Tuesday, March 24, 2020

"Japan Sinks" by Sakyo Komatsu

When the film Twister came out, I heard that some of my family members from Kansas found it genuinely frightening. Being familiar with a plausible disaster, and to some extent repressing it daily to function--I can imagine how seeing that in fiction could be cathartic and affecting, while for a general audience, we're mostly going to laugh about the flying cow.

I feel like this might be in a similar category: having never lived under the shadow of earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, merely reading about extreme versions of them felt a little distant and unreal for me. But I can imagine this book being shocking to someone more familiar with those disasters.

This is totally readable, though it feels more like a listing of disasters than any actual plot-based novel. The cast and scope is surprisingly large, with the result that only the events themselves do much developing.

What's the word for when something is both "dated", and "of a place/culture"? I can't quite place a lot about this novel, just because I don't know much about Japan generally, and specifically not about in the late '60s. It's odd to me how little the legacy of WWII was visible in here--possible it was just invisible but present throughout.

A lot of to-me-strange-seeming comments on the Japanese character: a lot of things that I would take as offensively stereotypical if an American was writing them, but here put forward fairly matter-of-factly. I was actually quite intrigued by the idea of Japan, as a culture that has had a sovereign homeland for a long time, as maturing as a culture by being forced to leave it; the delicacy and essential generosity of the Japanese government-about-to-dissolve was refreshing to read right now.

Sexy parts came across kind of creepy. And one final scene felt both creepy and (unintentionally) hilarious. But then who among us, faced with volcanic apocalypse, hasn't basically asserted "welp, let's see those tiddies."

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