April 11th, 2003


Beautiful Losers by Leonard Cohen

Okay, forgive my total inability to write book reports. Beautiful Losers is the first-, second-, and third- person memoir of a soul-searching, saint-seeking historian who has let slip away everything that was important in his life: his childhood friend and fellow orphan, F., and his late wife, Edith. He desperately clings to the pursuit of knowledge while fighting with his memories; specifically, he thirsts for knowledge of
an Iroqois saint with whom his wife had identified. Reading over his shoulder was F., who appeared disinterested and seemed to devote most of his energy to teaching our protagonist his lecherous ways, when he's not busy being lecherous or playing in the political arena. The actual events of the book center around the romantic and erotic history of the bittersweet love triangle, but you get the feeling that these encounters are beside the point, as their bond grows dangerously strong. As the narrator gets closer to the truth (and farther from resolution), he begins to unravel, and the reader is removed more and more from the nature of his thoughts, until we don't recognize him as himself any longer.

This story is told beautifully, with no word out of place, even if it DOES help if you can read French. (I can't.) I was turned inside out by sadness and longing, every moment I was reading it, but reading it was a tremendous reward in itself. Despite the cool, dark atmosphere and settings (a basement, a forest), there are rays of sunshine cutting through between the lines. I forgave the imagery and metaphors light-years beyond me and (I think) most of his audience, out of pure enjoyment - even if it doesn't make sense, it SOUNDS really good, right? I agree with Ben that Cohen's writing resembles Henry Miller's. I hadn't any idea Leonard Cohen was a top-five sort of writer who can adeptly switch styles (nearly every segment is written differently than the one before) and carry a story that won't disappoint you. If you're smarter than I am, then you REALLY should read this book - maybe you'll get it, and you can explain it to me.

Don is 27 today.

Tanjoubi omedetou, Don!

I haven't written about last Sunday, April 6, but I don't want to forget it. We went to Sumiyoshitaisha Jinja (Osaka) early for Kyle and Masae's wedding, which they'd kept from me until the Friday before. Shortly after nine a.m., we sat down on a local train at Nankai Namba, and a woman and her daughter sat down across from us. It was Madoka and Sarasa Ono, with whom I feel an odd cosmic connection. (Sarasa is 14 and she's my student; Madoka has been a substitute in some of my classes several times, so we know each other.) Madoka took this picture of us:

Are you thinking, "They look a little underdressed for a Shinto wedding ceremony"? Well, we didn't think to ask what kind of ceremony it would be. Here is a picture Don took during the walk around the grounds before the ceremony:

There's a guy hiding behind them holding the umbrella. Those clothes probably cost several months' salaries. It was utterly gorgeous. I'd never seen a Shinto ceremony (neither had Madoka or Sarasa), and I may never again.

From there we headed back to Kobe, and by two p.m. we were at the top of Mt. Maya, joining the English Studio (Japan Night) for a picnic that looked like this:

You can see Don impersonating a shrimp. Ooh, look at Kobe!

Don and Ueko were street fighting:

Here's a sakura tunnel that goes on for some ways:

Then we stopped by a more crowded party.

After that, pretty much everybody needed a snooze, but some of us met later for a spontaneous California Night.

Here's another picture Don took, so he isn't in it. Behold, the English Studio.