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Twelve Views from the Distance Paperback – November 29, 2012
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"It is magnificent that in this book, Twelve Views from the Distance, the poet Mutsuo Takahashi has managed to achieve firm prose that, while unmistakably the work of a poet, shines with a black luster much like a set of drawers crafted by a master of old. This book is a magnificent collection of sensations and of memories, much like the toys we might find in a dark closet. The part toward the end in which the theme of his ‘search for a father’ crystallizes in a copy of an erotic book radiates a certain tragic beauty." —Yukio Mishima
About the Author
Mutsuo Takahashi is one of Japan’s leading living poets. He has published more than three dozen anthologies of poetry and is a prolific essayist, literary historian, and critic.
Jeffrey Angles is associate professor of modern Japanese literature and translation studies at Western Michigan University. He is the author of Writing the Love of Boys: Origins of Bishonen Culture in Modernist Japanese Literature (Minnesota, 2011).
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Top Customer Reviews
But as powerful as “Ode” is, it shouldn’t necessarily cast a shadow over Takahashi’s other work, particularly his newly-translated collection of essays, Twelve Views from the Distance. And although Takahashi’s examination of sexuality doesn’t start until 3/4ths of the way through the collection with “The Shore of Sexuality,” his work (ably translated by Jeffrey Angles) shows a lyrical sensuousness throughout that hint at his sexual awakening.
Interestingly enough, he connects early childhood games with his relatives—the equivalent to say “Airplane”—to his burgeoning sexuality. These games would soon escalate to more explicit adolescent explorations, but sexual feelings, explains Takahashi, “connects the individual to the outside world.” In other words, Takahashi’s sexuality is not merely an internal expression, but an outward expression—bridging him to humanity at large.
The flipside of that bridge, however, is violence. And while much of the violence that Takahashi relates is on a personal level—fights with his classmates, for instance, or beatings from his mother—it reflects the violence wreaked upon Japan itself both during and after the war, recalling, for instance, the leftover mines that would occasionally break apart a ship.Read more ›
Even if you know nothing of Takahashi, read this book and enjoy a wonderful trip to Nippon of the 1940's and 50's.
Raised in poverty by day laborers, Takahashi appears to be one of those rare persons able to use every misery as fuel for insight. The twelve chapters of this book are indeed "twelve views", or angles, and the perspective gained thus of violence, sexuality and rural Japan is complex and unflinching.
"I have been loved by many different spirits," Takahashi writes. This book preserves an understanding of "places outside the world we cannot see with eyes alone" that seems to have been eradicated in modern Japan as surely as the rivers have been lined with cement. "Spirituality" is what it usually gets called but it is a spirituality devoid of wishfulness and precise as cartography. The only other book I've found that conveys this level of (how to say it?) rural Japanese spiritual acumen is Michiko Ishimure's Lake of Heaven.
Of the twelve views, the view of sexuality is certain to grab one's attention. (You are also unlikely to find another truly compelling literary depiction of sex with chickens.) But, besides the understanding of "communities outside the world", what I find most stunning about the book is its deep understanding of violence. After describing a beating at the hands of his mother, Takahashi writes, "It sounds strange to say this, but when adults behave violently toward children, they always seem much sadder than the children they mistreat. Children do not fail to notice that, even as they tremble in fear.Read more ›