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Rouse Up, O Young Men of the New Age: A Novel Hardcover – March 12, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Writing once again with depth and passion about his relationship with his brain-damaged son, the Nobel laureate transforms his musings into a full-blown narrative that becomes a thoughtful yet provocative study of the nature of human relationships, filtered through the author's fascination with the writings of William Blake. The story starts in familiar territory as the narrator, "K," replays the heartbreaking realization that "Eeyore" has a bizarre form of brain damage that may actually be a malformed second brain. He grapples with his son's disturbing behavior, delving into such basic human concepts as death and suicide. K also deals with the reaction of the readers of his fiction in several passages, most notably that of a student who kidnaps Eeyore and leaves him at a Tokyo train station because he disapproves of the author's political stances. K's overall family life is left largely untouched until the end, with the author choosing instead to allude to his son's experiences through references to Blake's works, which become the subtext as Eeyore finally begins to compose and perform music and then to claim his real name and identity. This is a deceptively modest, powerful book by a master at the height of his literary powers. Whether he's expanding on a mystical or philosophical concept or painting an achingly poignant picture of a unique father-and-son relationship, Oe contrives intensely memorable images of these two special characters and their thoughts, insights and loves that will stay with readers. Agent, Jim Auh of the Wylie Agency. (Mar.) Forecast: Oe's Nobel and the stirring title of his latest should attract browsers' attention; his pristine prose will keep them riveted.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Nobel prize winner Oe draws on real life to tell the story of famed author K, who lives in Tokyo with his wife and three children, one of whom is disabled. When the disabled child starts acting up, K must rethink his beliefs, his relationships, and himself.
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; 1st edition (March 12, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802117104
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802117106
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,568,329 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By J. Stensrude on January 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is my fifth Oe novel, and I am always surprised at how one theme manifests in myriad fascinating plots. However, I am not surprised that he was the Nobel laureate in literature for 1994. Oe's writing is dominated by his decidedly masculine presence, but never loses itself in it. His descriptive language is eloquent without becoming mired in flocks of adverbs and adjectives (thanks also to a fine translation). In each of the novels I've read, a parent faces the challenges of a handicapped son, just as has Oe in real life. But in each of his fictitious works, the handicap varies and never duplicates his son's challenges nor the challenges of the characters in his other books. Rouse Up is a closer parallel to Oe's own experience than any of his other novels. It is decidedly autobiographical. No doubt he has used the novel format to cause some things to have a more satisfactory outcome than they may have had in real life. For instance, according to the Afterword written by translator John Nathan, Oe gives the fictional son a more robust ability to express himself than his real-life son. As Nathan describes it: "he is able to express himself in words, conveying wit and tenderness and compassion and his own brand of reductive wisdom about the world as he experiences it." Oe's real-life son, Hikari, has the gift of music. Though profoundly brain damaged, he has made his man's mark in the world as a celebrated composer. In an interview, speaking of Hikari's healing music, Oe commented, "My son's music is a model of my literature. I want to do the same thing." [...] Rouse Up is about fathers and sons, about the elation and disappointments of parenthood, about the joys and burdens of responsibility. Every son's father will find himself there. And, ultimately, like Hikari's music and Kenzaburo's prose, the journey is about healing.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Crazy Fox on March 8, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Of the Oe novels I've read, this is one of the better ones in my opinion. A low key, understated spirituality suffuses this novel, and the narrator's engagement with the poetry of William Blake adds resonance and depth to Oe's prose (which otherwise often strikes me as okay but somewhat flat).

While the work is fiction, it is crafted from events in Oe's real life and is thus more autobiographical than American readers may be comfortable with. This is a common feature of much Japanese fiction, as with the prewar I-Novels (shishosetsu) or the works of Shiga Naoya, though it is not an unknown phenomenon elsewhere--in fact, all fiction writers draw upon their own experiences to some degree. Here the degree is stronger, that's all. In any case, Oe has refined, sublimated, organized, and crafted his experiences into a fine, well-told story here.

The afterword by the translator is okay but not very helpful, basically quoting long passages from the novel as if you haven't just finished reading it. A few good insights pop up there nonetheless. His translation work itself, though, is as far as I can tell quite excellent.
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If you like William Blake this could be a fun read for you. If you like K. Oe and are looking for more this is a pretty good one. If you're new to Oe and are looking to get into his works this is *not* the best place to start unless you reeeeally like William Blake. The digressions were interesting to me but they do pull you out of the narrative/thread that moves the story itself forward. The narrative is a bit disjointed along the same lines as "Pinchrunner Memorandum" but not as bad as that book (although that's still a great book of you've read others already and are looking for more). I love the ending to this one though. It was a powerful image of a father considering the role of his sons in the future.

If you're looking to get into this author I suggest, "The Silent Cry" for something strange and very dark or "A Quiet Life" for something tender and accessible. Maybe "Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids" for something in between. "A Personal Matter" is probably his most popular work about a man who comes to accept a more mature "reality" while opting to discard what he sees as youthful "fantasy"...and while it's a good book I felt it wasn't as good as the ones I initially mentioned. His short story, "The Catch" (aka "Prize Stock) is one of the best short stories I've ever read so that could be a great place to start too. Anyhow, my two cents on this book and a few of Oe's other works.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Rob Wilson on March 28, 2004
Format: Paperback
torn between a redemptive vision of culture and a globalizing hegemony of the right, this is a splendid and pithy novel that unlocks the sublime visionary power of William Blake (as revolutionary figure) to do global work inside post-imperial Japan and the US/Anglo hegemony. The son is caught between Blake the father and Los the son, and figures a way forward for all: Mutual Forgiveness is the Path to Eternity, said Blake to real politik. I love this novel, it taught me more about Blake and poetry than most poems I read, odd for a Japanese novelist to be tutoring this way!
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