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Acts of Worship: Seven Stories Paperback – September 13, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha USA; Presumed to be 1st as edition is unstated edition (September 13, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 4770028938
  • ISBN-13: 978-4770028938
  • Product Dimensions: 7.4 x 0.6 x 5.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,222,079 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This beautifully translated collection contains some Mishima's finest stories, none of them previously collected in an English edition. In the moving title story, the loyal, self-effacing housemaid of a solitary professor-poet ferrets out the secret of his lifelong sadness. Jack, in "Raisin Bread," a pill-popping failed suicide at 22, his "sole aim to become quite invisible," is a 1950s anti-hero who seems very contemporary. A proud youth in "Fountains in the Rain," breaking up with his girlfriend, becomes captivated by a splashing fountain, which we see as a symbol of his own flamboyant egotism. "Sword," a sweaty plunge into the world of college fencing, pits youth vs. age, animal pleasure vs. mental rigor, muscular prowess vs. meditative rapture. The seven stories vary in tone and subject matter, yet each reveals Mishima's total control, his gift for striking imagery and psychological insight.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The acclaimed Mishima (1925-1970) is the best-known Japanese novelist of the post-war period. Reflecting Mishima's fascination with power through hermetic displays of egotism and machismo, the tightly crafted stories in this collection--published to commemorate the 20th anniversary of his death--appear here for the first time in English. The protagonists are callous adolescent males compelled to dominate their schoolmates and girlfriends. A poignant variation on this theme is played out in the title story, where a plain, middle-aged woman slavishly devotes herself to the whims of her employer, a cold and pretentious literary scholar. This capable translation captures Mishima's strengths and weaknesses as a writer. For collections strong in international or Asian fiction.
- Christine Stenstrom, New York Law Sch. Lib.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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See all 7 customer reviews
Mishima was a powerful writer, and it shows in every story in this collection.
Christopher Barrett
"The Temple of the Golden Pavilion" is one of my all time favorite novels, and with reading it I found Mishima to be my favorite author.
animate ~
He portrayed the subtle inner lives of repressed characters with great power and feeling.
T. Burrows

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By T. Burrows on March 31, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a group of Mishima's stories, written between 1946 and 1965, and collected in 1989. He primarily wrote novels, but these stories demonstrate that he could write great short pieces too. I once loved his writing, but I now find a lot of it disturbing. Perhaps this is due to me finding his life and death disturbing - his intense narcissism, his political extremism, and his closeted bi or homosexuality. In his writing he seemed to be after some sort of purity and beauty, but he associated these things with violence and suicide. He lived a life of great success and achievement, but was never satisfied, and began to come unglued toward the end of his life. Still, there is no denying his power as a writer. He could write lines of perfect, radiant prose. He portrayed the subtle inner lives of repressed characters with great power and feeling.

A couple of these are early stories and not especially interesting, altho they do show the young writer beginning to exercise his talent. "Sword" is well written, and it showcases Mishima's fascination with kendo and youthful masculinity. "Sea and Sunset" is proof that Mishima had a great sense of humor, one that he did not show often enough. "Act of Worship" is the real masterpiece of the book, and shows Mishima at the height of his powers, doing what he does best - describing an uptight, repressed woman with the hots for a man who is out of her reach. In this case, an old maid becomes the housekeeper for a brilliant, wall-eyed old poetry professor, a man who commands great respect, but is deeply lonely. He describes their subtle communications and interactions brilliantly. This is worthwhile reading for fans, and a good place to start if you have never Mishima's stuff before.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on November 14, 2002
Format: Paperback
Acts Of Worship: Seven Stories is an anthology of short stories by the internationally famous Japanese author Yukio Mishima, who is perhaps most notorious for his dramatic ritual suicide in 1970. Flawlessly translated into English by John Bester, the short stories include: Fountains in the Rain; Raisin Bread; Sword; Sea and Sunset; Cigarette; Martyrdom; and the title piece, Act of Worship, and bespeak the rigid mentality of one born and rigorously raised in the traditions of the samurai caste, long after the era of the samurai. Written with biting insight, sharp ruthlessness and a keen eye for just how much (or how little) human life is worth, Acts Of Worship documents Yukio Mishima as having been an undeniably strong and articulate voice in Japan's modern literary tradition.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By RLS on August 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
Contrary to what the translator claims in the introduction, based on this collection of short stories, Mishima Yukio's work as a novelist far exceeds in quality that of the short story writer. While some stories are quite good - "Acts of Worship," "Cigarette," and "Sword" come to mind - and demonstrate not only the thought but also the large amounts of research Mishima put into his writing, others only evince lukewarm sentiments or insights into the author's aesthetic tastes. While this in itself is certainly not enough to merit a "low rating," these same sentiments are more effectively conveyed in his novels.

Another complaint is that these stories are presented largely in an ahistorical way. That is, there is little reference to when Mishima wrote them, what he was experiencing at the time, and what the situation of Japan was like, socioeconomically. Understanding these concepts is crucial to understanding Mishima's motives and writing.
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Format: Paperback
I will go ahead and disagree with the preface by the translator and say that in my opinion, Mishima was a far better novelist than short story writer. But I do believe that he is still one of the great short story writers of Japan. Only that I count him in the top three or four Japanese novelists along with Natsume Soseki, Haruki Murakami, and Yasunari Kawabata. There have been many amazing short story writers throughout the 20th century (and late 19th) in Japan (Tanizaki, Kawabata, Akutagawa, Yoshimoto, Murakami, Ogai, etc...) and I believe Mishima deserves mention among these fine authors.

The stories are varied but still seem to cling to one theme that Mishima seemed to use repeatedly: I would call that stoicism. His characters all have a rather fatalistic yet proud outlook on life. In a way the stories can be almost existential yet without the helplessness found in some existential works. Mishima was a master at depicting the nature of people without resorting to cliche'. His characters are rather interesting and tend to typify one characteristic over others, but not in an unrealistic fashion.

The stories in this collection span 1946 to 1965, rather the bulk of the middle of Mishima's writing career (before he started writing the Sea of Fertility Tetralogy in 1965 - the last book would be the last thing he wrote before committing suicide). The stories all have a nice individuality to them. Despite having a linking style, the plots vary and the characters also very. Still, most of the protagonists are very firm and often question the actions of the other characters in various ways.

The thing I love most about Mishima is his style, which is well translated and preserved into the English language by John Bester. His prose is compact yet evocative.
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