Palm of the Hand Stories (Picador Books) Paperback – 12 Jan 1990
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"Kawabata does for the short story what Paul Klee did for painting and Webern for music, showing how to get the profoundest experience and the surest sense of artistic form into an extremely small work. These stories inspire and go on inspiring. They make writing a story seem-and it may be-as natural a result of deep excited feeling as writing a poem."--Kenneth Koch "These stories are jewels, indeed, each one has a soul, a life, or a whole work distilled to palm-sized proportions."--"Chicago Tribune""There are few other writers who could invoke such a lasting memory of a single image with so few words."--"San Francisco Chronicle" --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
Yasunari Kawabata was born in Osaka, Japan, in 1899 and before World War II had established himself as his country's leading novelist. Among his major works are "Snow Country," "A Thousand Cranes," and "The Master of Go." Awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1968, he died in 1972. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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"Startled by a sharp pain, as if her hair were being pulled out, she woke up three or four times. But when she realized that a skein of her black hair was wound around the neck of her lover, she smiled to herself. In the morning, she would say, "My hair is this long now. When we sleep together, it truly grows longer."
Quietly she closed her eyes.
"I don't want to sleep. Why do we have to sleep? Even though we are lovers, to have to go to sleep, of all things!" On nights when it was all right for her to stay with him, she would say this, as if it were a mystery to her." from Sleeping Habit
Even when the stories are harsh they aren't beleagured with excess, but consequential life and its misgivings with some ironic humor interjected amongst the living ghosts. The same can be said for the norm: lush stories that are kindly felt but never over-sentimentalizations and mush. A great bed-side companion to make you dream better and wake a little more human.
Like a haiku, the limitation of form requires that each sentence be important. There are no throw-away lines in any of the "Palm-of-the-Hand Stories." The sparse loveliness of the English language as used is interesting because the book is translated from Japanese. The book was translated by two translators, and each story is signed so you know who translated what. This allows for subtle variance in the stories.
Kawabata is Japan's first Nobel prize winner. This is the first book by Kawabata that I have read, and I will be sure to seek other's out. A final recommendation, because of the length of the stories, I have found this to be one of the best bedside books I own. I can read a quick story before going to sleep.
These stories are often very short (a couple of pages each, sometimes just one) and often they have a dream-like quality - they reminded me of magical realism a little, because like dreams the flow of events is not always linear or logical. I found them very soothing, though. I mean, I feel like some dreams are horrifying, all choppy and disorienting, everything just a little bit "off", and you never know what's going to happen next... these stories weren't like that. In spite of the dreamy "weirdness" at play in some of these, I found them really easy to relate to, but magical at the same time - aw, man, I wish I could describe it better, but they were just really nice!
I agree with another reviewer who said this'd make a great coffee table book (or - ha, sorry to be crude but - it'd probably be great in the bathroom too!). These are great stories to "chew on", because they hint at all kinds of meaning, sort of like a bunch of puzzles - you can read one quickly if you're bored, and they're still interesting on the second or third read. These stories are not all "weird", by the way - some of them are just funny, or touching, or cute. In any case, this is really just a lovely collection. Highly recommended!