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January 13, 1974 - Image 4

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Michigan Daily, 1974-01-13

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Page Four


Sunday, January 13, 1974



Every Monday Night
You AND a Guest admitted


for only $2.25


Yukio Mishima's final statement on today


603 E. Liberty
DIAL 665-6290
3, 5,7, & 9 :
-George Me ly,
The London g
Observer i
DIAL 668-6416


Y u k i o Mishima. New York.
Knopf 330 pages. $7.95.
IVO NEATLY severed heads
lay unmolested in a pool of
blood. One belonged to Yukio
Mishima, the prominent, prolific
forty-five year old Japanese au-
thor; the other, to Masakatsu Mo-
rita, a member of Mishima's
right wing student army, the
Tate No-kai or Shield Society.
On November 25, 1970 Yukio
Mishima and four members of
his Shield Society entered the
main military headquarters in
Tokyo for a scheduled interview
with Lt. General Kanetoshi Ma-
shida, the commander of Ja-
pan's East Shelf Defense Forces.
During the interview Mishima
drew his sword while his four
companions tied the General to
his chair.
MISHIMA then walked outside
to deliver a ten minute
speech in which he criticized
Japan's "spineless" constitution
which forbids war. The audience
of 1000 servicemen responded an-

grily, shouting epithets at Mi-
Discouraged, Mishima finally
returned to the General's office.
Falling to his knees,. he plunged
a dagger into his abdomen and
cut a straight line across it. One
of his student soldiers, Masakat-
su Morita, slashed off Mishima's
head with a Japanese sword, put-
ting the finishes touches on the
act of seppuku, or ritual suicide.
Morita performed seppuku with
the same dagger while another
student - soldier lopped off his
head. The General was released
WITH THE hope of discovering
more literary clues about the
meaning of and the reasons be-
hind Mishima's suicide, I read
The Temple of Dawn, the third
and most recently published book
in The Sea of Fertility tetrology.
The narrative begins in Thai-
land in 1940, with Honda, an af-
fluent Japanese corporation law-
year, as the central character.
Among the two-seated pedicabs,
exotic flowers, and sumptuous
Buddhist Pagodas, Honda rea-
lizes the purity and simplicity of
things Japanese. This increases

his disdain for his Japanese
translator, Hishikawa, who is an
example of the slavish pseudo-in-
tellectual t h a t Mishima ab-
But more importantly, it is in
Thailand where Honda discovers
Ying Chan, the seemingly mad
six-year old Thai Princess, who
believes she is a Japanese.
Could she be the reincarnation of
Kiyoaki and Isao? (Kiyoaki was
the hero of Spring Show and Isao
the hero of Runaway Horses the
first and second novels of the
Believing that the Thai Prin-
cess is in fact the reincarnation
of Iao, Honda travels to- India
where he studies the Buddhist
philosot~hies of transmigration.
While traveling through Benares,
Honda realizes India's historical
consistence which provides the
people with an awesome joy. This
must be contrasted to the Japa-
nese who, in the eyes of Honda
and Mishima, have betrayed
their past and lost their identity.
ALTHOUGH IT is the strength.
of Western thought that en-
ables Honda to enjoy his affluent
lifestyle, the purity that Isao
clings to forces Honda to ques-

tion the possibility of an unadul-
terated Japan more deeply.
"Was there any way to live hon-
estly with Japan other than by
rejecting everything, than by re-
jecting present day Japan and
the Japanese people?" As the
War breaks out Honda returns to
Japan and devotes his time to
learning Buddhist theory.
Suddenly, the War is over and
Honda, living in a luxurious villa,
becomes an entertainer. The Thai
Princess, now a buxom young
lady, is his guest. If sh is the re-
incarnation of Isao there should
be three moles on her breast.
H-onda, now in the role of voyeur,
spies upon Ying Chang through
a keyhole. To Honda's dismay,
her head is solidly embadded be-
tween another woman's sporad-
ically convulsing thighs. As she
raises her arm to her hips the
three moles appear.
Despite amusing interludes,
The Temple of Dawn is a te-
dious exercise in banal meta-
phors and trite philosophical re-
velations. The analysis of Budd-
hist transmigration and con-
sciousness theory makes bland
reading which is difficult to

"s Japan
comprehend and harder to di-
In short, The Temple of Dawn,
is a disappointing work, not at all
commensurate with Mishima's
talents. Because of Mishima's in-
ability to deal with foreign char-
acters, he can do no more than
present a subjective account of
the post-war bourgeois. However,
in a round about way the para-
dox of Mishima himself is re-
vealed through Honda. An in-
telligent man, Honda easily sees
through the veneer of creativity
that clouds his associates. Yet,
he surrounds himself with this
type of person voluntarily.
Similarly, Mishima saw the
malignant effects of Westerniza-
tion and the resulting adultera-
tion of the Japanese essence but
ironically was himself a product
of that influence. He preached a
return to the purer values of tra-
ditional Japan saying "Western
influence is corrupting Japan;
robbing her of her essential
spirit." In reaction to left wing
militarism Mishima founded his
own right wing student army
whose purpose was ". . . to re-
store the sword to Japanese cul-

ture." Meanwhile, he lived in a
modern house, wore Western
clothes, and acted in modern
Seeking a return to the sa-
murai - tradition which he saw
as an ethical and esthetic sys-
tem truer to the spirit of Japan,
Mishima defiled that esthetic. In
performing seppuku in front of
an audience, Mishima bastardiz-
ed that purity for which he pur-
portedly strove. Identifying him-
self with that which he hated,
Mishima killed himself to vindi-
cate his ideals.

1214 South
Sat. & Sun.
at 3 P.M. &
7 P.M.
at 1:15,
5:15 f& 9:15
Mon. & Tue.
at 7 only
at 9 only


c Jw

fi i i
' ;,;
s ','

Shaping a working
' class consciousness

A fairy tale journey through
the concrete paradise of N.Y.

ft> j

Shaping of American Working
Class Consciousness. By Stan-
ley Aronowitz. New York: Mc-
Graw Hill. 442 pages; $10.00.

.'.,cc.:.x. q Zr:: . w.

. . ; w" .





-4 - ACTION-
5, 7 & 9 P.M. TANMENT
DIAL 665.-6290 Ag
Program Information 662-6264


rare phenomenon among New
Left historians attempting to con-
struct a "new past" for Amer-
EEK . ica's working class: he is a radi-
cal who has paid his dues as
both a semi-skilled and skilled in-
dustrial worker and as a union
t organizer. When he analyzes the
'new workers" of G.M.'s Lords-
town assembly plant in terms of
what is living and what is dead
in Marxian theory, one quickly
f realizes that he is no hot house
-- or garden-variety radical get-
ting in a few digs against "the
But there are severe problems
with this book, rooted in the fact
that False Promises promises
more than it finally delivers.
Aronowitz starts off on th'
sound assumption that it is about
time labor historians started look-
ing at the formation of the worK-
ing class and working class con-
sciousness in terms of culture,

rather* than reconstructing dis-
crete, objective historical events
and the development of union and
manufacturing structures. "We
must," says the author in h i s
preface, "examine daily life, for
it is in the structures of every-
day existence that the s'cial
structure is reproduced in the
minds of its participants."
Along the way toward recreat-
ing labor's new past, Aronowitz
drops some tantalizing but frag-
mentary observations ibout the
cultural dimensions of working
class leisure patterns manifested
in bars, union halls, women'
groups, sport, and rock music.
VET ALL of this is submerge I
in what turns out to be vet ano-
ther, albeit leftist, history of
American industrializatian a n d
union development. Working class
culture remains for Aronowitz, as
for most other analysts of a
Marxian bent, a product and
mirror of an economic suoerstruc-
ture rather than an express~on of
what its members hold denr and
valuable; e.g., notions )f how
individuals and groups should
act toward family, friends. coun-
try, and deity. Culture, in t h i s
view, is merely a manifestation
of capitalist economics, out capi-
talism is never seen as a mani-
festation of cultural values - Ilhe
former statement being a con-
tention that remains only a conl-
tention despite Aronowitz's at-
tempts to demonstrate otherwise.
False Promises's main value
consists in its expositian of con-

temporary labor developments
against the past thirty years of
union-worker relations. L a s
year's wildcat strik-s at Lords-
town and the recent rcjection of
the Ford settlement by the
tJ.A.W.'s skilled tradesme i be.
comes comprehensible - if it
isn't already to anyone who lives
in or near metropolitan Detroit
- with Aronowitz's description
of the vicissitudes of Big Labor's
relationship with Big Business in
post-WW II America. Ani thin
year's lengthy Detroit teacher's
strike gains added dim-nsion :n
light of the author's analysis of
white collar and professional pro-
According to the biographical
blurb printed at the bac of this
book, Aronowitz is pres -ntly at
work on a study of a "m-ass cul-
ture and social learning". Hope-
fully he will deal with culture
more fully and subtly than he
has done here. Failing that, he
might do well to attempt a re-
vision of Marxian theory con-
cerning the working class, some-
thing that informs and makes
False Promises val'iable f a r
beyond its shortcomings.

YORK by J. P. Donleavy. New
York: Delacorte Press. $7.95.
341 pages.
[. P. DONLEAVY is an extra-
ordinary writer of hilarious
melidrama and vibrant anger.
He writes tenderly of sex and
comically of soil-sorrowing des-
onir. Of his first novel, T h e
Ginger Man, he says he felt rage,
he shook his fist, and he was
glad. The novel was banned in
Ireland: a play written from it
was closed after three perform-
ances in Dublin upon orders of
the Archbishop. It was reputed-
ly the first time in the history
of theater in Ireland that a olay
was stopped.
The anger he felt then, to him
synonymous with life, has not
dissipated through six novels,,
four plays, and a book of stories.
A Fairy Tale of New York, is
Donleavy's latest book. Originally
a play, a collection of four vig-
nettes first performed in 1960,
Donleavy has added a large num-
ber of connective scenes and in-
cidents to make this 'novel."
It is a deceiving name to give
the book, for it places it in
a formal genre. It we think of
"the novel" as coherent and
well-formed, each part intrinsic
to the movement and plan which
builds to climax, Donleavy's
books canot be called novels. Ra-
ther they are groups of spisodes
which follow a character on a
straight line through time, but
which lack classic formulae. And



in this small but significant way
they are closer to what our lives
are: episodic and incoherent,
though each of us, as the novelist
of his own life, attempts to make
it logical and, therefore, pos-
sibly understandable.
born in the Bronx, orphaned
early, and grew up in f o s t e r
homes. He was educated 'in Eir-
ope" (though he missed his de-
gree by just a few courses) and
has returned home with his Eng-
lish wife, ostensibly to show her
his country, although there are
hints that they were unable to
live in hers. But Cornelius has
the misfortune to arrive in New
York horbor with a dead wife it'
need of burial; and he has very
little money.
Donleavy rushes the picares-
que Christian through jobs,
friends, fucks, fights. The un-
dertaker who buries Christian's
wife befriends him and gives him
a job. He soon loses it, but he
has already met Fanny, former
slut and bereaved wife of Mr.
Sourpuss, millionaire wholesaler
of ladies' garments. She treasures
his bedroom talents and assaults
any rival, actual or imagined,
who desires Christian. These
lonely, groping, tough and ten-
der fighters clutch the momen-
tary warmth in each other. And
though Fanny and Christian wal-
low in self-pity, the reader laughs
No one else writes like Don-
leavy. Worn words which f I o w
through his pen resuscitate and
quiver with energy and freshness.
His phrase and fragments shake
with limpid verve. The reader's
body and mind become the con-
duits through which Donlnavy's
words pass to forge epiphanies of
experiences: smells, tactile sen-
sations, heart-poundings, vis-
ions materialize on the page.
VET WHY should I describe
that thrill the witness of a
magic trick feels if I can provide
the performance? Christian in. his
room: "Soot lies smearing the
soles of my feet. Baby cockroach-
es sneak again behind the base.
Everything a green in the bath-
room.. Tattered shower curtain
with vines and jungle leaves.
Specks of pink soap. Long strands
of blond hair. Whole city tight-
ens around you. Till you go out
and get three doughnuts from
a sweet smelling little bakery.
And a newspaper off the ;rand
down the street. Bring it back
each morning to read. The stab-

bings and stompings. Percola:e
coffee in an old battered pot Sit
here so outstandingly unknown.
Drink a cup to make me crap."
Cornelius the embattled box-
er: "If I hadn't just recovered
from one brain softening melee
I'd go back down there and :neap
upon the both of them a sing-
song of fisticufs most various.
But I'd like to have one's knuck-
k3 rehardened before conduct-
ing any more classes on discour-
tesy. Open to the public. Many
of whom there days, are savage."
And Christian fights with and
for life: 'As fast as the world's
tentacles get you down. Y o u
spuirm and cut and slash away.
To rise unhanded with a brand
new arger."
But there are problems with
this book. Donleavy spends great
effort and time ax-grinding. His
target is New York City, which
for him means all of Americat.
He finds no grace, no softness
here. Christian, and here we mtu t
read "also Donleavy" (bori in
New York City, educated at Trin-
ity College in OubliE, and then
twenty-five year self-exile) is
smothered my commercialism,
come-ons, the rude manners of
imposing people. It is not that
these aren't things which can
and should be written about; ra-
ther that Donleavy does not do it
N HE rails about a "sky-
scraper paradise", "this as-
phalt carpeted canyon", and that
there is "Nowhere to live. On
a jinkstrewn continent,", he bit-
es like a dog: there is immed-
iate damage, but it lacks the in-
sidious venom which will work
long after the attack that a fine
satirist (like Evelyn Waugh)
leaves behind as residue.
Donleavy is effective when he
realizes his distance and t h a t
problem is spiritual rather than
material, that America's charact-
er is unlike his own. Here he
says it well: " 'I know I'm sound-
ing awfully conceited but I mean,
all I'm saying is my song is
sweet. And everybody every-
where looks at me and says,
well fella you may be beautiful
but you can sell it. And if I've
got to say no I can't, if I've
got to say that much longer, I'm
going to die.' "
A Fairy Tale of New York has
much good stuff but it is nit
J. P. Donleavy's best book. (I
prefer The Feastly Beatitudes of
Balthazar B.) But a man of Don-
leavy's verbal brilliance, pathos,
and ebullient humor is nearly al-
ways delightful and refreshing.




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