like Barry's strange stuff lurking underneath.

I am trying to figure out whether Mishima has done the same here. Lot's of superficial beauty, a fascination with manners, perhaps a bit tableauish in places. Does it run deep below those still waters?

feb 27, 2013, 5:51pm

That makes sense. Although the big open spaces seem like a pretty large detail to make up from whole cloth, don't they? Wikipedia says the estate was in Shibuya (I missed the clues myself...), but that would have been substantially to the west of what was the city centre then (Tokyo station, Marunouchi), right? According to the 'pedia again, Shibuya wasn't incorporated as a town until 1909, and the population of Tokyo was only million that year. And if the terminus for the Tokaido line to Osaka is at Shimbashi, that implies there's not a major station west of there .... and there's still some big properties in suburbs of Tokyo, although the part about the Marquis being master of everything he surveys seems so longer plausible....

On Barry Lyndon, it seems that everybody agreed that it was slow and mannered, but some people liked that and some didn't. I have trouble imagining anyone actually thinking it's devoid of skill or craft.

mar 2, 2013, 2:42pm

The Mr. Durick challenge: what is he missing? That either should be taken away from Spring Snow, or what could be taken away from Spring Snow? I'm still thinking about it, but a challenge for the reader unfamiliar with that period of Japanese history--as I am, really only knowing about the Meiji era and then the 1930s, and not knowing a hell of a lot about either--I get a bit of a submersion; but mostly I enjoy Mishima's capacity to surprise me, his characters to surprise me. Early in the book, especially given a hint or two on the back of the book, it is clear that a simple story of doomed love is the outline, but meantime I enjoyed the unpredictability along the way and the dip into a period of sort of recent Japanese history. At the same time the book is not one of my favorites--I just read Generations of Winter and that is one I'll recommend to anyone--but I may find it ranking higher once I finish the tetralogy.

mar 2, 2013, 3:57pm

I think in addition, and related, to what you mention (the love story, the historical immersion, the capacity of the characters to surprise), one of the book's main I won't say joys but sources of interest was the really full, complex picture of class workings, not just between the Matsugaes and the Ayakuras, but Iinuma's relationship with Kiyoaki and with his grandfather, Honda's approach to the trial, where he reminds me of a compassionate entomologist, even the interaction between the Marquis and the doctor toward the end. People lost their aristocracies left and right over the next few decades, but Japan had created a whole new (bourgeois) aristocracy, not to mention an industrial society (and liquidated the samurai), from scratch over the previous few decades, and so it's more of a complex flux over eighty years than a simple change. Meaning, for people who put such a premium on correct social behavior, you get the feeling that none of these guys in this period were getting the rock-hard emotional certainty from their practice of social relations that they'd perhaps wished.

Also the Buddhist stuff--the Abbess's two parables. I'm in no position to evaluate what's actually going on, but I keep coming back to the skull, and also to Honda on the beach. And the Thai princes, I just find them delightful. There's a bit of a "magic negro" thing with them that I wonder where it'll go.

This seems like a book that should be taught in high school--it's got teen love, and telegraphs a lot of its symbolism, and yet had depths. I sort of anticipate the tetralogy getting better, as each book builds on the one before it, but I enjoyed this quite well.

mar 3, 2013, 12:31pm

Well, should we wait for more discussion or begin Runaway Horses?

mar 3, 2013, 2:40pm

Agree completely with 306 and 307; there are ways in which I think this is a useful book, just in its sweep of history and juxtaposition of different classes (and, to a lesser extent, cultures), and a memorable one. However, it's still not a really defining read or one I feel passionately about. As I approach the end (not there yet), I would say I enjoyed it. I agree that it would be perfect for a high school class in many ways, but perhaps even more so for a high school history class. I'd love to teach a class with this and, say, The Cairo Trilogy, Midnight's Children, and Buddenbrooks, and make the little buggeers think about the different approaches to depicting national histories in each.

You should feel free to move on at any point, I may lag but I'll catch up.

mar 3, 2013, 5:07pm

I'm ready!

mar 3, 2013, 5:07pm

Also ready to take that class.

mar 3, 2013, 6:12pm

Sorry, Martin, you've got to teach the other section.

Redigeret: mar 3, 2013, 7:56pm

My section will include The Tin Drum, The Sorrow of War, Taras Bulba, Things Fall Apart, and the Shahnameh. So I can still take yours.

mar 3, 2013, 9:51pm

Runaway Horses remains unavailable on BN.COM. Any other source takes too long. I think that I'll follow the discussion about volume two and try to rejoin with volume three.


mar 4, 2013, 1:51am

I don't want to move on without Mr. Durick.

mar 4, 2013, 9:47am

I managed to get to the book only yesterday, and only the first three chapters, but I'm loving it. Mishima is so much more lush than other Japanese writers I've read. And so much more upfront with psychology. I'm not saying that's better!--who would dream of pressing Natsume or Tanizaki to explain themselves--just different.

The graceful cranes encrusted in shit, the beautifully composed waterfall broken by the carcass of a dead black dog--terrific, always that realistic enjambement of beauty and death and decay, no stinking Western transcendence.

mar 4, 2013, 10:05am

Lola, welcome to our party, or, well, our celebration of beauty and death and decay! I think you'll find that enjambement to continue throughout the book. Dare I say it's a style that Ezra and the Imagists would have found inspiring?

mar 4, 2013, 10:13am

Yes, it is the startling shock of the visual--of seeing something in the world that explains it without mediation. Nothing easier than to translate them into haiku, both these images.

And Pound is on record for being inspired by haiku, no? He wrote that famous one, about faces in a subway.

mar 4, 2013, 10:47am

Ah, good, now we have a reason to ease into the next at a very slow pace...

mar 4, 2013, 11:00am

In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

No verbs. I always thought Tang inspired rather than Haiku, but, yes, looks a lot like haiku, too. Published in Lustra, which stays near me on my kindle and phone. But Spring Snow is a book where the images stay with me more than the words. All the comparisons in the blurbs on the back to psychologically astute folks like Dostoevsky seem off, to me, you've got to focus instead on those who can spin wonderful images - Pound, HD, Eliot would be my comparisons.

Redigeret: mar 4, 2013, 11:22am

Oh, don't delay anything on my account--I can sit in this thread until I'm done while you start on the second.


You may be interested in Pound's comment, in "Vorticism":

Three years ago in Paris I got out of a "metro" train at La Concorde, and saw suddenly a beautiful face, and then another and another, and then a beautiful child's face, and then another beautiful woman, and I tried all that day to find words for what this had meant to me, and I could not find any words that seemed to me worthy, or as lovely as that sudden emotion. And that evening, as I went home along the Rue Raynouard, I was still trying, and I found, suddenly, the expression. I do not mean that I found words, but there came an equation ... not in speech, but in little spotches of colour. It was just that -- a "pattern," or hardly a pattern, if by "pattern" you mean something with a "repeat" in it. But it was a word, the beginning, for me, of a language in colour. I do not mean that I was unfamiliar with the kindergarten stories about colours being like tones in music. I think that sort of thing is nonsense. If you try to make notes permanently correspond with particular colours, it is like tying narrow meanings to symbols.

That evening, in the Rue Raynouard, I realised quite vividly that if I were a painter, or if I had, often, that kind of emotion, or even if I had the energy to get paints and brushes and keep at it, I might found a new school of painting, of "non-representative" painting, a painting that would speak only by arrangements in colour. ....

That is to say, my experience in Paris should have gone into paint ...

The "one image poem" is a form of super-position, that is to say it is one idea set on top of another. I found it useful in getting out of the impasse in which I had been left by my metro emotion. I wrote a thirty-line poem, and destroyed it because it was what we call work "of second intensity." Six months later I made a poem half that length; a year later I made the following hokku-like sentence: --

"The apparition of these faces in the crowd:
Petals, on a wet, black bough."

I dare say it is meaningless unless one has drifted into a certain vein of thought. In a poem of this sort one is trying to record the precise instant when a thing outward and objective transforms itself, or darts into a thing inward and subjective."

This particular sort of consciousness has not been identified with impressionist art. I think it is worthy of attention.

Superficially there are similarities, but I think Japanese haiku has more depth than imagism. As you can see, Pound seems to want to paint with words, to capture the image for the image's sake. This, I think, is actually considered a trademark of "bad" haiku, if I remember my Blyth correctly. What the haiku poet sees is the naked face of truth, never a "representation".

P.S. Dammit, it's not the whole quotation of Pound such as I remember it--I guess he wrote about it more than once, see here for instance:


Redigeret: mar 4, 2013, 2:54pm

Bullet train station
Oblique faces lure me in
Who is al Suzyu?

al Suzyu

mar 5, 2013, 8:38pm

321 Had Pound never heard of synesthesia? The interpunction significantly changes the poem by the way.

mar 6, 2013, 10:04am

Synesthesia, how where why...?

Fifteen chapters down: quite nice first kiss in the rickshaw on a snowy day--recalled Emma Bovary and Léon in the carriage (although the latter went considerably past the kiss); I continue to like this very much. Fine contrast between the two boys, Kiyoaki and Honda, so far, even their households. But the best thing, for me, is the convoluted relationship between Satoko and Kiyoaki, the tortured mind games and jockeying for power, so inexplicable to the outsider, so vital to the adolescents.

mar 6, 2013, 11:00am

#324 ...the kindergarten stories about colours being like tones in music. I think that sort of thing is nonsense. If you try to make notes permanently correspond with particular colours, it is like tying narrow meanings to symbols.

Hearing tones (or chords) as colours, some musicians have that (not me).

Redigeret: mar 6, 2013, 11:29am

Edit: Apparently he HAD heard of synesthesia, but (maybe) didn't appreciate the involuntary aspect of the neurological condition.

mar 6, 2013, 12:22pm

I thought the kiss was a very well done scene. In my mind, that scene is coupled with the despoilation of Mina in the library, as the rats scurry about and gnaw at the books.

mar 6, 2013, 1:34pm

Rats gnaw at the books ? Jeez what horror r u reading ?

Redigeret: mar 6, 2013, 1:43pm

It is indeed a horrifying scene. Hey, horny kids, enough with clawing each other, go shoo some rats!

The library is used for illicit meetings because it is the one place in the house no one ever goes. Says all you need to know about the family, doesn't it? It's almost too easy.

mar 6, 2013, 4:12pm

I thought Iinuma might have been right in sensing Kiyoaki (who is not a reader himself and has no respect for his grandfather's library) took some sadistic pleasure in sending him right there for his tryst.

So far, not much has been said about the relationship between these two (Kiyoaki and Iinuma)--I don't see how they stood each other for years. Well, okay--Iinuma worships Kiyoaki's perfect body, but surely he must be appalled at the boy's amorphous, enervated nature? And then the little SOB pwns him when he cottons onto Iinuma's weak spot.

I hope Honda doesn't disappear, I'm interested in his analytical approach to history and politics of the day. Not something that's going to be provided by the self-absorbed Kiyoaki, I don't think.

And I suppose Iinuma is the blinkered nationalist and self-sacrificing patriot.

mar 6, 2013, 5:23pm

Iinuma's got to come back in later volumes, right?

And yeah, Honda rules. I hope it's not spoilering too much to say that my ending where everyone dies except Honda didn't come true, but I still might fanfic it.

mar 6, 2013, 6:57pm

Honda is indeed coming back. Another spoiler, but Runaway Horses starts with him and the third book focuses on him.

mar 6, 2013, 9:18pm

Honda is the character providing continuity to the tetralogy.

Iinuma had no choice but to stand Kiyo. Like it or not, Kiyo was the master and Iinuma is programmed to adore his superiors. Kiyo cannot really stand Iinuma but he gets his revenge.

mar 13, 2013, 10:17am

have I waited long enough? are we on to Runaway Horses?

mar 13, 2013, 5:11pm


mar 13, 2013, 9:22pm

From my experience shopping, including just a minute ago googling 'runaway horses epub,' I have concluded that the book does not exist. For continuity's sake I wiil be watching what you have to say about it anyway, and I will hope to rejoin you with the third book.


mar 14, 2013, 3:20am

I've got my copy at the corral.

We begin today, then, chapter something by next Monday.

mar 14, 2013, 3:20am

Oh, and Lola, please drop in with thoughts and an update.

mar 14, 2013, 3:21am


apr 22, 2013, 10:11am

Already missed the first book. Where exactly are you and in what book?

apr 22, 2013, 10:13am

We're in the second book, Runaway Horses. I'm about 1/2 way through. We're kind of rag-tag.

The first book should be read fast; it sets the stage, but things get much thicker in the second book.

apr 22, 2013, 10:19am

So A_musing, you're saying I should drop my reading of The Whale and the Grasshopper, rush through Spring Snow and then fast forward to Runaway Horses - all while delivering baby goats, working on the garden, chasing house guests and dust bunnies from under the sofa? What do you think I am? The über wench?

apr 22, 2013, 10:20am

I need a cook. I despise cooking.

apr 22, 2013, 10:26am

>341 A_musing: And just when I had White Bread: A Social History of the Store-Bought Loaf next on my TBR.

Redigeret: apr 22, 2013, 10:28am

How badly do you want ghosts? Spring Snow was OK, not extraordinary. I wouldn't dwell on it. But Runaway Horses is both good and ghostly. And we're reading it all at a slow enough pace so it shouldn't cause too big an issue. I'm simultaneously reading a couple other books myself.

Make the guests cook. It's the least they can do.

apr 22, 2013, 12:15pm

I'm getting my horses back today!

apr 22, 2013, 1:27pm

>336 Mr.Durick: Runaway Horses is available on Kindle.
If you do not have a Kindle, you can download a program from Amazon that allows you to read Kindle books on your computer.

apr 22, 2013, 1:33pm

Runaway Horses can also be purchased through Google books. Also available for Nook.

apr 22, 2013, 3:02pm

I will be back with leaderly comments within a day or two, i swear. I got sidetracked by the combination of anthony burgess and a some other toilage and the disturbance of Mishima readers coming and going like a constellation of moles.

apr 22, 2013, 3:33pm

Urania, it was unavailable, but I now have the book. The halfway point is close enough to see if only I can get myself to turn in that direction.


apr 22, 2013, 10:07pm

Not sure if it has been mentioned before but Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters by Paul Schrader is playing on Hulu Criterion for the next six days:


Redigeret: maj 7, 2013, 11:55am

Hi folks -- Just thought you might like to know that Vintage at the end of April released all four books in the Tetralogy (Spring Snow, Runaway Horses, Temple of Dawn, Decay of the Angel) in e-book.

(with Stone Bridge Press, publisher of Persona: A Biography of Yukio Mishima)

maj 7, 2013, 2:10pm

Thanks, David.

maj 7, 2013, 4:29pm

You bet.

maj 12, 2013, 12:42pm

Too late! Mrmfphmrmn.

Someday, they will let us order electronic and dead tree version together. So can I download the Persona book here in France?

maj 13, 2013, 2:50pm

Yes, I believe you should be able to download Persona: A Biography of Yukio Mishima in France. Here's a link to the kindle version: http://www.amazon.fr/Persona-Biography-Yukio-Mishima-ebook/dp/B00AJVJ7ZO/ref=tmm.... If you have any other specific questions about formats or content, please email me directly at publicity@stonebridge.com, as I don't want to bog down this chat.