The Square Persimmon

Takashi Atoda is a genius!! That explain how I feel about his short stories collection called the Square Persimmon and Other Stories. When I borrowed the book, it was simply because of the word Persimmon, I need it for my What’s In The name Challenge for either plant or food. I am so glad I have joined this great challenge because I can discover great books through this simply based on book’s title challenge.

When I began reading the first story titled The Mongolian Spot, I had this small skeptic feeling that keep on saying ‘aaa…it’s probably not going to be something great’…and I was totally wrong!! It was more than great!!

Each story in this book left the word ow in the tip of my mouth…either it’s an ow for that’s awesome, or an ow for that’s so beautiful, or an ow for that’s so sad, or an ow for o I see, or an ow for that’s a nice story. I have to put down the book after I finished reading one story, NOT because I want to clear my head and prepare for the next story, BUT because all the stories are beautiful and powerful and I want to let it sip into my mind and my heart, let it lingers there for a while before I let in another story to start playing trick on my mind again. I just can’t let another story ruins the feeling that I’ve received from the previous story….although that story is going to be another great one.

I rarely feel this way with new (to me) author, and whenever I felt like this, I ended up chasing for more stories by the same author. It’s a guaranteed re-read book, although the second time might nit leave the same ow feeling anymore because I already knew how it ends…but I know I will still enjoy it.

Here are my summary of each stories, I’m trying hard not to spoil it but it’s going to be hard because there’s element of surprise in each story.

In The Mongolian Spot, a man named Ryosuke had just buried his mother. After the 55th day memorial service for his mother, Ryosuke met an old man who knew his mother. Although he never met the man before, there was something about the man that made him listen to his story. The old man told him that he knew Ryosuke’s mother. His story made Ryosuke remembered how his father often beat his mother over his Mongolian Spot. Reading my review might not make you wonder what’s so good about this story, but if you read it, you’ll see that the story is both beautiful and sad…and you can not stop thinking that sometimes beauty doesn’t always bring you good luck, sometimes it brings you nothing but bad luck.

Paper Doll is another beautiful story. It tells the story of Hiroshi Konno’s childhood memory. Hiroshi recalled his childhood memory when he saw his old house. He had a best friend who happened to be a girl. Her name was Kinuko Saikoji. Kinuko was always dominant over him. Kinuko left a deep impression on him

The third story is my most favorite one, Dried fish and An Electrical Leak is a black humor. Mrs. Sugita, a very well organized old woman, found it strange that her electrical bill in her new house cost more than she used to pay when she was still living in her old house. All her electrical appliances were still the same, her habits in turning on or off those machine were also the same. She confronted the Electric Company. She proved them that even though she had turned off all her appliances, the meter was still moving. Two technicians came and helped her figure out who had been stealing her electricity. Their finding shocked them all. I love this story because the ending is so unpredictable.

I love main idea of The Destiny of Shoes. On her way to meet her lover, Ayako met an older man named Norio Nakamura. He told her that he believed every pair of shoes had their own intention that can drive people to do something. He had met an ordinary woman turned into naughty woman after picking the shoes that wanted to screw with many men. Ayako couldn’t completely believe his story. He also told her a perfect place to look at Sakura (hanami). When she came to that place, she found more than just beautiful blooming Sakura. I use 2 lines from this story for my Teaser Tuesday.

Of Golf and Its Beginnings is a great fairytale of how people can be really good in golf. The story took place in 1680s. A duke from Scotland and a Lord from England were having a debate on the origin of golf. Both believed that golf came from their country. To prove it, the held a competition, whomever win proved that golf originated from his country. The lord asked another lord to join. The duke asked a commoner to join him. The duke, much to the help of the commoner won the game. The lord tried hard to find out the secret of the commoner. The fairy tale is not the kind of happily ever after tale, it has a nice bitter end.

The sixth story, The Honey Flower, is the one that touches my heart deeply…it’s sad but beautiful. The main character was an ‘I’ character without any name. This boy lived during the most difficult time in Japan, in the peak of World War II. He had a childhood friend named Kei, a very lovely girl. Kei showed him her favorite place. There was a tree with white flower that produced sweet honey, they called the flower as Honey Flower. One day, an air raid killed Kei and not long after that, the tree was blooming with so many flowers and the honey tasted so sweet. The boy found out the truth about the tree when he grew up. I love this story, I can still recall it clearly.

The Glow of Lipstick is a story in a story. Three different women appeared in this story. Akemi, a hostess in a bar, Misako who also worked in that bar and a woman in Akemi’s story. Misako had a drunken mother. She always felt sad whenever she saw Akemi-san became drunk. Akemi told her last customer the story of a woman with a huge mouth. The story of that huge mouth woman is very interesting and it has a taste of another black humor.

The eighth story is another sad and beautiful story. Night Flight .Toshiro Sakai won a free one night stay in a Hotel in Yokohama. He met his old friend there. Shinichi Nishiwaki showed the sign of a man who had an affair with another woman in that hotel. Late at night, Nishiwaki asked Sakai to come to his room. He told Sakai everything about his woman. I can’t tell more than that because it can give you too much spoiler and it will make the story lose its magic. I thing I can say is that, the ending is somewhat sad but also makes you smile. And again, I have to say that this is a sad and beautiful story.

A Treatise on Count St. Germain is my least favorite story. This story has a good morale. But there’s no twist in this story…it’s not like the other stories that always give a twist that give the word ow. A man named Aizawa came to a place where his father promised to meet the famous Count St. Germain. The count was famous because he could defy death and he had the elixir of life. The count were going to reveal his elixir to Aizawa-san.

Just like The Honey Flower, Floating Lanterns also touches my heart and makes me shed a small tear. It tells the story of an ordinary man named Taizo. He thought he is so ordinary and no woman will fall for him. His friend introduced her to Chieko. They got married not long after their first meeting. They had simple live. They love watching the festival of floating lanterns to guide their ancestors back to their world (Obon Festival). On the peak of his happiness, Chieko and their son died in an accident. Taizo often dreamt of seeing Chieko and Yoichi floated amongst the lanterns and he tried to chase them. Till one day, he stopped chasing them. I love this story. It’s a love story and I rarely enjoy such story, but Atoda writes it in a way that doesn’t feel entirely like a love story.

The Square Persimmon, which also used as the book title is actually not as interesting as the other stories. I’m not saying that it’s not interesting…it’s still an interesting story but it’s my least favorite after St. Germain. The story is about Kiichi Kajii who suddenly recalled his old memory after seeing a square persimmon cake. He remembered seeing the most beautiful woman bought the persimmon cake. He was so enchanted by her beauty and without realizing it, his type off woman always resembled that woman. He tried to come back to the same cake shop and, although he thought it would be impossible, maybe met the woman again.

As you can see, I use a lot of ‘sad and beautiful’ description on Atoda’s stories…because some of them are sad but they touch my heart in a beautiful way.

A brief introduction on the author (from the back cover)

Takashi Atoda was born in Tokyo in 1935. He is the author of over forty collections of short stories and has received the Naoki Prize, as well as the award of the Mystery Writers’ Association of Japan.

Caroline of Beauty is a sleeping cat made another wonderful review of this book in her blog. I’m glad to know that she is the 3rd person that like the book after my recommendation. I sort of force two of my real life friends to buy it and thank God they love it too.

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This review is shared as my 1st book for Japanese Literature Challenge 4, my 7th book for New Author Challenge 2010, my food book for What’s In The Name ? 3 Challenge and my 6th book for 2010 Support your Library reading Challenge.

12 thoughts on “The Square Persimmon

  1. What an impressive review!! The trouble with the Japanese Lit Challenge is that everyone writes such good reviews, I’m confused about what I will choose. Once I would’ve said I dont like short stories, but after reading Murakami’s Blind Willow, I cant rule them out anymore. I, like you, would like to read this because of the title – how interesting is that?? Thanks so much.

    1. Thank you Tamara. I guess, people write impressive reviews because most J-lit are impressive. Since I read all my J-Lit from library, I just choose whichever looks interesting…If it turns out to be a boring book, I can always return it without finishing it.

      If you finally read this…I quarantee you won’t be dissapointed, I’m not the only one in goodreads.com that gives 5 stars to this book.

      And you’re welcome 🙂

  2. “The Square Persimmon and Other Stories” came into my bookshelf as a gift from my husband’s friend (she’s a librarian).
    Remarkable stories, indeed!
    Understanding Atoda is like contemplating haiku. Still water runs deep!

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