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The Gourmet Club: A Sextet [Paperback]

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Item description for The Gourmet Club: A Sextet by Anthony Chambers Junichiro Tanizaki...

The decadent tales in this dazzling collection span forty-five years in the extraordinary career of Japan's master storyteller, Jun'ichiro Tanizaki (1886-1965).
Tanizaki's major novels-Naomi, The Makioka Sisters, A Cat, a Man, and Two Women, and The Key, for example-have already appeared in English, but some of his finest works are short stories, only a handful of which have been translated.
The stories presented here, all of them translated into English for the first time, vividly explore an array of human passions. In "The Children," three mischievous friends play sado-masochistic games in a mysterious Western-style mansion. The sybaritic narrator of "The Secret" experiments with cross-dressing as he savors the delights of duplicity. "The Two Acolytes" evokes the conflicting attractions of spiritual fulfillment and worldly pleasure in medieval Kyoto. In the title story, the seductive tastes, aromas, and textures of outlandish Chinese dishes blend with those of the seductive hands that proffer them to blindfolded gourmets. In "Mr. Bluemound," Tanizaki, who wrote for a film studio in the early 1920s, considers the relationship between a flesh-and-blood actress and her image fixed on celluloid, which one memorably degenerate admirer is obsessed with. And, finally, "Manganese Dioxide Dreams" offers a tantalizing insight into the author's mind as he blends-in the musings of an old man very like Tanizaki himself-Chinese and Japanese cuisine, a French murder movie, Chinese history, and the contents of a toilet bowl.
These beautifully translated stories will intrigue and entertain readers who are new to Tanizaki, as well as those who have already explored the bizarre world of his imagination.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   204
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.88" Width: 5.38" Height: 0.61"
Weight:   0.71 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Oct 10, 2003
Publisher   Kodansha International
ISBN  4770029721  
ISBN13  9784770029720  

Availability  0 units.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Contemporary
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Literary
3Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Short Stories > General

Reviews - What do customers think about The Gourmet Club: A Sextet?

tanizaki  Jul 27, 2008
tanizaki is a real favorite of mine. this is one of my preferred books of his.
The more Tanizaki the better.  Jul 31, 2004
Okay, overall, I think that the stories in the vintage collection Seven Japanese Tales (as opposed to the Norwegian Tales that he was known to write in his spare time) are better than those presented here, but that's not to say that this does not well deserve to be read.

Let's see...'The Children,' about three friends of sorts (plus the sister of one, which adds an interesting quasi-incestuous frisson) who play games which gradually become more and more sadomasochistic and protosexual. Less refined than his later work on the masochistic theme, perhaps, but quite good nonetheless.

'The Secret,' on the other hand, is pretty awful; by far the worst thing here. The protagonist is rather obviously modeled after Des Esseintes from Huysmans' A Rebours, but if this is an attempt at mimicking French fin-de-siecle decadence, it's a failed one (as opposed to 'The Tattooer' in 7JT--that's a good one). I suppose the crossdressing element may have seemed slightly shocking it its day, but I just found the whole thing banal and utterly predictable.

'The Two Acolytes' is an odd, uncharacteristic story with magical elements. According to the introduction, it may be valid to read it as a parable for the Tanizaki's choice between secular and religious life; in any case, it's not a masterpiece, but not bad either, and it gives us a glimpse of a hitherto unseen facet of his art.

'The Gourmet Club' is one of the weirder things to come from Tanizaki's pen, as a group of sybaritic gourmets go to ever more drastic and eventualy surreal steps to satisfy their increasingly jaded palets. Very sensual, albeit sometimes unpleasantly so. Not wholly enjoyable, but certainly impressive.

In 'Mr Bluemond,' we see Tanizakian sexual obsession taken to the extreme, as a young actress's meets a man fixated on his wife. It's reasonably entertaining, even if you can see the ending--at least in general terms--coming from miles away. Said ending does seem sort of gratuitously grotesque, but far be it from me to criticize. (who, me?)

Finally, 'Manganese Dioxide Dreams' is the most typically Tanizakian (I'm trying very hard to coin this word, obviously) but also surely the best thing here. It was written at the height of his power; in the narrator, we clearly see shades of 'Diary of a Mad Old Man,' a bit younger. If I have a criticism, it's that it's not a novel; I sort of feel like it more just *stopped* than really ended.

In any case, some good, some bad, blah blah, whatever, it's Tanizaki, when he's good, he's very good indeed, what more do you need to know? Until recently, for some reason this book didn't seem to be listed on this site. Now that it is, what exactly are you waiting for?
Overdue short stories in English from a Japanese master  Aug 26, 2002
The Gourmet Club: A Sextet offers the English-reading world six stories by Jun'ichiro Tanizaki, one of the twentieth-century's outstanding Japanese, indeed world, novelists. The stories that comprise this collection span the author's long literary career: Two stories ("The Children" and "The Secret") date from 1911, the year after Tanizaki's literary debut. The final story, "Manganese Dioxide Dreams" (1955) gives tantalizing autobiographical glimpses of the artist as an old man, written ten years before his death in 1965.

Filmmaker Kurosawa once wrote, "To be an artist means never to avert your eyes." In that spirit, we enter Tanizaki's world and share bizarre imaginings: Plagued by insomnia, indigestion, and an irregular heartbeat, the narrator of "Manganese Dioxide Dreams," for example, sees a fecal clump floating in this Western-style toilet as the actress Simone Signoret's face. This powerful literary imagination--floored and flat-out--often with an erotic twist, is a signature of Tanizaki's work. Importantly, and what elevates his fiction above sensationalism, Tanizaki never loses control, always deftly drawing the reader into larger meditations on human passion and obsession.

"Mr. Bluemond" is a riveting tale about Nakada, a movie director whose young actress-wife, Yurako, is the star of his films. At a bar one night, Nakada meets an unnamed "Mr. Bluemond" (a probable wordplay on the legendary Bluebeard), a fan of the celluloid version of his wife, Yurako. But as Nakada learns, the fan's obsession with Yurako is from the realm of hyper-imagination. In Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis used a wondrous analogy with gluttony to illustrate such a voyeuristic sexual appetite run amok: Would people pay to see a turkey drumstick on stage? In its shocker finale, this story argues a similar, comic reductio ad absurdum effect. But not before giving us an astonishing, richly imagined narrative sweep that deconstructs the celluloid Yurako (Mr. Bluemond's obsession partly feeds on film frames snipped from copies of Nakada's films later respliced by bribed movie projectionists), that invokes Platonic shadow vis a vis true essence, and that makes Nakada realize, despite his intimate relations with Yurako, Mr. Bluemond's assertion that he knows Yurako better might be true.

The title piece in this collection, "The Gourmet Club," considers decadence of yet another appetite. Count G. presides over a club of five independently wealthy men who pass their days gambling between outings for their next novel food experience. Sadly, these "foodies" have devoured the known culinary delights of Tokyo and those in many outlying regions too. In his personal life, Tanizaki reputedly was a gourmet and sometime gourmand. Thus, folding food into literature, Tanizaki brings to the story of Count G.'s fortuitous discovery of a Chinese "gourmet club" even more advanced (and decadent) than his own, an earned wisdom: Food obsession taken too far consumes the obsessed well before the appetite to consume quits.

The balance of the collection includes "The Young Children," a startling, but familiar picture of sadomasochistic games among the young (yes, children do play those games of bondage and misplaced trust); "The Secret," in which a jaded man retreats from his world of routine into a neglected Tokyo neighborhood where he experiments with cross-dressing; and "The Two Acolytes," an account of two teenage youths in medieval times, separated from parents at birth, raised in a mountain monastery, who differ about following Amida Buddha's spiritual path to the Pure Land once the desire to know about women wakes in each.

The Gourmet Club: A Sextet adds to the body of Tanizaki's work available in English--up-to-now, almost exclusively novels. It's high-energy writing in the short-story form that this reviewer obsessively finished at one sitting.


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