Nietzsche + Bullying + Poetry—
The first time I opened this book during the summer, I couldn't really get into it, but having picked it up and forged on through the rather conventional and humdrum beginning (a letter comes to the protagonist who is being bullied, from another victim of bullying), I slowly got into the rhythm of her prose—it gets better and better (she might have been testing the waters toward the beginning, as the prose felt choppy and awkward). Her prose is full of fresh description and imagery, her main characters—especially Kojima—are delightfully fleshed out, and the story is engaging. Though I was doubtful at first how much I could stand the helplessly passive protagonist, but Kawakami manages to pull it off. I wasn't sure how I felt about the rather surreal and slightly unrealistic confrontation scene between the protagonist and one of the bullies, but their philosophical/ethical/moral argument reminded me of Doestoevsky in technique and Nietzsche in content (or well, it's pretty much straight out of The Genealogy of Morals
, and I wished she could've done a little more in this department). It was, however, cool to see a contemporary writer tackling an important moral question in such an openly philosophical way in fiction a la Dostoevsky and the effect was at once quaint and refreshing. The climax, though risky in its potential for melodrama (sort of like Flannery O'Connor's "A Good Man is Hard to Find"), was well executed and was simply excellent.
Overall, a solid novel.
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