but i am digressing

it took me a week to remember what email address i used to set up this blog, so my thoughts are going to be a little dated (meaning the book isn't as fresh in my mind as i would have hoped).

i want to first mention something about the title: the artist of the floating world. obviously, it refers to the style of art practiced by ono, an art that capture the glimpses of a kind of transitory world that only appears at night in the pleasure districts before the war. but, i think, the narration in the book too counts as the floating world. this floating world is the one of the past, the floating, fleeting memories interrupted (or continued) by distractions, misrememberings and tangents. these memories only last a second and then disappear. if they reappear, they're usually in a new form. in some ways, ono, in his advanced age, seems trapped in this floating world only occasionally drawn out by sporadic visits from his daughters and old acquaintances. however, even these brief interludes end up taking him back to the past. (this habit of the narration speaks to what natali was talking about when she mentioned ono seemed to be suffering from dementia or alzheimer's -- he's pretty much trapped in his own mind.)

last week i ended up watching part of kurosawa's seven samurai. one of the things interesting about this movie is how much it has in common with earlier westerns. there's this part early on in the film where two samurais have the equvilant of a quick draw shootout. it's as if, in some small ways, kurosawa is refashioning the samurai story to be more compatible with the influence of american popular culture prevalent in japan after the war. which, of course, reminds me of ichiro's heros being american cowboys and cartoon characters.

overall i liked the book. especially the focus on the unreliability of memory -- ono seems to have completely different memories of events than everyone he talks to -- and the way we refashion our own personal history through our memories. also, the fragile nature of memory. that memories are there for an instance. and so, because memories, like life, are transient, there is a certain melancholy as we lose the memory just as we remember.


  1. ps i'll post another blog maybe over the weekend with the next book we'll read. unless you guys have any suggestions

  2. Nice post brian. Mike says he is pretty sure kurosawa's films were before the westerns and that he thinks westerns were influenced by the samurai movies.

  3. i think that's true, to an extent. because you have like the early ford westerns of the 30s and 40s. then you have kurosawa doing the samurai movies in the 50's. then you have leone making westerns in italy about the american west that have much more in common with kurosawa than with the early american westerns. in fact, i think one of those leone westerns (maybe fistful of dollars) is a remake of a kurosawa movie. and so almost every western after like the mid 50s or 60s is heavily influenced by kurosawa's samurai movies.

    but what struck me in seven samurai was how there were parts where samurai were having what appeared to be old-west shoot-outs -- each samurai draws his sword and waits, then they both charged and the quickest draw is the one who stays alive. i'm not sure if is a kind of homage to westerns or if these kinds of duels were common for samurai and then were appropriated by later westerns.