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The Makioka Sisters
by Junchiro Tanizaki

THE NEXT BOOK                                               
Let's start discussing THE MAKIOKA SISTERS by Junichiro     
Tanizaki towards the end of November. If anyone would like  
to start, jump in, otherwise I will post. Then comes        
SELECTED POEMS OF ANNE SEXTON and the next choice will be   
DANCING AT THE RASCAL FAIR by Ivan Doig. So everybody, go to
the library, go to the bookstore, get reading (preaching to 
the choir, here, I think).                                  
Sherry in gray gloomy Milwaukee                             

===============   Reply    1 of Note   25 =================

To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 11/07 From: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Time: 10:50 PM Just a note to encourage those of you whose lives were not exactly interrupted by my suggestion for the last slo-mo list to give Makioka Sisters a try. It's new. It's different. It's go-o-o-o-d. It's a long book, but a very fast read, and engrossing to boot. It's on the Everyman's Library list. I've read it twice, and am preparing to read it for the third time (I only re-read the really, really good ones). So go for it. Theresa =============== Reply 2 of Note 25 =================  
To: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Date: 11/07 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 11:05 PM I intend to plow right into the Makioka Sisters, Theresa. And sorry about any untoward remarks I may have made about your last reco. Everyone's taste is different. I'll check the library tomorrow for the sisters. Ruth, exhausted from a day with her grandchildren =============== Reply 3 of Note 25 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 11/08 From: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Time: 6:54 PM Theresa, I will definitely be joining you on this book. I am always interested in things Japanese. Ann =============== Reply 4 of Note 25 =================  
To: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Date: 11/08 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 9:14 PM Theresa, the library bombed out on this one, but my favorite bookstore had it, so I'm prepared. Ruth, in the summery south =============== Reply 5 of Note 25 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 11/08 From: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Time: 11:15 PM No, no, no Ruth. You certainly never made any untoward remarks. If you don't like a book, I believe you should damn well say so. Just didn't want anyone to pass on Makioka Sisters because Rabbit Boss scared them off. Theresa =============== Reply 6 of Note 25 =================  
To: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Date: 11/09 From: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Time: 9:53 AM greetings THERESA.. appreciate the plug for the MAKIOKA SISTERS..this book has been touted for years as one not to miss....good to hear that you picked up on always amaze me..with the books you come up with... that is what is so great about sit back and you learn much about our CR'S.. gail..hp..a p r...who is finishing watching a film ...and hasn'tmade heads or tales of it... will report on CR SALON.. summer in SAN FRANCISO.. =============== Reply 7 of Note 25 =================  
To: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Date: 11/10 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 7:11 PM Theresa, I have started THE MAKIOKA SISTERS and am savoring every word. It is my kind of book. I have read about 80 pages and it reminds me of A SUITABLE BOY by Vikram Seth. I lent the book to a friend who never returned it so I won't be able to compare some of the marriage customs. Have you read this book? Jane who got into the spirit of things by eating at a Japanese restaurant this weekend. =============== Reply 8 of Note 25 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 11/12 From: DHGK37A ERNEST BELDEN Time: 7:14 PM Sherry, I did not see your last note which answers my question, thank you! Have to quit, off to the library and book store. So the weather is not the best in good old Milwaukee, well you should have never left the Golden State - serves you right! Ernie who enjoyed the sunshine on the SF bay this AM in Benecia of all places. =============== Reply 9 of Note 25 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 11/14 From: DHGK37A ERNEST BELDEN Time: 6:44 PM Sherry, I got started on the sisters and found it difficult reading so I am not sure that I will be able to keep it up, but will give it another try. The problem is that the names are difficult to remember and somewhat confusing. Ernie =============== Reply 10 of Note 25 =================  
To: DHGK37A ERNEST BELDEN Date: 11/14 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 7:30 PM Dear Ernie, I found the names a bit difficult at first, too. But unless you have something really pressing, do keep trying. Later on it starts to move. In fact, I was trying to get to sleep and decided to read for a while, since I had found this book very calming. Well all of a sudden there was a flood and I stayed up til way past midnight engrossed. And I thought it was going to help me sleep! Sherry =============== Reply 11 of Note 25 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 11/14 From: EUCR61A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 8:00 PM Sherry: While trying to perk up my own attitude towards this story, I did a little research -- apparently it was origionally published (in Japan) under the title 'Sasameyuki', which literally means 'light snow.' How and why this became 'The Marioka Sisters' wasn't revealed in my source material, nor is it obvious from the one-third of the book I've read. Anybody out there got some glaring, klieg light type revelations on this one? Dick in Alaska where we need klieg lights just to drive home =============== Reply 12 of Note 25 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 11/14 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 10:40 PM Sherry, I love this book as I said earlier, but I really agree about the flood section. I was reading it last night and didn't want to stop until all were safe and sound. It is my type of book. Jane who loves Proust as well. =============== Reply 13 of Note 25 =================  
To: EUCR61A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 11/15 From: KEXT98A TONYA PRESLEY Time: 0:58 AM Dick in Alaska, "The title of this version is not a translation of the Japanese title... The original suggests snow that is falling in very fine flakes. No single adjective came to mind to suggest the quality adequately. 'A veil of snow' or 'a mist of snow' might have sufficed, but both seemed overwrought. Nor would it have been possible to convey other than by explanation, which is not the same thing as translation, that the Japanese title contains a pun, on the name of the third sister, Yukiko, which is literally 'snow child'. Probably Tanizaki chose it to suggest fragility." (from the intro to the EVERYMAN'S LIBRARY edition. Tonya =============== Reply 14 of Note 25 =================  
To: KEXT98A TONYA PRESLEY Date: 11/15 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 11:46 AM Tonya: Beauty explanation as they say across the border in Occupied Canada. Thanks. Dick in Alaska gulping down some morning cha =============== Reply 15 of Note 25 =================  
To: KEXT98A TONYA PRESLEY Date: 11/15 From: KGXC73A GAIL SINGER GROSS Time: 7:52 PM greetings TONYA.. outstanding research..tons of thanks.. gail...hp..a passionate reader in cool and sunny SAN FRANCISCO..where i am told we are expecting rain from the HAWAIIAN far no rain in sight! =============== Reply 16 of Note 25 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 11/16 From: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Time: 10:47 AM I am about 165 into THE MAKIOKA SISTERS, and I must say that I am enjoying this old fashioned novel very much. It reminds me a lot of a some of the classic novels I have been reading in its dramatic pace and attention to the details of everyday life. Also, I really like reading about this pre-war Japanese culture. Although I can identify with these sisters on a very human level, I also find the differences in cultural norms fascinating. The Japanese are certainly masters at indirect communication, aren't they? The characters almost never say what they really think, and yet they are able to read subtle nuances so well that they seem to understand each other very well. And how about that Yukiko? She seems so passive and willing to go along with the flow, but so far she seems to be pretty good at getting what she wants. As Sachiko says with some justification on p. 150, "She keeps quiet and has everything her way." I taught English in Japan from 1973-1975, and this book brings back very pleasant memories. I wonder how often, however, I seemed like those boorish White Russians to the Japanese. Ann =============== Reply 17 of Note 25 =================  
To: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Date: 11/16 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 12:26 PM Ann: The slow, formal and very studied pace of Japanese social life in the late 1930's is an interesting aspect of this book. From the American perspective it is hard to imagine how these social mores fit within a culture that is also ferociously competitive economically, and at that time, militarily. How those manifestations of Japanese culture meld into the gentler ways of day to day life isn't all that clear in this book. Of course, that wasn't what Tanizaki was trying to do, but it's an issue I've always found interesting. Ruth Benedict's 'The Chrysanthemum and the Sword' dealt with those issues to some degree. She was an anthropoligist specializing in Japan who was a consultant to the War Department during WWII on Japanese issues: is there any way to convince a Japanese battalion to surrender rather than fight to the death? What sort of post-war occupation government will work in Japan? Obviously she never did figure out an answer to the first question, but was bang-on with number two. In any event, an interesting book by an interesting woman. Dick in Alaska on a frosty morning with the fire and coffee pot going full blast =============== Reply 18 of Note 25 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 11/17 From: DHGK37A ERNEST BELDEN Time: 3:02 PM Richard, I am totally amazed that anyone knows about Ruth Benedicts role during the war and has read her book C&S. When I was a grad student in Psych. at U.C. some of my profs were involved in the same project and told the students about it. This made me read this particular book. In those days we were heavily exposed to anthro especially Margaret Mead, Gregory Bateson, F. Boas of Kwakiutel fame. I loved all that stuff though I have become a bit more critical of it. Ernie =============== Reply 19 of Note 25 =================  
To: DHGK37A ERNEST BELDEN Date: 11/17 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 4:06 PM Ernie, Dick & All: Speaking of cultural differences, and of Japan, I heard a fascinating piece on NPR's "The World" last week about changing sexual mores in that country. This month marks the first time an unexpurgated version of LADY CHATTERLY'S LOVER (!) will be available commercially in Japan. Also...Until recent years, the reporter said, any display of physical affection in public--a simple hug or kiss, on the street--was considered outrageously offensive. And any depiction of sexual behavior was frowned on, especially between married couples (?!) because this was thought to somehow degrade the institution of marriage. On the other hand, she said, Japan's equivalent of our news tabloids, available at any supermarket, routinely carry nude photos of teenage girls and nobody seems to see this as contradictory. A strange and complicated business, this culture stuff... Dale in Ala. =============== Reply 20 of Note 25 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 11/17 From: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Time: 6:24 PM I read Benedict's C&S as an anthro student, although I don't think the book was assigned reading for students any longer. It was interesting, but rather quaint in light of the type and direction of research and analysis being conducted at that time. Benedict tried to "psychoanalyze" cultural personality in much the same way a psychologist would an individual - she later wrote papers in which she labeled various N.A. groups with psycho. labels which a layperson would normally see as denoting a type of imbalance. Which was rather disconcerting, although I don't think her intent was necessarily to label the cultures as "sick." The whole thing is interesting, but seems very simplistic now. Ernie, I developed doubts about anthro/archeo research early on. I am still very interested in this field, but was quite disillusioned while still an undergrad - the so-called scientific theories and analysis are often constructed on a bare minimum of real evidence. Which is fine - except that they are bandied about as "truth" rather than theory - which as far as I could see, was necessitated by the need to succeed in an elaborate, ritualized academic culture (and wouldn't it be fun to give a psych label to that particular disfunction....). I thought the comic scene with the White Russians was very funny. I also think such a characterization in a Russian novel of a Japanese family would have offended even Tanizaki. When is this type of thing racism? When is it just a telling illustration of cultural relations/ perceptions/misperceptions? Thanks for the info on the original name of the novel. I agree that this is an old-fashioned book. It's interesting to compare the way Tanizaki develops his characters and their relationships with the way this is done in European and American novels. This novel really reminded me of some of the Russian novelists I've read - especially Turgenev - a little sentimental, but also very realistic. Not a lot of action, but a lot happens nevertheless. Some of Tanizaki's other books are quite different - he seems to be exploring the so-called "dark-side" of his characters - especially their sexual obsessions. The Key (I think that was the title) depicts a father who arranges for his wife, and then his daughter, to receive multiple "injections." I'm a little hazy on the details, but it was like reading the mind of someone who knew his Freud, but intended to enjoy his neuroses anyway, just as did some of the more interesting Victorians in an earlier age. Tanizaki's autobiography is also quite interesting. Sheds some light on the origin of some of the themes he pursues in Makioka Sisters and other books. I picked the autobiography up very cheap, and later re-sold it. I thought the bookstore had made a mistake and overpaid me - but later saw them selling it as a first-edition of a hard to find book, for a good sum of money. Guess I shoulda read my Dunning first. And, Dale, I have seen some Japanese comic books (read, I'm told, by kiddies) where the sex and violence (and sexand violence) would shock even us degraded Americans. I don't think it is the display of affection or sexual attraction which itself is found inappropriate, but the fact that the display takes place between a married couple. I'm not saying this very well - I mean that the cultural context is so different we need to look at the big picture before deciding whether the mores are really so different, or whether it is that the puzzle itself has been constructed differently. Theresa - who had better stop, since she's stopped making sense (which is a great album, but not related to this thread) =============== Reply 21 of Note 25 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 11/17 From: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Time: 8:31 PM Dick, I read Ruth Benedict's 'The Chrysanthemum and the Sword' many years ago before I went to Japan. I also thought it was very perceptive. You brought up a really interest point -- the contrast between the delicate and refined personal relations of these characters and the rampant militarism and extremism of Japanese leaders during this period of history. External events are almost entirely ignored in this novel. There are euphemistic references to Japan's brutal invasion of China as "the China incident." Tanizaki began writing this book in 1943 and I assume that any writing about political events would have been extremely touchy. At the same time, I would guess that government propaganda kept the population largely in the dark about what was really going on. Westerners read about "the rape of Nanking", but this was undoubtedly presented in very heroic terms in the Japanese press. This book does show certain Japanese traits, such as obedience to authority, conformity, and concern for "face" and honor, which help to explain a bit their behavior during the war. Ann =============== Reply 22 of Note 25 =================  
To: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Date: 11/18 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 0:40 AM Ann: The Japanese attitude towards WWII and their role in it is still a little ambivalent if our press reports are to be believed (a major stumbling block, admittedly). Certainly there were many terrible things done by Japan at that time, but we can understand them easily if we just imagine all those Koreans and Chinese as black people. Then, we can conceive of Americans committing those particular atrocities -- medical experiments on prisoners, and indescriminate murder and rape, for example. There is little question in my mind that the Japanese were as race-conscious and racist a society as was the old white American society of 50 years ago (since tempered a bit by time and experience and tempered a lot by the influx of a ton of non-white people). Quite a few years ago now, during a previous employment and professional incarnation, I was at a dinner in Washington D.C. at one of Bethesda's tastier Chinese restaurants. Our host was a well-known Washington and government professional of impeccable liberal and academic credentials. His wife was an absolutely lovely woman, born in Manchuko to a Japanese admiral in the '30's. During the dinner one of the servers, who was apparently Chinese and spoke very poor English, spied this man's wife and haltingly inquired if she were Chinese. For a moment I thought this woman would strike the server, before she literally hissed out, "I AM JAPANESE!" The server cowered like she could be slapped and scurried away. Everyone at table was very polite and kept on shoveling in the food. All very instructive to see the daughter of an actual warlord at work, however. Dick in Alaska where our many Japanese visitors may despise us, but do it very politely =============== Reply 23 of Note 25 =================  
To: DHGK37A ERNEST BELDEN Date: 11/18 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 0:51 AM Ernie: Apparently lots of people have read Ruth Benedict, looking at this thread. I never really thought of C&S as anthropology so much as it was an exercise in applied psychological analysis. Some of it was fairly perceptive in terms of the war, and some of it was downright silly. It must have been quite interesting to talk with some of those old folks who worked with Benedict, though. Even the young soldiers of that war are getting so old these days -- and it's our turn next. Dick in Alaska, putting a good, if wrinkled, face on things =============== Reply 24 of Note 25 =================  
To: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Date: 11/18 From: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Time: 7:35 PM Theresa, It has been a very long time since I read Benedict's book. I might view it entirely differently if I read it today, but as I remember it, she treated the Japanese culture with respect and, at the time at least, I thought she had some good insights. It is always risky to make generalizations about a culture because so many individuals don't follow the model. And yet, I think that it can be helpful to study the preconceptions that every culture takes as givens. I want to thank you for suggesting this book. Once I got to the flood, I couldn't put it down. I finished it last night in a marathon weekend read. The characters were "real" people for me and I had to keep reading to find out if Koi-san and Yukiko would ever find a husband and/or true love. I find it quite interesting that this novel, which deals almost exclusively with female characters, was written by a man. Have you read any other books by Tanazaki, and, if so, what would you recommend reading next? Ann =============== Reply 25 of Note 25 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 11/18 From: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Time: 7:37 PM Dick, Unlike the United States, Japan is an extremely homogeneous society. There is a Korean minority, which, 25 years ago at least, some analysts considered the "blacks" of Japan. In the pre-war era, racism was definitely part of Japanese imperialism. Among the Japanese I have known personally, however, I have never seen any evidence of this. I also taught English as a second language in the United States for a couple of years, and the Japanese mixed very well with the other foreigners. In fact, when I was in graduate school, I shared the main floor of an old house with a roommate from Osaka, one from Taiwan, and one from Kansas. We all got along great. Ann P.S. Thanks for alerting us to the Ondaatje interview on Fresh Aire. The broadcast is repeated a day late here, so I heard it today. No danger to the electronic antenna on our car -- we already broke that a couple of weeks ago. Ouch -- what an expensive item to repair! =============== Reply 26 of Note 25 =================  
To: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Date: 11/19 From: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Time: 2:45 AM Hi Ann. I'm glad you liked Makioka Sisters. I also liked the Benedict book - it was an interesting read, but I was reading it as an anthro student. I think Benedict was making a very earnest effort to meld two different social sciences. She was a great friend (and, some rumor, more) of Margaret Mead. According to Mead, at that time there was a movement to unify the social sciences - so that, for instance, sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, etc. would coordinate research, and work with each other's theories, practice, etc. The idea died, according to Mead at least partly due to professional jealousies and ambitions. Benedict and Mead were trained together as anthros at Columbia University, back when it was a comparatively new "science." Benedict had rather severe emotional problems, including at times incapacitating depression. Which most likely accounts for the direction of her research. Her book reminds me of Rebecca West's Black Lamb and Gray Falcon. Although not a psychological study of a culture by any means, BLGF illuminates an area and its culture in a similar way. The present situation in former Yugoslavia would surprise no one who has read West's book. I've read quite a few of Tanizaki's books. Makioka Sisters is a bit of an anomaly. Aside from his ability to tell a good story, he is interesting to me as someone who was strongly drawn to and influenced by "western" authors, and returned to an appreciation for Japanese traditions, yet without the rampant, almost fascist nationalism of Mishima. Makioka Sisters, to me, is more of a study of a "normal" family and its relationships. Tanizaki's other books tend to focus more on psychological imbalance - yet in a very matter of fact way. Some Prefer Nettles and The Key were both very interesting. You may have noticed Tanizaki's interest in bodily functions. He always makes note of his character's digestive problems. I heard a very funny joke about this penchant once, but cannot remember it for the life of me. Don't know that it would pass the Prodigy censors, anyway. I'd also recommend Tanizaki's autobiography - growing up in the merchant class in Tokyo, in late 19th/early 20th century Japan. Very interesting book. Was it you that posted that you had taught in Japan for a couple of years? How interesting. Can you speak Japanese? What Japanese authors would you recommend? I've read and enjoyed Shusako Endo (short stories better than novels), Fumiko Enchi, Banana Yamamoto (good books but kinda childish - I mean, she is young, and she's playing it for all it's worth), and others I can't recall right now. I am not much of a fan of Yukio Mishima. Theresa =============== Reply 27 of Note 25 =================  
To: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Date: 11/19 From: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Time: 8:41 PM Theresa, Thank you for the recommendations of Some Prefer Nettles and The Key. I checked the online catalog for our local library and they don't have them, but I think I saw both books at BORDERS. Reading about psychological imbalances has never been a problem for me, and I plan on giving his other books a try. You are better read in Japanese literature than I am. It has been years since I read Mishima's books. I know he was an extremist nationalist and somewhat crazy to boot (in the latter part of the twentieth century normal people don't commit sepuku -- ritualistic suicide by disemboweling themselves), but I remember that I found his books very interesting. After 25 years, however, I remember almost nothing else. I studied Japanese while I was in Japan, but the most I ever learned was band-aid Japanese--i. e., enough to get around on public transportation and do my shopping. Since I was teaching English, everyone I met wanted to speak English, and I lacked the self-discipline to really apply myself. I lived in a tiny Japanese apartment with tatami mat floors, no central heating, a Japanese style bath (you get completely clean BEFORE you get in the tub), and sliding doors between the rooms. My job involved traveling to Japanese companies to teach English conversation, as well as teaching at an English center in downtown Nagoya. I have never had a job that I enjoyed as much. Japanese people were extremely generous to me, and it was a wonderful experience. The terrible overcrowding and the unequal position of Japanese women (at least in the 1970's) got to me after awhile, however, and I was ready to come home. My Japanese students were very concerned about me because I was almost 25 and still not married. At the time, 25 seemed to be some kind of a match cut off line. If you hadn't snared a husband by then, you might have missed your chance forever. So the constant concern over the marital status of Yukiko and Taeko in this book really made me smile. I have read that more recently, young Japanese women are not nearly so anxious to get married. By our cultural standards, Yukiko would definitely be considered passive aggressive, wouldn't she? I could certainly relate to the more westernized Taeko more, but I felt very sorry for Yukiko. It seemed pretty obvious that she would have been happiest if she had just been allowed to remain single. Ann =============== Reply 28 of Note 25 =================  
To: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Date: 11/19 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 9:56 PM All: Does anyone recall a Masterpiece Theater production involving an English woman who was stranded/widowed in Korea about the time of the Russo-Japanese War and became the mistress of a Japanese man (military, I think?) in Japan? I believe the production spanned most of her life and was very rich in details about Japanese social behavior and cultural motifs. I bring it up because I had the vague recollection it was based on either fact, or a book, or maybe both and was at least somewhat related to the discussion we're having about 'The Makioka Sisters'. Dick in Alaska where it was the barmaid's birthday =============== Reply 29 of Note 25 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 11/19 From: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Time: 10:55 PM The Ginger Tree, by Oswald Wynd. PBS production was good, book is even better. I think she is was in China with her husband (a real cold fish) - had a love affair with a Japanese man, discovered, husband took child, she went to Japan, had another child, lover took child. Japanese lover not a gentleman by European standards, but behaved very correctly by his own. I liked this book a lot - have never found another book by Wynd, though. This book covers the same time period as Makioka Sisters - would be an interesting next read for those who haven't yet read it. Theresa =============== Reply 30 of Note 25 =================  
To: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Date: 11/20 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 0:31 AM That's the one! Dick in Alaska, recall impaired =============== Reply 31 of Note 25 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 11/20 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 1:40 AM I saw the Masterpiece Theatre production of THE GINGER TREE, too. I remember it as very good, although I think the Times gave it a terrible review. I'd like to try the book, but how will I ever? My TBR list stretches into the new millenium. Ruth, in Calfornia where the propane tank at her mother's cabin is behind the herb garden and the woodpile. =============== Reply 32 of Note 25 =================  
To: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Date: 11/20 From: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Time: 6:14 PM Theresa and Dick, I loved both the Masterpiece Theater production and the book. I saw it on TV first and then went right out and got the book from the library. Great love story, but extremely complicated by the cultural differences between this pair. I think that the TV version was filmed for high definition TV.Unfortunately, almost no one had high definition TV to appreciate it. A few years back we saw sumo wrestlers filmed in high definition TV --let me tell you, those mounds of fat highlighted in such fine detail are really a sight to see. Ruth, I recommend you move this book up a few notches on your TBR list. Ann =============== Reply 33 of Note 25 =================  
To: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Date: 11/20 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 11:11 PM Ann,Theresa, Sir R., and Ruth and all other MAKIOKA readers, I am on page 400, and I find it extremely interesting that, although, Yukiko has led a very sheltered life, she is allowed to travel by herself. Another startling passage was about the death of the sisters' mother. Sachiko mentions in passing how her father couldn't stay away from the geishas and that he used to take her to the tea houses with him when she was a little girl! There is such a contrast in the life of these sisters and their father's debauchery. I am learning a lot about the Japanese culture. (When my mother married my father and went with him to Indiana, one of his nieces asked her if she wasn't an old maid when they got married. She was 26. So Japan is not so strange.) Jane who helped Tom N. celebrate his 48th birthday yesterday. =============== Reply 34 of Note 25 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 11/21 From: KEXT98A TONYA PRESLEY Time: 1:40 AM Jane, Tell Tom Happy Birthday from Texas!!! Tonya, less than 100 pages into this book, in record breaking heat today - about 85 degrees I think. =============== Reply 35 of Note 25 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 11/21 From: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Time: 6:16 PM Jane, Traditional geishas were carefully trained in the traditional Japanese arts of music and dance. Some of them saw some action on the side, but geisha is not synonymous with prostitute and I think things were quite sedate at those tea houses. So, while it was inappropriate for Mr. Makioka to take Sachiko to the tea houses, it wasn't as bad as you might think. Ann =============== Reply 36 of Note 25 =================  
To: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Date: 11/21 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 9:28 PM Ann, Thanks for the information. There was something implied there by Sachiko that her father was taking her along while he was having a fling. She mentions that she knew that her father loved her mother the best of all of the women. And his love life didn't become a scandal until her mother was gravely ill. Did you read the same thing into this passage? Jane who is glad she is an American. Tonya, Tom N. says, "Thanks for the birthday wishes!" =============== Reply 37 of Note 25 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 11/22 From: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Time: 11:16 AM Yes, Jane, I see what you mean. I think you interpreted the passage correctly. I just meant that I didn't think there were overt sexual activities going on at the teahouses themselves, although I could be wrong. After World War II, many American servicemen thought "geisha" meant the same as prostitute. The true geishas had to undergo years of training in traditional singing and dancing. They generally came from poor families and often had a male "protector", but they didn't sleep with just anyone. There were some professional geishas in Taeko's dance classes, weren't there? They weren't exactly considered respectable, but their artistic talents were recognized. On the other hand, Okubata also hung out in the geisha quarters and this was considered a very bad sign. BTW, I was rather appalled that both Sachiko and Yukiko thought it preferable for Taeko to marry the degenerate Okubata than the photographer, Itakura. There seemed to be a very strong emphasis on social class in the pre-War period. The Makiokas were probably particularly sensitive to this since their social position had already eroded so much thanks to Mr. Makioka's failures. Ann =============== Reply 38 of Note 25 =================  
To: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Date: 11/22 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 9:59 PM Ann, I guess I thought that the word "professional" in front of geisha meant that the woman was a prostitute. I am sure that can't be right or these women wouldn't have been welcome at Sachiko's home. This matter of culture differences is so fascinating to me, particularly because I try to teach "French culture". Jane who has less than 100 pages to go. =============== Reply 39 of Note 25 =================  
To: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Date: 11/25 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 4:10 PM Theresa: I still have a ways to go in THE MAKIOKA SISTERS but am finding it to be, as somebody here has said, "old-fashioned" in the best sense of the term--solid, satisfying writing with a sense of much going on underneath the literal surface. My edition says the novel originally appeared in Japan under the title SASAME YUKI. Does anyone know the literal meaning (apparently a reference to Yukiko), or have any ideas why it might have been changed? Dale in Ala. =============== Reply 40 of Note 25 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 11/25 From: EUCR61A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 5:40 PM Dale: We're going to have to take off points here for failure to pay attention in class -- Jane & Theresa (I think it was Theresa; whoops, there go my points) posted on this a while ago (10 days maybe?). Apparently the Japanese title means something close to 'lightly falling snow', and in Japanese there is a pun or play on words involved with Yukiko's name. This subtlety was too much for English translation, so they went with 'The Makioka Sisters', which if not clever, is at least clear. This is the point on the exam question where, to conceal my lack of further information I scrawl "TIME!". Dick in Alaska, out of it (time that is) =============== Reply 41 of Note 25 =================  
To: EUCR61A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 11/25 From: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Time: 9:30 PM I think it was Jane who gave us this info. Yukiko means snow child. Sasameyuki means something along the lines of lightly falling snow. This is the sort of thing we miss out on with translations - not only plays on words, but plays on cultural knowledge. A really good translator can compensate for some of this, but not all. Theresa =============== Reply 42 of Note 25 =================  
To: EUCR61A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 11/25 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 10:49 PM Dick: Er, ah...I knew that. What I was doing, since this former-title business is such a particularly illuminating insight into THE MAKIOKA SISTERS, was feeding you a setup line so that you could reiterate Jane's note for the benefit of CRs who are paying less attention than they should be. Yeah! That's the ticket... Dale in Ala., whom time holds green and dying, but he sings in his chains like whatever =============== Reply 43 of Note 25 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 11/25 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 11:39 PM Dale: No need to feel bad; even with a crib sheet I only got it half right.... At our age we should start saving our memory capacity for important stuff, like where we parked the car. Dick in Alaska where your 70 degrees sounds downright heavenly =============== Reply 44 of Note 25 =================  
To: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Date: 11/26 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 2:00 PM All, I finished MAKIOKAs just a couple of days ago, but haven't had time to gather my thoughts. Now my mother's going to be here and then there's the DEAD BIRD FESTIVAL... It may be a few days before I can write anything coherent. Suffice it to say, it was a long, leisurely old-fashioned read, as some of you have noted. The kind of book I used to live for, but seldom read any more, but that's more to do with me, than with the book. Ruth, on a glorious warm sunny day in beautiful southern California =============== Reply 45 of Note 25 =================  
To: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Date: 11/26 From: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Time: 9:25 PM For those interested in the original Japanese title and the word plays on "snow" backdate to 11-15-96 on this note and you will find Tonya Presley's post on the subject. Ann =============== Reply 46 of Note 25 =================  
To: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Date: 11/27 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 9:36 PM Ann, Thanks for setting everyone straight. I have been off the board for a few days because I have been ill with bronchitis, laryngitis, pharyngitis and every other itis you might care to mention. I was going to jump in and say that Tonya had posted about the meaning of the original title. Jane who hasn't had the energy to get out of bed much less to turn on the computer. =============== Reply 47 of Note 25 =================  
To: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Date: 11/27 From: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Time: 9:49 PM I had it half-wrong as well. Tonya deserved the credit. So here you go Tonya - CREDIT. If this much gets lost in just translating the title, makes you wonder what else we're missing out on. And maybe the best books in translation are not at all the best books in the original language. Theresa =============== Reply 48 of Note 25 =================  
To: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Date: 11/29 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 7:02 PM All, The brief respite between the post-turkey collapse and the pre-candycane frantics affords me a bit of time to reflect upon my reaction to THE MAKIOKA SISTERS. This is the kind of long, slow book that used to delight me. Now, I chafe at the bit somewhat. I've pondered on why that is so, but perhaps that's a subject for another thread. However, I perservered along with the Makiokas to where the book stopped. That's what I said, stopped. It just didn't feel like an ending to me. And maybe that was the author's intent. The four Makioka sisters will just go on and on, turning on the spit of their petty, insular concerns, condemned to endless repetition either by their personal inclinations or society's expectations, probably by both. I kept wanting to give these women a swift kick in their kimonos. Is this all you can think about? The world is teetering on the verge of devastation and you're worrying about what people will think if you veer from tradition by an angstrom? Egad. Yukiko. Talk about passive/aggressive. And all of them, more impressed by a man's social standing than whether he's a no-brain irresponsible jerk, or a clever irresponsible jerk. I just found this whole thing sad and I was never sure whether the author meant to expose their empty lives or not. What did you others think? Ruth, in Redlands, where it's windy, clear and chilly =============== Reply 49 of Note 25 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 11/29 From: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Time: 9:09 PM Hi Ruth. I'm still not certain what exactly captivates me so about this book. I think, in some respects, the Makiokas were living through the last years of a Jane Austen type of remnants-of-feudalism society. Finding Mr. Right-Social-Status probably was the ultimate life-defining and life-determining task for the sisters, made more difficult by the fact that they could not by any means appear to be active participants in the search. And I think there is a lot more going on than is immediately apparent. Maybe because we are not very familiar with Japanese culture. I don't know that I'm shocked at their focus on "petty" concerns in the face of looming, earth- shaking events. Most of the world lives this way. And I think Tanizaki may have been trying to show that at least some of this was wilfull ignorance - the Makioka's (especially the second sister's husband) probably were aware to some extent of the oncoming changes in their world. And turned a blind eye, just as people the world over will do. They also attempted to turn a blind-eye to their own changed social status, even in the absence of societal changes. The introduction to my translation describes this novel as Tanizaki's return to appreciation of more traditional Japanese culture (he had been impressed with Flaubert, Wilde, and their ilk - the more flamboyant westerners). And his affection for that world shines through, though as with most novelists I admire he is able to look at his own culture with a bit of the "outsiders" eye. I guess what interested me (aside from the story itself) was that the form was so similar to many European and American novels I'd read, and yet described such a different culture and mind-set - though still reminiscent of themes in Western books (Turgenev and Austen in particular). Theresa =============== Reply 50 of Note 25 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 11/29 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 10:14 PM Ruth and Theresa, I understand very well the mind set of the Makioka women. They feel that they have to get on with their lives in spite of any crisis that is taking place in the outside world. I think that most of us function that way. I remember that when JFK was assassinated that we were all devastated but none the less, my high school played its basketball game that very night and we all gave JFK a moment of silence and many tears. Life does go on. Things don't stand still for world crises. Do you suppose that Americans cancelled weddings during the Gulf War? I think not. We all take some sort of solace in life going on as if normal. I remember reading somewhere that most people can't handle a crisis situation for more than three days and then they try to go back to their normal lives. Jane who understands very well the Makioka's. =============== Reply 51 of Note 25 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 11/30 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 0:10 AM I didn't mean that life should stand still, Jane. I just mean they seemed to pay no attention at all, didn't even think about it. And Theresa, brilliant comparison with Austen. I guess I was just flummoxed that an Austen-world was existing in the middle of the 20th century. Ruth, who'll be thinking about this book for some time. =============== Reply 52 of Note 25 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 11/30 From: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Time: 11:47 AM Ruth, Theresa and Jane, Theresa, I liked the analogy to Austen. While not social comedy, this book certainly reminded me of the restricted female social life and insular concerns so typical of Austen's novels. Even though the Napoleonic Wars were going on during the period that Austen wrote about, one would never guess it from her novels. And Ruth, I also found it quite jarring that there was so little treatment of the horrible political and military events going on in Japan and China during the late 1930's, but remember that Tanazaki started this book during the war. Any honest approach to these problems may have been impossible at the time. The words "passive aggressive" also came to my mind when I read about Yukiko. An American psychologist would have a heyday analyzing such behavior. However, frustrated as her family sometimes became with her subtle sabotage of all the wedding negotiations, they always considered her "normal." The westernized Taeko was the character who violated their sense of social and psychological norms. Open confrontation is severely frowned upon in Japanese culture, while it is often considered healthy in our own. I guess I liked this book because it forced me to look at life from such a different cultural perspective. And Tanazaki did have the ability to plop me right down in the middle of another world, something I value very highly in an author. Theresa, I'm pretty sure I'm getting SOME PREFER NETTLES for my Christmas. (It's high up on my list). I'll check back with you after I read it. Ann, who is currently immersed in the Stalinist purges of the 1930's thanks to Vassily Aksyonov's GENERATIONS OF WINTER. This particular world is a very painful one to participate in, even vicariously. =============== Reply 53 of Note 25 =================  
To: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Date: 12/01 From: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Time: 0:06 AM I was fascinated by THE MAKIOKI SISTERS. At first I had to gear down to appreciate the detail, but after I acclimated, I really enjoyed it. What fascinated me most was the juxtaposition of old world customs and almost jarring modern ideas. Individuals in this climate must have felt like their world was dissolving or splitting apart. There didn't seem to be much middle ground to rest on. Can you imagine how perplexing i=============== Note 25 == go out to foreign restaurants, have telephones and cabs at your disposal, be able to take language courses and courses in the arts outside of the home, but simultaneously be constricted in your choice of husband by such a primitive throw-of-the-dice method? (Of course the families were investigated rigorously. I couldn't help but think that private investigators must have made a very good living). Some elements of daily life were ruled by ancient rules, some by more modern rules. The earthquakes and floods almost seem to be a symbol of this phenomenon. Look how the family used the telephone. Always on guard that someone would listen in (a maid most likely or the child), setting rules where the phone would be used. And of course the phone and its use was the turning point in one of the marriage proposals. Yukkiko would not talk on the phone, and that fact was a telling point in her personality and the point where the suitor learned her true nature (or thought he did). It most likely was a way in which she could practice her passive/aggressiveness. Was anyone else amazed at all those vitamin B shots? And can anyone figure out why the dark spot on Yukkiko's face would subside once she was married (something to do with hormones of pregnancy perhaps?) At the beginning of the book I really admired Taeko, but towards the end I found her actions puzzling. Can anyone figure out her relationship with Kei-boy? His being such a big part of her life seemed to be a result of her not quite knowing how to be a modern woman. Even within her modernity there were nuggets of the old ways. I felt the sorriest for her in a way. Her dreams were the most compromised by circumstances. And she was blamed for so much. I agree with Ruth that the book seemed to abruptly stop. I wonder if the translation contributed to that feeling at all. I appreciate books that transport me to another time and place and make me learn something. Thanks, Theresa, for nominating it. Sherry =============== Reply 54 of Note 25 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 12/01 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 2:17 PM Sherry, Yes, what was with all those B shots? And the author's constant fascination with his character's minor illnesses and bodily functions? Perhaps to show how the Makiokas were constantly turned inward? I could have done without the bedpan descriptions. Thanks for pushing a book I would never have picked up on my own, Theresa. Just because the Makioka women gave me the woobies, doesn't mean I didn't find the book worthwhile. Ruth, ready for Ann Sexton =============== Reply 55 of Note 25 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 12/01 From: ZRPD32A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 2:43 PM Ruth: I think that craze for injections of vitamin B came from the Europe of the 20's and 30's. B vitamins, goat glands, you name it -- they'd pump it into you. An early version of better living through chemistry, and in the context of the story, a minor western influence motif, weaving its way into the traditional Japanese society. Dick in Alaska where it's COLD this morning =============== Reply 56 of Note 25 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 12/01 From: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Time: 3:41 PM Sherry & All: I'm well into the Makiokas and finding the novel very interesting, but wanted to pose a technical question that occurs to me. I'm impressed by the sweep and scope of Tanizaki's story, but in order to pull this off he had to use, not surprisingly, the omniscient point of view. One minute we're into the investigator's thoughts, the next minute the mother's, the sisters', this city, then that city. Not at all easy to do and he certainly covers a lot of ground, but it seems to me the down side is that we never feel quite the dramatic tension for a particular character that we would if it were told through a third-person limited viewpoint. I can't think offhand of a novel of this scope that's written in third-person, though. Could the two things be mutually exclusive? I seem to remember GONE WITH THE WIND, WAR AND PEACE, TOM JONES, etc., etc., all use the ol' omniscient. Michael Shaara's THE KILLER ANGELS is told through the viewpoints of individual generals, but it covers just a few days in time, at one location, Gettysburg, and presumably a reader knows enough basic facts about the time period to set the stage, which most of us do not about pre-war Japan. Does anybody else feel this way about THE MAKIOKA SISTERS? Dale in Ala., who grooves on the minutiae of their illnesses and would like to have a cup of tea with the severe bronchitis sufferer and compare notes =============== Reply 57 of Note 25 =================  
To: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Date: 12/01 From: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Time: 4:13 PM Ruth - that's Tanizaki for you. Shots. Bedpans. Bodily functions. Really, this fascination is toned down a bit in Makioka Sisters. Theresa =============== Reply 58 of Note 25 =================  
To: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Date: 12/01 From: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Time: 7:16 PM I thought it curious that in choosing a husband for Yukiko if a man could drink a lot and hold his liquor it was a plus B. Hill =============== Reply 59 of Note 25 =================  
To: BUYS59A BARBARA HILL Date: 12/01 From: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Time: 7:30 PM I think that still is a plus in Japan, Barbara. It's important for businessmen to get together after work and drink a lot. I met an anthro grad student from Japan a few years ago who insisted Japanese had a different genetic reaction to alcohol than Europeans - quickly get flushed faces and a little giddy, but very rare to get a hang-over. I think a lot of the so-called physical reaction to alcohol is culture-based, though. Don't know if this guy had actually found the genetic marker to support his claim. He also adored those wild French poets - Rimbaud, Baudelaire, etc. An interesting guy. Who could hold his alcohol. And do a very good recitation of "Invitation au Voyage" while in his cups. Theresa =============== Reply 60 of Note 25 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 12/01 From: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Time: 11:23 PM Sherry, Dale, Ruth, and Theresa, The omniscient viewpoint didn't bother me at all. What bothered me was reading the thoughts of the various sisters that they were unwilling or unable to express to each other. Perhaps this is also a cultural thing. The sisters seemed pretty adept at holding their liquor as well. I don't remember any of them dancing on the table after an evening of drinking. Jane who hasn't run for eight days and who misses it. =============== Reply 61 of Note 25 =================  
To: FAVB99B JANE NIEMEIER Date: 12/02 From: KDEX08B RUTH BAVETTA Time: 0:13 AM Now that you mention liquor, Jane, isn't curious that being a "good drinker", i.e., one who drinks a lot, was considered a positive thing in a prospective husband. Ruth, who when you said you hadn't run for 5 days, at first thought you meant, hadn't run in the manner a clock doesn't run../ =============== Reply 62 of Note 25 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 12/02 From: NMTT86A JAMES HEATH Time: 8:30 AM Dale: Novels of this scope in the third person? Hmm. Would WUTHERING HEIGHTS qualify or LORD JIM? --Peasant Jim in Oregon =============== Reply 64 of Note 25 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 12/02 From: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Time: 7:50 PM Sherry, I wondered about Taeko's relationship with Okubata too. The evidence at the end seemed to point to the fact that she started out loving him, but ended up using him. A sequel to this book would be interesting, don't you think? Yukiko's marriage to the playboy who had never really held down a job and was a little too fond of his liquor sounded like a nightmare in the making. Taeko's bartender seemed to be a much better sort, but I doubt if she could ever get over the fall in social class and alienation from her sisters. I really was curious about that spot too. Ruth, isn't your husband a retired gynocologist? Has he ever heard of such a thing? It certainly played a symbolic role, but I wonder if such things really exist. Ann =============== Reply 65 of Note 25 =================  
To: NDKB53A THERESA SIMPSON Date: 12/02 From: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Time: 7:54 PM Theresa, I think the grad student was right. Many Japanese do get very red when they drink. When I was there in the 70's, some of the men would get absolutely blasted and no one seemed to think much of it, but they never, ever drove when they were drinking. They either relied on public transportation or had a designated driver. I think the sisters wanted someone who drank so that they could indulge occasionally themselves. I was considered some something of an oddity because I drank. Of course, times change. Ann =============== Reply 66 of Note 25 =================  
To: MXDD10A DALE SHORT Date: 12/02 From: TQWX67A ANN DAVEY Time: 7:56 PM Dale, I was interested in your comments regarding the point of view of the author. To me it seemed that the other sisters' behavior was almost always seen from Sachiko's perspective. There were a couple of exceptions that come to mind. During the flood, we got some idea of what Taeko was thinking, and once, after the meeting that involved the firefly hunt, Tanazaki briefly let us inside Yukio's head. Most of the time, however, Sachiko conjectures what is going on with the other sisters. Yukiko's and Taeko's motivations were often something of a mystery to me, but I always knew where Sachiko was coming from. Ann =============== Reply 67 of Note 25 =================  
To: WSRF10B SHERRY KELLER Date: 12/02 From: EUCR61A RICHARD HAGGART Time: 8:05 PM All: One thing that interested me (naturally) in this book was the reference to 'The Alaska Restuarant' on the 10th floor of the Asahi Bldg. in Osaka. Don't suppose any of you nipponofiles out there know anything about this? Like, is there still an 'Alaska' restuarant in Osaka? How did it get it's name? Is there still an Asahi Bldg? (or at least, did the old building survive?) Dick in Alaska, ever the hometown boy


I really like reading about this pre-war Japanese culture. Although I can identify with these sisters on a very human level, I also find the differences in cultural norms fascinating.
This matter of culture differences is so fascinating to me, particularly because I try to teach "French culture".
[I find] it to be, as somebody here has said, "old-fashioned" in the best sense of the term--solid, satisfying writing with a sense of much going on underneath the literal surface.

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