Category Archives: 2020 Book Reviews

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 70: Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata

Sometimes in reading a novel for the second time, you will not get the same feeling when you read it previously. This is the case for Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata. Snow Country is considered to being Kawabata’s masterpiece.  And for many reasons, I agree with that assessment. However, as I’m getting older, I realize that doomed love affair stories don’t have the same appeal they once did for me as a reader.  Love has its own challenges when you make that kind of connection with another human being, and I don’t have the patience to figure out if someone feels a certain way or not. I understand the dance that can happen with love, but it can be exhausting on the page as it is in actual life.

Snow Country falls into that understated, everything is between-the lines type of love. I will write it’s beautifully written and descriptions of Western Japan’s snowiest region are stunning. I love a setting in fiction, especially when it becomes a character in the story as well. However, I need to find something interesting about the characters in the story alongside the setting.  As a reader, I don’t need to relate to the characters. (Actually, I think the character relatability in fiction is oversold and can shortcut the enjoyment of reading.)  But I need some kind of connection point on a basic human level.   And I did not quite get that upon this second reading of Kawabata’s masterpiece.

Shimamura is a married, wealthy Tokyo businessman that travels every so often to Western Japan because of his dalliance to a geisha named Komako. It troubles Komako about the relationship with Shimamura.  Kawabata reveals the vicissitude of their relationship throughout the novel. I could see current readers having a problem with Komako’s characterization as an emotionally unstable woman. That would be a fair assumption on the surface level of the story.  However, I must admit that I found her character as the most dynamic in Snow Country.  She carries the novel more than Shimamura.

Even though I knew this love affair had only one outcome. Kawabata provides a subtle and surprising love triangle with another geisha named Yoko that gives the novel a lot more depth. It is not a classic Western-style love triangle by any means, and the ending bares it out.

Snow Country is the third Kawabata novel I have read (Beauty & Sadness and Thousand Cranes are the others) and is still my favorite book of his work.  I’m a patient reader and like an interesting love story, when it’s well done. But I have to admit that wanted a little more straight-forwardness between Shimamura and Komako. Yasunari Kawabata is one of Japan’s greatest writers and a must for readers. Also, the translation by Edward G. Seidensticker is sublime. I just learned a valuable reading lesson that some books are never as good as the first time.

 

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 69: Silver Surfer #1 (1968) by Stan Lee & John Buscema

As a teenager, I had a huge comic book collection.  It was mostly Marvel and DC Comics with a few independent comic book publishers like Image, Dark Horse, and Valiant Comics. I read Avengers, Green Lantern Mosaic, Green Arrow, The Spectre, Sandman, and Icon (from Milestone Comics) during that time.  The Silver Surfer (along with Icon)… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 68: The Spy Who Came In From The Cold by John Le Carre

John Le Carre passed away earlier this month.  I posted on social media my respects and fondness for The Spy Who Came In From The Cold, the only Le Carre novel I had read. I was going to read A Perfect Spy in honor of his death.  However, I got about fifty pages into that… Continue Reading

Marion’s Favorites: Marion’s Favorite Reads of 2020

2020 is mercifully coming to a close, and it has been probably one of the most challenging years that I can remember.  A global pandemic.  A contentious American presidential election.  Big time celebrity deaths. So on and so on.  Reading has been choppy.  However, I read fifty books this year.  Here are my favorite reads… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 66: Brown Girl In The Ring by Nalo Hopkinson

Nalo Hopkinson is an author I have been wanting to read for a long time.  I have seen her novels over the years but had not gotten around to reading one until now.  Hopkinson tends to get overlooked in the current trend of black authors writing science fiction or fantasy. I don’t why that has… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 65: A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin

Sometimes you can listen to an author explain what made them write a novel and it changes your mind about reading that book.  This was the case for A Wizard of Earthsea, the first book of Earthsea Cycle by Ursula K. Leguin. I recently watched the documentary called The Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 63: The Practice by Seth Godin

Seth Godin is becoming one of my favorite public thinkers. I read his blog daily and listen to his podcast, Akimbo, as often I can.  Also, I have read several of his books like Tribes, Permission Marketing, and This Is Marketing.  He’s had a pulse on the business world for over three decades. His latest… Continue Reading

Wisdom From Kammbia Book Review 62: The Ancient Child by N. Scott Momaday

I have shared many times on this blog I read for story, characters, setting, and what an author is trying to say about life. Story is my reading language.  I don’t put down many books once I read them.  However, if there’s no story, I’m out as a reader.  I will admit that I don’t… Continue Reading