December 30th, 2005

reading/writing, books

Banana Yoshimoto's Amrita

So I've just finished reading Banana Yoshimoto's Amrita, and I hated it. I've read two of her other books (Kitchen and NP) and enjoyed them, but this one has no plot, consisting entirely of meandering internal monologues filled with protracted metaphors and similes. Even the dialogue suffers the same malady. Here's a representative sample from when the narrator meets a minor character for the first time:
Everything was fine now that she was around -- that was the sensation. I also felt a certain sense of peace knowing that there'd never been a reason a person like this should not be in my life.

Take, for example, a grand cathedral in the middle of an ancient village in Europe. It's something you've seen many times brightly shining in postcards and on TV. You picture it in your mind under a perfectly blue sky, surrounded by crystal-clear air. Then you get on a plane and fly thousands of miles to see it in person, and there it is, just like you imagined it. For me, Noodles was my cathedral. I always knew she was there, but now I was actually seeing her in person. I felt a great respect for such a presence.

She inspired nostalgia, a sweet sense of homesickness. Like a soft lullaby I listened to as a child, I could hear that soft melody around her. She appeared misty and far away, like a beautiful light in the distance.
That quote was taken at random, but the whole book is similar. The language and imagery are pretty, to be sure, but it's all empty. The characters' voices are not distinct from each other (though this could be due to translation), nor are their personalities. It's all just one character's ramblingly ornate thoughts about random things and minor events.


Maybe I was in a different mood when I read Kitchen and NP, or maybe this book really is different. It's certainly longer (it seemed like it would never end). If I didn't have a strange compulsion to finish books once I've begun reading them, I would have thrown this one in the give-away pile before page 200 of its 366.
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