paris syndrome

August 17, 2009

I don’t know what to do! It’s 3pm, I’ll be heading home reasonably soon, but literally nothing awaits me there besides a living room that requires vacuuming. That’s right, I’m so lonely in this tiny little country town attached to my job that I would rather stay at school than go home. At least my workplace has the tell-tale signs of human life in it. I’ve already been for a run today. Last week, I upped my distance from around 6km to around 12km, out of sheer boredom. I was halfway through when I thought to myself, ‘I have nothing to do after I stop.’ So I just kept going.

The last handful of weekends have consisted of some truly devastating nights out, whether measured in terms of financial strain, magnitude of hangovers or accumulated emotional baggage. The cure? Repeating the whole procedure the following weekend (or, ocassionally, during the week). But we won’t get into that now.

For the sake of a yardstick you may use to measure my boredom, I’ve read every book I have with me except one. One of the things I’m most looking forwards to when I visit Melbourne in September is to replace these books with others from my library back home. However my impending trip back hasn’t stopped me from abusing Japanese Amazon and buying copies of books that I already own. Like this one:

Not for some time have I been so captivated by a book. Since living overseas, I have tried to broaden my literary horizons by sampling some of the most well-respected works that those countries and cultures have to offer, from ultra-modern stuff to classics from bygone eras, etc. Along the way I have subjected myself to some real crap, but also to some true diamonds in the rough. Rarely has anything compelled me to (gasp!) blog about it.

I have been reluctant to even open In Cold Blood, simply because I want to savour the whole experience as long as possible and I am scared of taking too big a bite out of it. This might seem like a strange thing to say about a book that is basically a true story, especially one of which everyone knows the ending. But it’s the writing, the pacing…the narrative switches between the reckless road story of two outlaws to a grotesque painting of a once-peaceful town that has been frozen stiff by tragedy and fear. Capote deftly weaves the two together until their numerous inevitable convergences, which, when they finally happen, he treats with simplicity, economy and cool-headedness – the closest he ever gets to plain journalism. There is no fanfare, no cheap page-turning tactics at play here.

The rest of the time, it is so lifelike, so tender, so human that you can often forget that you’re dealing with two murderers. You want to know Perry’s backstory, you want to empathise with him, you want to see him…well, succeed. If there was one failing of the novel, I guess that would be it. But Capote was never trying to pass judgment or condemn anybody; he was only guilty of trying to manipulate his readers, to paint a picture and to bring his characters to life, which every writer invariably strives to do, and in this sense he succeeds completely.

I’m enjoying this so much, especially since the last couple of books I have read have either gone way over my head or just been flat-out not very good.

This one made its Australian debut at the Melbourne Film Festival a couple of weeks ago. I took notice because one day at work the girl who sits opposite me asked if I knew the book she was reading – The Sky Crawlers. I asked her what it was about and got a typically vague Japanese type of answer; I think she said something about ‘romance’ (but let’s be honest – everything in Japan can be classified as roomansu or dorama, usually a combination of the two). She said it was sugoi kanashii, and naturally I was skeptical. But when I saw that it was selected at the film fest, and did a bit of follow-up research, it seemed pretty cool, and it is. The CG animation used for the dogfights is simply astounding, as kinetic as any war film but with just the right amount of artifice and artistry. Anyone who knows me well knows that when it comes to anime, I value art design and mood more than the story itself, and this one is no different.

The one that has really grabbed my attention, though, and subsequently the frontrunner for being the first film I see in general release in Japanese cinemas, is the upcoming Studio 4°C work, First-Squad. International anime collaborations really interest me, and Studio 4°C has a pretty good track record. Monster was, of course, set in Germany, and its strongest attribute in my mind was its representation of Germany in the 1980s. The atmosphere of political suppression and its cultural side-effects permeated every episode/issue. So, long story short, I’m really keen to see First-Squad when it comes out.

This post has succeeded in wasting my time, and yours. Til next time!