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ajkuhn

Words, Worlds, Whorls

A place where I write reviews and keep track of what I want to read or have already read.

Personal Matter

A Personal Matter - Kenzaburō Ōe, John Nathan What a disappointing read. We are immediately introduced to the protagonist, Bird, and his internal struggles: his wife is at this very moment giving birth to their first child. While this may seem to be a joyous occasion, Bird feels it is a symbol of his loss of youth and freedom. Bird wants nothing more than to travel to Africa one day, but starting a family will be expensive, plus Bird seems to have trouble holding onto his money for more than five minutes. He spends it frequently throughout the night while waiting to hear news about his wife and child, mostly on frivolous things like video games and taxis where a bus would serve just as well and much cheaper.Sounds interesting? Unfortunately the execution of the plot is tedious at best. There are thirteen chapters, each approximately thirteen pages long. And the writing itself seems to plod along, although if this is a fault in translation or the original text is difficult to determine. Additionally, the characters other than Bird come across as flat and repetitive. They seem to serve no purpose whatsoever except to question Bird and force him to come to one realization or another. Most of them, including Bird's wife, do not even have names, which in and of itself doesn't mean much (take, for example, The Road, where none of the characters have names yet come across as lively and multi-faceted), but it adds to their two-dimensional feel. Bird, on the other hand, is overly flawed, as though to make up for the flatness of the other characters. I am not opposed to having flawed protagonist, but Bird is so hapless he becomes all but useless.Still, the plot was intriguing enough to keep me interested once things started to heat up a bit. We, along with Bird, learn that the child is born with a severe birth defect, and Bird must decide the proper course to take: either to go into debt letting the doctors operate and even then his son might spend his whole life as a vegetable, or let the child weaken and die. It is a haunting and riveting dilemma, but just as we seemed to be approaching a truly devastating and emotional conclusion, the author does a complete about-face that left me unsatisfied and wondering why I bothered struggling with this book for over a week.