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Kangaroo Notebook: A Novel Paperback – International Edition, April 29, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (April 29, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679746633
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679746638
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.2 x 7.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #89,247 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In his last novel, Abe, who died in 1993, repeatedly swings with ease from outlandish shenanigans to grisly surrealism. The unnamed narrator is a low-level employee at an office-supply firm who, in jest, proposes a new product called a Kangaroo Notebook. His assignment to produce a rough sketch of the notebook is interrupted, however, when he discovers, while eating breakfast, that radish sprouts are growing where his leg hair used to be. At a dermatology clinic, he meets a disturbingly seductive nurse, after which he is then strapped to a bed in an operating room and tranquilized. From this point, the narrator's experiences grow increasingly hallucinatory as he is released into the world with nothing more than a blanket and a hospital bed, which turns out to be a remarkable machine with its own agenda. Buffeted about, seemingly deprived of free will, the narrator lands in a corner of hell, where he takes a sulfur-spring cure and meets child-demons who perform for tourists and the villainous specter of his own mother. More than once, he is rescued by the nurse from the clinic, who, it turns out, collects blood for her own mysterious purposes and has a strange American boyfriend named Master Hammer Killer, who conducts research into sudden deaths. As events propel the narrator toward the Japanese Euthanasia Club, Abe (The Woman in the Dunes; The Ark Sakura) deftly blends antic comedy with metaphysical dread while maintaining the internal logic of a narrative which, in its lighthearted obsession with death, feels less like a whistling past the graveyard than a winking message from beyond.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

This is the last novel Abe wrote before his death in 1993. One of Japan's leading authors, best known for Women in the Dunes (1965), Abe leads us through a surreal adventure with a man who has suddenly grown radish sprouts on his shins and seeks help in a hospital. He is then pursued in and by his hospital bed, which has a mind of its own. Unfortunately, the adventure becomes distanced and uninvolving, partly because of the lack of coherence in the odd occurrences and partly because of an inept translation. Characters sometimes speak in a stilted fashion (for example, saying "unfilial" and "prosody") but also yell "shit." Recommended for comprehensive modern Japanese literature collections.
Kitty Chen Dean, Nassau Coll., Garden City, N.Y.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
"Which situation should I declare 'real' and which one a 'dream?'" This is the question that plagues the narrator of Kobo Abe's Kangaroo Notebook, the last novel written before his death in 1993. We can consider ourselves lucky, indeed, that one of the world's most distinguished novelists left us with this surreal and unique vision of Japanese society that is both disturbingly fearful and hilariously funny.
On a morning that should have turned out like any other morning, the first person narrator of Kangaroo Notebook awakens to find radish sprouts growing out of his shins. Although his doctor in repulsed, the narrator finds he now possesses the strange and unique ability to snack on...himself.
An eerie adventure to rid himself of his malady takes the book's protagonist into an increasingly hostile and mysterious world, one that in turn, is surreal, playful and almost unassailably enigmatic.
The plot is a weird and wild ride to say the least. Unlike Kafka's narrator in Metamorphosis, our slowly unraveling protagonist checks into a dermatology clinic and soon finds himself hurtling on a hospital bed to the very brink of hell.
An attractive nurse, known only as Damselfly, straps him to a hospital bed and begins to administer huge quantities of unknown drugs. A short time later, still strapped to this hospital bed, still hooked up to his IV and still suffering from his mysterious malady, our protagonist is summarily discharged.
A cast of spooky characters is then introduced via visits to a glitzy department store, a cabbage field that serves as the final resting place of the narrator's dead mother and Damselfly's own apartment.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 13, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Kangaroo Notebook is a difficult novel to understand, but you'll love it anyway. The plot is bizzare, to say the least. A man discovers that he has radish sprouts growing from his shins. His condition baffles the doctor at a local dermatology clinic, who sends him away in a self propelled hospital bed, telling him to try hot spring treatment. While en-route to the hot springs, he is cast down a dark tunnel and ends up on the shores of hell. From there, the plot gets really weird (but very addicting) as the narrator meets a child-demons, a vampire-esque nurse intent on drawing enough blood to win the "Dracula's Daughter" award, and an American photographer interested in achieving population contrl through traffic accidents.
The novel's symbolism becomes less obscure when one considers the great shame and self loathing "deformed" or "imperfect" members of Japanese society feel. Early in the novel, the narrator comments that marsupials are essentially inferior versions of mammals. The narrator, a terminally ill or deformed individual, feels like a marsupial, followed, wherever he goes, by his deformity (just as the narrator is followed by his hospital bed). At the novel's conclusion, the narrator sees himself in a box, perhaps a coffin, readers are presented with an exerpt from a newspaper regarding the discovery of a man found dead in a train station with self-inflicted slashes to his shins. The police, the article mentions, do not believe the slashes to the man's shins were the cause of death. The reader is left with the vague impression that the narrator, seeing his impending death, committed suicide (or perhaps was assisted).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By M. J. Smith VINE VOICE on September 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
Kangaroo Notebook is the last book written by Kobo Abe; in many ways, it is a reflection on the approach of death, on being an outsider, and, perhaps, on outsider as a kind of death. "Perhaps" because this book is written in a very ambiguous style that allows, even encourages, readers to find different interrelationships between the parts.
The narrator begins the story at his suggestion in his workplace being selected as the best - his suggestion, originally a joke, was a product, a kangaroo notebook. This leads to the proposition that marsupials are outcasts - the mammal version of each species being more viable than the marsupial counterpart. Within this context, the narrator notes that his shins are sprouting radishes.
Seeking treatment at a dermatologist is the beginning of a series of occurrences - real, dream, illusion, post-anesthetia confusion? This are absolutely delightful, humorous events - a bed traveling in the city through the narrator's mental efforts, of a hell-based sulfur springs treatment, of child demons, of dead mothers in cabbage fields, of an American graduate student studying fatal accidents, of euthansia ...
This astounding romp is a serious consideration of death, our beliefs regarding death (the limbo children) and of suicide/murder/euthansia/accident.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By T. Hooper on January 23, 2006
Format: Paperback
I've enjoyed several of Abe novels, so I decided to try this one. I didn't enjoy it as much as I had his other novels. First of all, you're never really sure if it is a story about someone's real bizarre experience, or if it is a trip through the underworld. At certain points, it's really strange, but then at other points, it is very mundane. Perhaps it is a journey through the underworld, as the underlying theme is death. It explores how to approach the end when it comes.

If you're interested in Abe, then you might want to read this, but if you haven't read Abe before, I recommend trying some of his other books.
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