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leighvmewithmyimagination
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Kenzaburo Oe: A Personal Matter

I did a quick reference to Wikipedia and found that Oe and Kawabata were born roughly 30 years apart.  They both recieved a Nobel Prize for their writing, again about 30 years apart.  Kawabata was orphaned when both his parents died, and Oe lost his father.  Hum.....strange coincidences.  It says that Oe was known for his use of sexual metaphors in his writing during a particular series of years....sounds familiar. 

 

Can't wait to start reading..........and discussing!

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See what no one else sees. See what everyone chooses not to see...out of fear, conformity, or laziness. See the whole world anew each day.
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mwinasu
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Re: Kenzaburo Oe: A Personal Matter

Oe changed the form of Japanese Literature by combining elements from both Japan and the West.   I believe that he has had a huge influence over the writers of this generation in Japan.  He has also written some very controversial books including A Personal Matter.

This is an autobiographical novel ; my copy has a picture of Oe and his son on the cover.  I do not know how old you are , but when I was a child people born with severe birth defects  were treated very badly.  Of course, we did not have the medical knowledge that we have today and we have since realized that the weak deserve the same rights as the strong.  This is one of the strangest stories I ever read and I have always wanted to hear what someone else thought about it.

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mwinasu
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Re: Kenzaburo Oe: A Personal Matter

This novel was written back in the 1960' s during  a time of political unrest in JapanWriters were expected to take a stand and speak for the people and they used sex as a metaphor for politicsPersonally,I really do not understand why, but I know that Japanese society is very tradition bound and that is how it was doneAs Oe began breaking with tradition he did not use that particular metaphor as much

Oe and Kawabata both wrote about political extremismAlthough Kawabata seems to be a leftist, Oe was more moderate in his approachIf you are as smart as I think you are you will not take my word for thisSo try reading 17 and Shoot the Kids and try to find a little information on Japanese history of the 60'sGo find out about Mishima.

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leighvmewithmyimagination
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Re: Kenzaburo Oe: A Personal Matter

So in the second chapter he talks about the meeting with the gang and how he tried to punch that game.  Is this foreshadowing to tell us either 1)Bird is a weak man and has just realized it and will have trouble dealing with this new realization, or 2)he has become aware he's weak and will fight against it?

 

He obviously fought back against the gang when they cornered him in the alley. 

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See what no one else sees. See what everyone chooses not to see...out of fear, conformity, or laziness. See the whole world anew each day.
~Patch Adams~
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mwinasu
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Re: Kenzaburo Oe: A Personal Matter

Yes bird has realized that he has no power.  And I think that I was wrong about Kawabata being a left winger.  He was right wing I think.I think that because he killed himself a couple of years after Mishima. 

There is a lot more sex in this book than I remember, and it isn't the Harlequin  Romance kind.  The first half of this book is about going to extremes to avoid taking responsibility for what you have created.  Running away, using sex, drugs and alcohol are ways people avoid dealing with the pain of life.

One of the things that really stuck in my craw was when Himiko told bird that he had raped her in the lumberyard ;but,now she had much more experience and would make a better partner.  I had a real hard time wrapping my brain around that one. I would like to chalk that up as Japanese flat affect but my abhorrence of date rape makes it hard to ignore and even harder to think about.  He is talking about an earlier time  when one political group forced its will on another.

Another thing that got me was the way everyone treated the mom.  Can you imagine having a baby and not seeing it or your husband for days.  Can you imagine your husband being out on a drunk while you are in labor?  I do not know if this a common experience for all Japanese women, but my feeling is that at this point in the story Bird's behavior was so extreme that in reality women would not have been treated like that.

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leighvmewithmyimagination
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Re: Kenzaburo Oe: A Personal Matter

I was feeling the same way when I read chapter 4.  I can imagine that talking about sex like this must have been extremely taboo for the time.  I too was astonished when she claimed he raped her....how pitiful for him to have thought otherwise for so many years!

I also was feeling sorry for the mother!  I was getting furious at Bird for not wanting to be by her side (whether the mother-in-law said not to or not!) - he should have wanted to be with his wife at a time like this, not with a old fling!  AGH!  Men.

Bird really is a pitiful man isn't he?  Ha ha!

 

Himiko talks about the birth defects of the 3 babies as being related to fallout in the rain.  Fallout from Hiroshima right?  I suppose that this topic is quite the sore spot for those involved.  (I mean, I remember talking about The Clan of Three-Breasted Women in my Environmental Class.  I remember how heartbreaking hearing their stories was-they were dying and suffering from breast cancer along with other types because of the testing in Utah and Nevada I believe.  It was awful to hear how this "thing" years ago was still affecting people today.) 

 

I loved Himiko's alternate universe.  What a thinker she is! 

__________
See what no one else sees. See what everyone chooses not to see...out of fear, conformity, or laziness. See the whole world anew each day.
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cchick
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Re: Kenzaburo Oe: A Personal Matter

Is this book fiction or non-fiction? Is it thought provoking?
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mwinasu
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Re: Kenzaburo Oe: A Personal Matter

Good questions.  Have you read The Life of Pi ?  Well, it is kind of like that . Oe actually has a child with birth defects and he has written several books about him over the years.  Oe uses things that happen  but changes them a little bit; just enough to make you wonder what is real and what is fiction.  The interesting thing is that the more outrageous the story is the more true it is likely to be.  For instance, in his other novels  about his family the son from this book is a musical savant that writes his own scores and speaks poetically.  In reality he is a musical savant but he cannot speak. In his novels   Oe goes by the nickname K, and the son is known as EEYORE.  In reality he is known as O and His son is called POOH.  A Personal Matter is dedicated to Pooh.

In this story the characters are real people who have been altered just a little and the things that happened really happened ,but not in the way they are portrayed.  It is fiction in Japanese form.  It is also a parable.

Is it thought provoking?  It has been for me.

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cchick
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Re: Kenzaburo Oe: A Personal Matter

[ Edited ]

No I have not read Life of Pi. It looks good. It was rated 4 stars on Amazon.com. It looks very intense, fast paced and adventurous. I'll have to check it out. What's the title of the other book you were discussing with Oe? 

What do you think of the overall writing? Are you writer? Whenever I read I anaylze the style, plot and the author's tone since I'm a writer. I like to take notes, underline and learn from my books. What about you? 

That's the beauty of fiction, it can be a mixture of true and false. Nobody will know unless they ask or unless the writer exposes that information. 

 

 

 

 

 

Message Edited by cchick on 04-17-2009 04:10 PM
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leighvmewithmyimagination
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Re: Kenzaburo Oe: A Personal Matter

I found it surprising that Bird only seems happy when someone else is fighting his battles.  Maybe that makes him feel important, or maybe he just feels incompetent to fend for himself.  What's your take?
__________
See what no one else sees. See what everyone chooses not to see...out of fear, conformity, or laziness. See the whole world anew each day.
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mwinasu
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Re: Kenzaburo Oe: A Personal Matter

Leigh,  I am not sure what you mean about others fighting Bird's battles.  Can you be specific?  I need to address your earlier post.  

When I first read this book, I hated Bird.  I literally threw the the book against the wall on more than one occasion.  So much of what Oe wrote was offensive that I almost lost the ability to rationally consider his intent.  Then I realized that that was part of what he was trying to convey.

Have you ever been in a situation where your life has gone to hell and it looks like it is never going to get any better?  I have, and I know that I thought some pretty ugly and disgusting thoughts.  This book reminded me that when things go terribly wrong most people need time to get their head straight enough to attempt to fix the problem.  If they are lucky, no one notices what a jerk they are during this time.  I think that Bird is Human.

Your comment about the birth defects are right on.  Oe also put together a book of histories of the survivors of Hiroshima called the Crazy Iris.  I believe that this book is partly about expecting the Japanese to take some responsibility for the outcome of the War.

Himiko's alternate universes is the way Oe chooses to explain his style of writing.  Later in the story he says he is giving up teaching and becoming a guide for westerners.  This  book is in effect is a map.  The first half is very japanese and the second half tries to use western constructs to explain it.  Kind of like the rosetta stone.

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mwinasu
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Re: Kenzaburo Oe: A Personal Matter

cchick-  I am an old lady with too much time on my hands; but, that hasn't saved my books  from abuse.  I used to mark up my books but now I write myself notes and leave them between the pages.  I read for pleasure and I only focus on technique if something unusual catches my attention.

I love Oe's creation of insane idioms ( Vomiting as delicately as a grasshopper ) and I love that he was brave enough to allow Bird to be so unlikable.  I admire his intent and his courage because  this man wrote knowing that people wanted him dead .

That fact alone makes this book worth reading.  But beyond all that this one heck of a story no matter where it is set.  It even has a two headed baby in it; what's not to like.

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leighvmewithmyimagination
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Re: Kenzaburo Oe: A Personal Matter

In the very last paragraph of chapter 5 Bird is walking down the steps and feels good to know that Himiko was right (he does have people that want to help him).  The young man in class stood up and yelled at the other guy to "knock it off".  The last line says "Bird was happy."  I don't recall seeing anything about happiness or content or the like since starting the book.  This is the first time Bird is happy and it's all because he has someone to stand up for him.  I know he was hungover and all but as the teacher he should have been able to gain control of the class, it took a student to do that.  Either he's too feeble a man to take care of himself or he thinks he's above this dirty work and wants a "personal assistant" in that regards.  Haven't figured it out yet.
__________
See what no one else sees. See what everyone chooses not to see...out of fear, conformity, or laziness. See the whole world anew each day.
~Patch Adams~
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mwinasu
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Re: Kenzaburo Oe: A Personal Matter

I am reminded of a story from Tanazaki's Seven Japanese Tales.  In it a teacher rewards a bully and allows him to discipline the class .  Eventually the student takes over the school and corruption reigns.  This motif is used a lot in post war times.  Remember that Kawabata's hero was an ex-teacher who had been fired for sexually abusing his student.  I think it might mean that these writers felt that they had lost the ability to reach their public.

Remember how embarrassed Bird was when he hurled at Himiko's?  Well, it is for sure that he was not displaying any grasshopper like qualities in the classroom.  That  boy was barfing like a Beluga and his chagrin was amplified accordingly.  This is the incident that causes Bird to realize that he is out of control ; ultimately it leads him to  accept responsibility for the world that he has helped to create.  I think Oe may be trying to apologize for some of his earlier work here.

You know, thinking back, I can't remember anything that Oe wrote that was happy.

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mwinasu
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Re: Kenzaburo Oe: A Personal Matter

leigh- Now that you have brought it up, that is a little strange.  I have been mulling it over for awhile now and it seems to me that whenever I have become too outspoken no one  wanted to get involved.  Even my friends have allowed me to be trashed by crazy people because they were afraid of confrontation.  It seems to me that the Japanese are far more in tune with social conventions for a student to stand up for a drunken teacher.  Considering the respect that teachers are given in Japan, even cram teachers are expected to behave better.
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mwinasu
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Re: Kenzaburo Oe: A Personal Matter

Earlier in his career Oe wrote a book called 17 that was originally printed in a college paper if I remember correctly. It was written in two parts and told a story of a young man who set out to assassinate a politician.  After the second part was released Oe received death threats and there was such a public outcry that he has refused to allow the second half to be reprinted.  I think this is the meaning behind the classroom confrontation.  I think the student represents an author who stood behind Oe and the one who sniffed his bile was one of his critics.

What do you think about how they dealt with that poor baby?

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leighvmewithmyimagination
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Re: Kenzaburo Oe: A Personal Matter

Did you notice in chapter 6 when Oe said the babies opened their mouths like calf's livers?  What!?  Weird.  Why would he say that?

 

When Bird sees the baby he's sickened by the thought of the baby living.  He's only concerned about the effect it will have on his life.  Plus....he keeps calling the baby a monster.  How sad that the baby might grow up to know how his father felt. 

 

Did Bird strike up a bargain with the doctor to kill the baby?  Essentially they were going to starve it to death.  Wow.  And this whole time he hasn't spoken to his wife?  She has no idea what's going on.  People make the news all the time for this kind of neglect of their children. 

 

If he has to use his Africa money for the baby he'll resent it for life.  Imagine having to choose between something you've wanted your whole life and something you don't want at all.

 

We know now that Bird is possibly a sexual maniac.  When he left the hospital he saw the girl....is he so ashamed of his baby that he passed up the opportunity for sex?  And then suggesting he'll rape Himiko is she turns him down?  He felt bad about hearing he did it the first time....his anger/shame is out of control.

__________
See what no one else sees. See what everyone chooses not to see...out of fear, conformity, or laziness. See the whole world anew each day.
~Patch Adams~
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leighvmewithmyimagination
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Re: Kenzaburo Oe: A Personal Matter

Chapter 7, wow....I have so many notes to myself!

 

Is Himiko suggesting Bird is a homosexual?  At the first of the book Bird talks about meeting the transexual and how he may have gone with her/him to have a drink.  He's not is he?  What is this all supposed to mean?

 

Has Bird always been unfaithful to his wife?  I'm beginning to think that he has not, and that he's just acting out on his desires (which have always been there) because he's stressed out.

 

Bird must feel like a terrific failure in bed.  I mean....both the young man and the ugly man who knocked on Himiko's window obviously bring sexual pleasure to her.  He's tried twice already and failed.  It has to be embarrassing for him to think that this young boy is better.

__________
See what no one else sees. See what everyone chooses not to see...out of fear, conformity, or laziness. See the whole world anew each day.
~Patch Adams~
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leighvmewithmyimagination
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Re: Kenzaburo Oe: A Personal Matter

When Bird brings the grapefruit to his wife she's surprised because she hates grapefruit.  Does the grapefruit compare to either Bird's affair with Himiko (unwanted by his wife) or the birth and life of his son (unwanted by him)?

 

It's so sad that everyone wants the baby dead and the mother still doesn't even know the status of her baby.  She still hasn't even seen it!  Can you imagine not seeing your newborn for days?

 

Bird's wife finally makes a stand for the baby:  if Bird doens't protect it she'll leave him.  He continues on through the story knowing how his wife feels and still he wants to kill the baby.  Such selfish motives.

__________
See what no one else sees. See what everyone chooses not to see...out of fear, conformity, or laziness. See the whole world anew each day.
~Patch Adams~
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mwinasu
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Re: Kenzaburo Oe: A Personal Matter

Wow.  That's a lot to cover. Oe used to hang out with Mishima who was spectacularly gay but that doesn't mean that they were lovers.  The gay guy that owned the club is probably Mishima.  Mishima set up a martial arts school and trained a private army of samurai's to take over the government.  When people started laughing at him he killed himself. This was several years after this book was written.  I think that Oe might have had some idea of what he was planning, and I think he was trying to get him to understand that you can't fix political problems  by destroying the government.

I do not know how old you are but I can still remember the earliest March of Dimes.  I remember when Premature babies usually died because they weren't developed enough to survive and  Spina-Bifida was a death sentence .  We did not have the knowledge or the technology that we have today.  A child like that most probably would have been sent to an asylum if he had been born in the USA and lived.  From what I have read those places were a lot like Rumanian orphanages until the late 1970's.  I am so glad that I never had to face what Bird had to face.  My children are healthy.  

But a Few weeks ago we found out that my husband has cancer. A rare scary kind that does not leave too much room for hope.  I find myself worried about what will happen as his condition worsens. I am not sure that I am strong enough to take care of him and I worry about what will happen to me when he is gone.