Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Last Samurai - Week 2

The Last Samurai is one book, which, even without clearly knowing what post-modernism is, I can call post-modern with some conviction. It has so many stylistic elements that could have never been found in traditional literature. The perspective changes in the middle of the book, there are many stories and anecdotes in the book, and Kurosawa's Seven Samurai always keeps holding the background.
The book is going through many things, primary amongst them is a young woman's attempt to bring up a child alone, while still trying to earn her living in a foreign country. She has no idea of the best practices of bringing up a child, and neither the time nor inclination to consult anyone on the topic. Sometimes her methods are atrocious - like taking her child to an art gallery to spend the entire day (because the house is too cold), or shuttling all day on the train line. The child hardly meets any other kids, and spends most of his time reading.
The various other things happening in the book include a lesson on Greek language, a primer on Japanese, pieces of the script of Seven Samurai, the story of Sanshiro Sugata, a story of blocked geniuses, and various other snippets on music and linguistics. It seems like a mosaic painting, and though the pieces look brilliant, sometimes, it takes a while to appreciate how they fit together. In Dewitt's book, it seems so far that the pattern is 'genius', but that does not necessarily fit everything. The stylistic nature also feels a little irritating sometimes, because it is done purely for effect - like sentences left mid-way and erratic grammar, which are disconcerting, and do not quite blend. Nevertheless, there is no boring moment in the book, except may be page 54.
The book has become a little more interesting ever since the son has begun to take longer parts of the narration. This is when his curiosity about his father begins to form a prominent theme of the book. I wonder if the curiosity about one's father is really so strong in a child, especially if he has had no interaction with other kids. Much is made out of this curiosity in many books and movies - and it seems as overdone as the eccentricity of dysfunctional families. Nonetheless, an Odyssey is always a good story...
To appreciate the references to the movie, I have begun watching The Seven Samurai. A great movie so far, but not one that I will be able to finish in one sitting because it is 3.5 hours long - something I am unable to fit in the current schedule.

6 comments:

Rise said...

I'm also liking the pace of the book when Ludo starts to take over the narrative. Sibylla is almost an unreliable narrator. Through narrative fragmentation, the book is trying (sometimes too hard) to capture the fits and starts of learning a language. It works best when the chunks of story are extended, as with the story of the pianist who went to Chad and Ludo's search for his father. I get more and more curious about the book as Ludo gets older.

Madhuri said...

Yes, the story of Kenzo Yamamoto is very engrossing, probably because it is very fantastic (not to say shockingly brutal). I like the longer pieces - to begin with the story of Sibylla's father. The mother's story, however seems over-the-board.
I like how Sibylla rationally takes up the task of bringing Ludo up - like on instances when he decides to walk back home.

Imagined Icebergs said...

Madhuri--I just found your blog. I'm glad to see someone else is posting about the group read on their own blog as well!

Except for a couple of short segments in the section after the prologue, I've usually enjoyed the way language gets broken up. That sentence-level fragmentation seems to be happening less and less as we go on, though.

Madhuri said...

Imagined-Icebergs, thank you for visiting my blog. I went through yours, and it has studied the novel is much greater depth.
Coincidentally you commented while I was just wrapping up my impressions of the book, and I was struck by the similarity of our latest posts - both about the HC-RD stories!

Louis said...

This is one of my favorite books and and I think seeing the development and change of perspective to be one of the most enchanting things about the book. But the reason I comment is that I'm in mumbai for only another 6 more weeks with a friend who is a writer. He constantly uses this book as inspiration but forgot his copy abroad, is there anyplace in mumbai one can just go buy it?

Madhuri said...

Louis, I don't think you will be able to buy it in a bookstore, I have not seen it even in the good ones. You can order from flipkart.com, they shud get it for you in 14-18 days.