Early December Reading & Music

In the past week I have finished off two books, Almost Transparent Blue and The Cement Garden. Though I enjoyed both books to varying degrees I can't say that either were books that I immensely loved.

I know when reading Japanese books or watching Japanese movies to expect unusual characters and situations when viewed from an American perspective and that is what I appreciate about them. I like life, people and ways of seeing that are different than mine and my world. Differences attract my attention.

 Almost Transparent Blue by Ryu Murakami published in 1976 certainly hit the mark in being another strange experience in Japanese culture. Right from the beginning the main character Ryu is shooting up heroin with his friends in the mid 1970s, using all sorts of drugs and partying like there is no other purpose in life. There are orgies involving American military personnel and Ryu is involved in all manner of sexual pleasure from both sexes (he seemed more like a closeted gay man than bisexual) and more drugs. The plot never strays from his friends and their drug use as it goes from one scene to the next there are more drugs. The story never goes anywhere and neither do the characters no matter the trouble they may get into is isn't very interesting and there's nothing much redeeming happening either.

I enjoyed the book nonetheless but I wish something, anything would have happened that made the book more worth my time.

I began reading The Cement Garden published in 1978 by Ian McEwan knowing what happens in the story because I had already seen the 1993 movie at least a couple of times. I liked the movie and thought the story and acting were compelling.

The story is about four kids (two girls and two boys) who become orphaned when both parents die. Rather than tell authorities when their last remaining parent dies they decide to hide the body in the cellar and continue living alone caring for themselves. They live in a large house in London in a neighborhood that is being leveled for new development and so their house becomes an isolated world surrounded by rubble and nearby apartment towers.

They manage on with their daily lives over a summer through complex relationships with their siblings and an older boyfriend of the oldest girl. The book is about isolation, grief, gender fluidity, gender roles, sex, trust and finally incest. Most of these issues are handled delicately and not in a very graphic manner.

If you've ever seen the movie then don't go into the book expecting to find any aspect of the story to be different. The movie was very faithful to the plot of the book. I did find that since the movie was so faithful to the book that there is very little insight to be gained about the characters having see the movie. Still, if you have never seen the movie then the book is worth reading and I also suggest the movie too.

Above is a photo of the cast from the movie version of The Cement Garden. If you notice on the far left that is singer/actor Charlotte Gainsbourg, she plays the role of the eldest female in the movie. Charlotte is of course also known as the daughter of the French legend Serge Gainsbourg.

I have enjoyed the music of Charlotte for years and just recently she released a new album which is excellent. The new album is called Rest. Here is one of the songs that I particularly enjoy from the new album called Ring-A-Ring O' Roses.

The guy in the video is absolutely adorable too and it is Charlotte's son.