Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With the Sea

by Yukio Mishima

Buy the book here.
Buy the movie version.


Plot: The story of a widowed mother and her thirteen-year-old son. The mother falls in love with a sailor. Her son runs with a group of boys trying to detach themselves from emotion. Tragic ending.

It's like Lord of the Flies! There are wonderfully uncomfortable Oedipal overtones, tons of philosophy from a young boy's point of view, and murder. In many ways, however, it tends to be much more frightening than Lord of the Flies because this novel takes place within society rather than needing to be removed from it before horrible things start happening. But it is also less harrowing because the character in danger can get away from it easily, if he were to see it.
I found myself sympathizing with the main character, Noboru Kuroda, the son mentioned in the plot. I had many similar feelings around that age. It felt sometimes like the world was conspiring against me on an emotional level and the best solution was to simply have no emotions at all.
I quite liked this book and would like to read it again someday. The copy I just read is from the public library, however, so I will have to buy a copy for my personal library.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Chimes

by Charles Dickens

Buy the book here.


Plot:A poor man tries to make an honest living. One night he has a dream about dying and being shown the future by the spirits who live in the bell tower of a church. Things work out fine.

This story was written by Dickens because he was required to write another holiday story as part of a contract with a new publisher. It shows. The story feels rushed in some places (he wrote it in mere months, with a strict deadline) and lacks the overall charm typical of a Dickens piece. Unlike A Christmas Carol, no lessons are learned here and no one lives their lives differently because of the spirits. It simply shows some unfortunate things that COULD have happened, had the poor characters taken the advice of the rich characters. But none of the poor people in the story were likely to have actually taken the advice of the rich people to begin with. It's all just some silly dream.
     The tone is preachy. I know Dickens always had a message in his stories and it's impossible to ignore that message when reading. But he was usually able to straddle the thin line between getting his point across and still being entertaining. It's not a bad story, but had he taken some more time to smooth things over, build characters a little less obviously, and slow down the pace, this could have jumped back on that aforementioned line and been a truly great story.