Mining the Depths

I'll read almost anything and love what captures my imagination. Best of all is responding to books in the larger cultural sense, loving or loathsome. Literature should have a place in the wider world.

 

And I'm another GoodReads refugee. 

The Electrical Field - Kerri Sakamoto This book may well be impossible for me to review.Really, I'm sitting here stuck. It's not a bad book, though I didn't really like it (as though my preferences are indicative of objective quality—and what would even be objective quality in art or literature? But that's a whole 'nother topic.)AnywayThe Electrical Field is the story of Asako Saito, a second-generation Japanese woman apparently living in Canada, according to the catalogue data, who lived in one of the internment camps during WWII. I actually grew up near one of those camps. Tule Lake, CA. It was, I think, the largest, and also had the highest security. George Takei lived there for a time. And for some reason, it never seemed to be all that well-known, or at least not referenced with the same frequency of Manzanar. Factoid: apparently my hometown has several of the Tule Lake houses still standing. None are at the site anymore, but a few survived and are still scattered around town. I don't know where the Saitos spent the war, I couldn't tell from the text, and I haven't looked at other reviews or even the book's page to get the information. Because the uncertainty was a huge part of my reading experience.Asako is the template of an unreliable narrator, and from the reader's perspective (at least this reader) it's a disorienting experience, trying to follow the actual plot outside the character. Her perspective is just so...skewed. And there is something of a mystery to the novel, but it's only a mystery because the narrator is hiding all the information from the reader, which is another reason why Asako's point of view is so distracting. She can't focus, and neither can the reader. In terms of payoff, as reading this as a mystery, the answer isn't worth it. But then again, it's also an important aspect of the character. Not really a pleasant character, or someone you particularly want to root for—although worthy of pity—but a well-drawn one, as constructed by the author. She's internally consistent, as disturbed as she is.I don't know if Asako could be diagnosed with a specific mental illness from the text, that's not the point. Before reading however, I think it's important to note that she has twisted just by life. This isn't something like a tragic fault of the character, I think, just illustrative of how impossible it is for a human being cut off so thoroughly from others to exist in a healthy mental space. Like Lord of the Flies.I would have liked a glossary of the Japanese words used in the text (yes, I'm that handicapped). Generally I'm no fan of hand-holding from authors, but while the terms used weren't completely opaque in-text, Japanese does have contextual terms that don't seem to translate as one-to-one ratio as many of the romance languages can approximate in English. So yeah. Not sure where that ended up. A lot to say for not having any idea still what, exactly, I think of this novel. I do recommend anyone interested in displaced characters, or culture clashes, or unreliable narrators check out this book. And if you've already found it somewhere, it's worth the read.

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