Japanese novels are the equivalent of a black hole for me. The minute I finish one book, I am somehow found by another and then another and… Suffice to say, the following two books are translated Japanese works. (Okay, two books doesn’t warrant the description of a black hole, but there’s only so much I can contain within a single post.)
Rental Person Who Does Nothing: A Memoir by Shoji Morimoto [NetGalley e-ARC]
The idea of a ‘rental person’ reminded me of the concept of ‘body doubling’, wherein you complete tasks with another person around for external motivation and accountability. Typically though, when body doubling, the other person is also doing their own tasks, using you as their body double. However, as a rental person who does nothing, Shoji Morimoto only offers his presence and minimal interaction to his clients.
Writing a book about his experiences would have counted as ‘doing something’, and so, the process of writing was handed over to another person and he simply answered questions put forth to him by the actual writer. The book is written in an almost stream of consciousness manner, with Morimoto’s thoughts on why he started this service, the various clients he has had, what he considers as the parameters of ‘doing nothing’, and most of all, his desire to not be labelled or perceived in one particular way.
And the book manages to achieve this, which might frustrate a lot of people because you would think reading a ‘memoir’ about a person would let you understand and form an idea about them. However, despite the occasional photo, there is no clear-cut image of Shoji Morimoto to be found in this book. Which is what he prefers. After all, if the book offered a definitive portrait of him, he would go out of his way to be anything but that. And honestly? Same.
That ticks the box for ‘memoir’.
What You Are Looking For Is In The Library by Michiko Aoyama [NetGalley e-ARC]
This book might be the definition of cosy. With incredibly peaceful and soothing writing, it is an elixir for the heart. Five characters, each on their own quest for something new or different, find themselves at their local community library searching for answers. The (slight odd) librarian Sayuri Komachi’s stoic question to all of them What are you looking for? leads them down a path they didn’t know they needed to walk. Each character’s journey is uplifting and heartwarming, and there were several moments that resonated with me and made me almost tear up. Okay. I lied. I definitely cried my eyes out.
My only gripe with this book was one side character in the third story. A husband who says this to his wife who is struggling with a demotion at work while being the (almost) only person taking care of their child: ‘When you get emotional and say things like “help me” or “do more”, I don’t really know what to do. But if you explain it logically and give me specific suggestions, I can understand.’ This is your child too! You should know what needs to be done. Your wife shouldn’t have to treat you like an employee and hand you a to-do list. Ugh.
That was actually the only annoying part of the book. The rest was truly a comforting read. Now, this book could go on two different spots – comfort read or translated work. I don’t think it makes much difference, but I think ‘comfort read’ fits it much better, and that’s where it’s going on the Card.
Two Japanese books back to back inevitably led me down the path towards honkaku novels. I’ll talk about it in my next post, which will be out in two to three business days.
Okay, maybe five.
Thank you NetGalley, Pan Macmillan, and Random House UK for sending these books for review consideration. All opinions are my own.