Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Japan Sinks - Sakyo Komatsu (or is that Komatsu Sakyo?)

Morris read this and said, "oh yeah, shit like this happened when the dinosaurs were wiped out, YOU'RE SCREWED." I'm inclined to agree with him, from the safety of Australia.

You'll never believe where I found this book. In a second hand book shop in Gardner, the small two saloon town at the entrance of Yellowstone while I was doing my trek last year. It was one of those moments of "o rly? YA RLY!" I wasn't looking for it, and yet there it was.

You can't really go past the title as far as story summaries go. It's about Japan, which sinks into the ocean. YA RLY. Well, no. It's about looking at the possibility of something that catastrophic occurring, and what to do about it. Would you believe it, given all the facts? I can't say I would. Say you accept the inevitability, what then? How do you prepare for the physical loss of a nation, the displacement of millions and millions of people?

How do you deal with the disappearance of your entire civilisation?

That is what the book is really about. It's crushing and devastating. There isn't an enemy to be angry at, it is just the Earth, doing its thing. Unstoppable continental drift, which won't be intimidated or reasoned with. It comes down to getting the population off the islands before its too late.

Australia makes an embarassing appearance, with the Prime Minister being approached by the Japanese ambassador, requesting the immigration of five million japanese workers. About a third of the Australian population at the time, a time which comes shortly after the abolition of the White Australia Policy. I cringed.

One scene that stood out vividly in my mind was a collection of international diplomats leaving a conference to check out the TV, a broadcast of the beginning of Japan's destruction on the tube, and of one man looking back to see the Japanese ambassador remove his glasses, and wipe his eyes, before putting them back on.

Even abridged as it is, this book was a punch in the guts.

Verdict: Depressing and upseting and very, very powerful.
Arthur & George - Julian Barnes

Rav Deeves (that's his name, serious, it was on the box) is all "eh, whatever," about this book. I wouldn't put it like that, but the sentiment is the same.

I first read Barnes in university, and there was much love involved. For years, I'd intended to eat more of his books, but only now got around to it, and I have to confess that the physical beauty of the book was a fair chunk of the motivation. Cloth-bound books are just nice to stroke. No, stroking books is not weird. Shut up. Stop looking at me like that.

This book, well, it didn't trigger the big love boom I was hoping. It is very well written, and an intriguing look at the vastly different lives of Arthur (that's Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to you) and George, who probably would have never met had it not been for whim. Life, you know, she's a whimsical creature. But meet they do, and Arthur is not the gallant knight he wishes to be, although he almost convinces the reader otherwise. George is not a helpless victim of hate, although it is tempting to paint him so.

The England of fiction remains a strange soggy place, and I find that the mental landscape it creates in my head tends to be dreary, bleak, and colourless, and as much as I wanted to enjoy the book, that sort of saturation is a downer.

I guess I'm not academic or intellectual enough, because I reached the end, and after their lives were spent and all had failed and been achieved, I thought to myself, "yes, and?" Perhaps the fact that it reads in a somewhat autobiographical manner brought that on - lives don't have a point, they just happen, and then they end. The last three lines;

What does he see?
What did he see?
What will he see?

and in fact the last scene of Arthur's funeral knocked down the interesting structure of thought I'd built on this story. Perhaps that is the point. What you want to know, what you think you know, all of these things are-

Verdict: Eh. A lot of people loved it, but it didn't rock my world.
Kamakazi Girls - Novala Takemoto

Leonardo totally approves of this book, because Leonardo is in touch with his feminine side.

I agree with Leonardo. I don't remember exactly why I picked up this book, but I'm glad I did. I went through a brief, three book stint of not particularly wanting to read any speculative genres, and I think this was the most fun of those books, and the most surprisingly awesome bestest.

(Disclaimer: I've just come off nightshift and I'm doing my staying up through the day to crash my sleep pattern back to normal. I'm not responsible for anything. At all. Ever. Not even my sentences.)

It is the story of two girls, one a Yanki and the other a Lolita, practically polar opposites when it comes to subcultures. Of course they fall in with each other, they're doomed to from the very beginning.

This is not the story of their growing friendship. Ichigo's impassioned speech at the end summarises precisely why they're not friends, and exactly why they'll always be there for each other. It is a story of being true to yourself, no matter what the cost.

At first, I was appalled at Momoko's first person narration. A Lolita consumed by an intense pursuit for a Rococo spirit and lifestyle, she came across as gobsmackingly selfish, self-aborbed, shallow and callous. It isn't a large book, but after the first chapter I did wonder if I wanted to put up with her the whole way. This wondering happened while I read, and read, and found myself deep in the book. First impressions, you know, they really aren't everything. The selfishness and callousness were the symptoms of a breath-stealing determination to pursue her dream, no matter what the cost. No matter what thet cost. She discard practicality and comfort and friends and company for this dream ofa Rococo lifestyle. Beneath the frills and lace, she's fucking hardcore.

Ichigo initially comes across as a naive fool, striving to be fulfill that Yanki dream of riding around in a biker gang until getting knocked up and having a shotgun wedding and 'graduating', although she failed her motorcycle licence test and only rides a scooter. It's easy to assume she's yet another dumb girl being led astray by falling in with the wrong crowd, but like Momoko, it's a first impression, and like Momoko, she's chasing her dream down, damn the consequences.

"Because Yanki are so uncool."
"Did you just dis my entire life?"
"Well, yeah."
"I'll fucking kick your ass."
"Go ahead, if you want to."
"You ask me, you're the one who's uncool, wearing those frilly-ass outfits when you're in high school already."
"They're not 'frilly-ass', they're Lolita."
"What's the fucking difference?"
"There's a world of difference."
"I'll kill you, I swear."
"Go ahead."

I love it. The book is full of clashes just like that. Neither grasps the other's choice, both thinks the other is just fucking ridiculous, and I want to reach in and tell them they're both daft and brillant.

This book is very well written, and exceptionally well translated. At no point did I feel that I was reading a translation, real care has be put into the english version. It isn't translated, it's written.

I want to say it isn't a girly book, because it isn't...but I think that maybe only girls will really get it.

Verdict: This is not a "heart-warming tale of two girls growing up in the country", it is a brilliant, brilliant, brillant piece of writing about knowing who you are.

Monday, June 25, 2007

That Camera Is Not Neenja

The train pulled into the station, the door opened, he set up his tripod, pointed and clicked.

Apparently he wasn't entirely satisfied with whatever showed up on the screen of his enormous DSLR, because he went for a second shot, and when he looked up, noticed that I'd noticed him photographing me, and was leering in an entirely "Haha, caught ya!" manner.

His smile wasn't entirely comfortable. I think I busted my chance of appearing in a photography exhibition with a caption along the lines of "Unknown Commuter Zombie, 7:08 Glen Waverley, Southern Cross on Spencer Street".

I've lost my white hair. It's gone. Almost, ALMOST a year, and it just had to fall out. Now it'll take me another 25 years to grow another.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

and the world just happens

A couple of family members who I happen to live with forgot my birthday was imminent. One them only remembered 8 hours before the clock ticked over midnight because the one family member that did remember asked if they remembered.

The fact that I forgot my birthday was coming too is quite irrelevent.

The only way to sing in such a birthday is to go and harass online roleplayers while in a mildly intoxicated state until 3 in the morning. Far more entertaining than it sounds.

Last year, I was proud to turn 25. It's a nice shiny number, 25, and a big number at that. Look how long I've hung around this Earth, 25 years, remarkable!

This year, not so much.

I am 26 years old and I still live with my parents, in the same room I spent the first 18 years of my life. I have a university degree that is useless, and a job that does nothing, goes nowhere, provides me with no skills I can apply elsewhere, and is neither challenging or stimulating. I don't have a significant other of any description, or children, or the potential for either on the horizon. I haven't seen the world, I haven't changed the world, I have achieved nothing of significance and I STILL HAVEN'T FINISHED WRITING A BOOK. ANY FUCKING BOOK.

The cake was nice though.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Warm-blooded Sunshine Batteries

I don't think I get much physical contact. The other day, someone put their hand on my arm, and my brain went "Oh!" It was the sort of "Oh!" that happens when you rediscover something that you hadn't realised you'd forgotten, like the smell of pine trees, or the taste really good cheese.

Wow. Other people are so warm.

It was exactly like sunshine, that perfect snuggly sunshine in Spring that I go nuts about. And I'm going nuts now. It isn't about sex, or affection, or raffirming my existence as a human being, but just how deliciously warm it was. I need to find someone who won't be freaked out if I say, "er, can I, like, maybe, sorta hold your hand for a bit?"

(I daresay this has been brought on by the fact that Melbourne just faceplanted into Winter in true Melbourne fashion, and I'm cold all the time. That said, if you can't find another human being to warm your bed for you, I can confirm that two dogs and a hot water bottle do an adequate job.)