I finished Paper Doll and Other Stories by Naoya Shiga about 4 days ago, I usually wrote my review straight away while I still remember all the details although I often keep it for awhile before publishing it…but this book left me wondering for several days, I really didn’t know what to say. It’s good but it’s not great. I like some of the stories but I love none of them. This kind of situation always makes me lost for words.
I chose this book out of many books in the library because I want to read new to me author for 2 challenges at once. I had picked up Kitchen by Banana Moshimoto (?) but when I read the blurb on the back cover of Paper Door, I was intrigued. It said;
Often called “the god of the Japanese Short Story”…
Amazing sentence, isn’t it? At that time, I thought if Takashi Atoda, who is NOT the god of short story, had written such beautiful short stories…the god must have written heavenly stories. I put Kitchen down and chose Paper Doll.
Did it meet my expectation? Unfortunately, Takashi Atoda’s The Square Persimmon is FAR better than the god of short stories.
I am not saying that Naoya Shiga wrote bad stories, in fact they are quite good and some are memorable. But as a whole, let’s just say that I am not going to do some promotion spree like I did with The Square Persimmon. Maybe the mistake lies on my self, my expectation was too high and when it failed to deliver I was left disappointed more than when I didn’t expect anything out of a book.
There are 17 short stories in this book, all of them were written before I was born. As always, I’ll try highlighting each story in this book.
The Little Girl and the Rapeseed Flower (1904) is a sweet fairy tale of a little girl who tried to safe a rapeseed flower from being lonely in a place where it wasn’t supposed to be. As Far as Abashiri (1908) is a light story that took place in a train to Aomori. The main character observed a woman with 2 children who sat next to him. The Razor (1910) has a dark atmosphere as it tells the story of Yoshisaburo who had never cut his customer’s face while shaving their face, but something terrible happened when a certain razor came into his care. The Paper Door (1911) is unrequirred love story shared by the maid from the next door toward the young master on the other door.
Seibei and His Gourds (1912) is my most favorite story of all. It is very simple but fun and interesting. It tells the story of a kid named Seibei and his obsession with gourd. An Incident (1913) is a simple story about a mild accident that almost hurt a little boy. Han’s Crime (1913) is another favorite of mine. Han was a knives thrower who killed his wife during their performance. Some people thought that it was an accident while others thought it was intentional. Han told his true feeling to the judge.
At Kinosaki (1917) is a bit boring but I find the basic story quite interesting as it talked about the writer’s perception in dealing with death. Akanishi Kakita (1917) is also my favorite story in this book. It tells the story of a samurai and his fake love letter. Incident on the Afternoon of November Third (1918) left me no feeling at all. The Shopboy’s God (1919) is nice story about conscience and its limitation in old Japan. Rain Frogs (1923) is another story that left me with no feeling at all. The House by the Moat (1924) is another story about conscience, the main character was dealing with a mixed feeling toward a cat that about to be killed.
A Memory of Yamashina (1925) is an unfair story of husband and wife, I considered it as unfair because the cheating husband made his wife adoration for her doctor as something as terrible as his affair. Infatuation (1926) and Kuniko (1927) are stories of infidelity. I sort of skimmed these two stories, infidelity never once appealed me. Fortunately, the book is closed with a nice little story called A Gray Moon (1945), a 4 pages story that highlighted how people’s heart can change easily upon looking other people.
As you can see, out of those stories I only have 3 favorites. This book is still much better than Stained Glass Elegies by Shusaku Endo, I still haven”t finished that book even though I started reading it last year. I amthe kind of person that drop a book that I find boring.
About The Author
Naoya Shinga was born in Ishinomaki, Miyagi prefecture. The second son of a bank employee, he was brought up in Tokyo. After deciding to become a novelist, he dropped out of the department of English literature at Tokyo Imperial University and – along with other writers of the time such as Mushanokoji Saneatsu, Arishima Takeo, and Satomi Ton – established the journal Shirakaba. His stories can be divided into three categories: those based on experience and observation, those that are faithful to ideal experience or imagination, and those that are more or less autobiographical. All are represented in this collection.
Title: The Paper Door and Other Stories
Author: Naoya Shinga
Language: English (Original language: Nihongo)
Pages: 173 pages
Publisher: Turtle Publishing
Challenge: Japanese Literature Challenge 4, Hello Japan! Mini Challenge (something new), New Author 2011 (1/15)
6 Comments Add yours
Too bad this wasn’t so good. On the other hand there is always this problem with expectations. I don’t know how many times expectations ruined a book for me that I would have liked otherwise. I don’t know why bus As Far as Abashiri sounds interesting. I’m surprised the Endo is so hard to finish. Boring? I thought he had written only good novels. At least some people say so.
I know, expectation ruins not just a book but also a movie. They shouldn’t write great blurb because people might expect too much. Some people voted 5stars for this book in goodreads.com…so I really think, if I read this without expecting anything I might actually love it.
Ah..for Stained Glass Elegies, I just didn’t get the vibe that can make me continue reading it…somewhere last month, I found a post that praise the book so much…I wish I can feel the same way.
That’s too bad that this book didn’t live up to your expectations. But it’s great you tried a new author for Hello Japan! this month. And you have made me curious about it so perhaps one day I’ll give it a try. But first, I must definitely get The Square Persimmon this year!
New author is the only thing I could think of at that time. Finding new thing about Japan is more difficult than I thought.
I hope I didn’t give you too much expectation on The Square Persimmon … I don’t want you to be in the same position when I read The Paper Door.
I may have to try this author too, haven’t read anything by Naoya Shinga before. If you like short stories and not-too-long novels, Banana Yoshimoto and Yoko Ogawa are great bets 🙂
Actually, I like long novel.
I was going to try Yoshimoto but have second thought after reading the blurb on this book. I will try Yoshimoto one day.