Various Tails: Or, An Update on My Summer Reading

This year I answered not one but two of those hubristic "What do you plan to read this summer?" poll-articles. Last year I read exactly one of my "planned" (= "selected in order to bolster my public image," really) books, and didn't like it--you guys can hate me, but I did not get A Confederacy of Dunces at all, just thoroughly remained outside of it the whole time. I did read Two Murders in My Double Life eventually, and liked it.But this year I've knocked off the lot (more or less) fairly … [Read more...]

“Some Prefer Nettles”: Drifting Toward Divorce

Some Prefer Nettles is a slim 1928 novel by Junichiro Tanizaki about the opening of Japan to the West; and, also, about a couple who can't quite seem to pull themselves together enough to divorce. They have a strange existential lassitude about it, even as everyone around them urges them to make some kind of resolution.Should they divorce? They're not happy but then again their unhappiness is just normal unhappiness, as Kaname's father-in-law finally points out to him. They have a son who is … [Read more...]

From “Some Prefer Nettles”

Natives of Awaji say that the puppet theater originated there. In the center of the island there is a village called Ichimura that even now has seven puppet companies. Once there were thirty-six. Ichimura is known as "puppet-town," and its theater goes back, one hardly knows how many centuries, to a certain court nobleman who was banished from Kyoto and came to live in Ichimura, and who in his boredom with country life took to making puppets and manipulating them for his own amusement. The … [Read more...]

From “Some Prefer Nettles”

Kaname had seen the Bunraku puppets once ten years before. He had not been impressed--he could in fact remember only that he had been intensely bored. Today he had come solely out of a sense of duty, expecting to be bored again, and he was somewhat astonished that he should almost against his will be drawn so completely into the play. He had grown older, he had to admit. ... A pair of conflicting emotions pressed themselves on him: old age brought its own pleasures and was not really to be … [Read more...]

From Junichiro Tanizaki, “Some Prefer Nettles”

tr. Edward G. Seidensticker: Clearly he would one day have to tell Hiroshi everything, to appeal to his reason. Kaname did not doubt that the boy would understand, and to deceive him seemed as reprehensible as to deceive a grownup. Neither he himself nor Misako was wrong, Kaname would say; what was wrong was outdated convention. The time would come when a child need think nothing of having divorced parents. He would go on being their child, and he could visit one or the other as he chose.So … [Read more...]