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Sayonara, Gangsters [Hardcover]

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Item description for Sayonara, Gangsters by Genichiro Takahashi & Michael Emmerich...

If you've ever despaired of expressing yourself, you'll read Sayonara, Gangsters and understand. Set in a facetious near-future that is both mind-bendingly bizarre and achingly familiar. Sayonara, Gangsters is an inventive novel about language, expression and the creative process that unfolds through hilarious sketches. The peaceful if bizarre life of a poetry teacher is forever transformed by a group of terrorists called "the gangsters" in what is, incredibly, a semi-autobiographical novel.

On this literary gonzo trip in which a man of letters finds out, too late, that flirting with extremist politics can have unsavory conequences for one's mind, we encounter the likes of Virgil, the refrigerator (a memorable three-dimesional character) and "Henry IV" the feline aficionado of books. Endlessly resourceful, relentlessly erudite, but always accessible, Sayonara, Gangsters is a unique masterpiece of literary postmodernism that aims to entertain rather than to intimidate.

From the outrageous beginning, which reads like an oblique reference to the war on terror but is no such thing (it was written more than twenty years ago), to the sobering, devastating end, through the lyrical, poignant middle, Takahashi's legendary first novel is candy for your brain. Sayonara, Gangsters is a must-read for all fans of world literature, available for the first time in English.
"Fabulous...Think of Pynchon with an editor, Donald Barthelme but funnier, or Italo Calvino just as he is." - The Japan Times

"Sayonara, Gangsters is a light, poetic, enjoyable read, full of crafted imagery." - The Onion A.V. Club

"Sayonara, Gangsters, a thrillingly unhinged perpetual-motion machine full of absurd sex and violence, greased with the awesome confidence of a writer so committed to thumbing his nose at convention that he discovers caverns of wonder deep within said schnozz. (...) The least that can be said is that you never know what's coming next." - Ed Park, The Village Voice
Genichiro Takahashi never graduated from Yokohama National University. As a student radical, he was arrested and spent half a year in prison, a harrowing experience that rendered him incapable of reading or writing for several years. Sayonara, Gangsters took the literary establishment by storm and remains one of the summits of postmodern writing in Japanese or any other language. Winner of the Mishima and other coveted literary awards, Takahashi has been the best-kept secret of readers of Japanese. Sayonara, Gangsters is his first full-length work to be published in English.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   224
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1.25" Width: 5.75" Height: 8.25"
Weight:   0.98 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Apr 1, 2004
Publisher   Vertical
ISBN  1932234055  
ISBN13  9781932234053  

Availability  0 units.

More About Genichiro Takahashi & Michael Emmerich

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! MICHAEL EMMERICH graduated from Princeton University. After completing research in Japanese literature studies at Ritsumeikan University in Tokyo, he went on to earn a Ph.D. in Japanese literature from Columbia University. He is the highly acclaimed translator of Nobel laureate Yasunari Kawabatas
First Snow on Fuji; Banana Yoshimotos Asleep, Goodbye Tsugumi and Hardboiled & Hard Luck; Genichiro Takahashis Sayonara Gangsters; Mari Akasakas Vibrator; and Taichi Yamadas In Search of a Distant Voice.

Michael Emmerich currently resides in the state of New York.

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Product Categories

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

Reviews - What do customers think about Sayonara, Gangsters?

Clever, then too clever, then tedious  Jan 15, 2008
I have a love-hate relationship with postmodern fiction, so if you're the type that only loves or only hates the genre, you'll likely rate this book a 5 or 1, respectively. Of course, there is no identifiable plot, so stop right now if you require your books to have a plot. For me, the style maintains its freshness for the first 75 pages or so, after which it gets tired. If I told you that there are certain parts of the book written from the perspective of a refrigerator or a race horse, you might be intrigued. I was. But after pages and pages of it, the humor never quite achieving true funniness or quirkiness but almost getting there, again, the intrigue tires.

Having said that, a number of the anecdotes are very enjoyable and the writing is mostly excellent. If you feel like everything you've read recently is the same as everything else, you might enjoy this as a taste of something different. If you feel that everything you've read recently is deliberately trying to be different from everything else, you will very likely not enjoy this.
A Literary Super Virtuoso's Mind-Bending Postmodern Extravaganza  Oct 16, 2006
Yes, it is difficult to describe just 'what' this book actually is. I'm still not sure, having read it and re-read it gleefully, often accompanied with tons of caffeine, 8 times now (as of last week). I often describe the talent of Takahashi, one of the most brilliant writers in Japan today- when asked by friends what he's all about- with, "Imagine William S. Burroughs' style, but with 100 times more talent than Burroughs himself ever possessed." This book is not for the weak of imagination, nor for those who find there to be nothing new in Postmodernism, nor also is it for those who expect a work of art to be 'about' something or to 'mean' something (What is the meaning of meaning? Heidegger challenges us to answer). I must say strongly that if you greatly like the recent works of Haruki Murakami (which I more or less despise), than you will not like Takahashi's writing. Similarly, if you thought Joyce and Burroughs were meaningless, you likewise will probably think the same of Takahashi. Though I will say that his first novel, "Over the Rainbow" is even more over the top brilliant and manic than this one...I can only say that anything by Takahashi is like a trip into the wild blue yonder, you don't know what you're getting into until you're already too far gone into his bizarre dreamscape to realize that somethin' strange is goin' down...
What a Trip!  Jan 15, 2006
To sum up the postmodern novel "Sayonara, Gangsters", all you need is one word: weird. Take a moment to think about all that is considered normal convention for novel writing, and you will have a good idea what this book is not.

First off, the author creates a weird world in which things that are impossible are not even looked at twice by characters. The world is a bizarre mix of science-fiction and someone's diary entries. Added to that, the weird items and people, (a classroom with a desert in it, a sixth floor with a river through it, etc), and you have a mind-warping book indeed.

Secondly, the layout breaks every convention I have known about in a novel. Sometimes, you will get a few lines on a page, and that is it. You also get some pictures, a bit of manga, a section that changes tenses, changes in font and typeface, a loss of paragraphs and so on. Not only that, the language is used in some very bizarre ways.

"Sayonara, Gangsters" is a book that will change with whoever reads it. The symbolism is heavy, and the meanings are not always apparent. The characters very rarely explain the symbolic meaning of things, except with Virgil the Fridge. Other elements may even just be there to shock you out of your mindset. One way or the other, the book is not as meaningless as has been claimed.

Finally, the humour in the book is enough to elicit a quiet snicker, but not the side-ripping laughter that one may hope for. Takahashi has an unusual knack for drawing the humorous out of the completely weird.

At the end of the book, I was left wondering if Genichiro Takahashi was a novelist genius or just a certified lunatic who just happened to find a wordprocessor. I am still not sure which, but I enjoyed the book. I am not sure I want to read it again, but the experience was worth a couple of hours. Tread with caution on this one, unless you are looking for something really out in the left field.
The sound of one hand clapping  Jan 14, 2006
Based on the positive reviews and my general appreciation for contemporary Japanese fiction I started this book with high expectations. Yet, after a reading process that was far from unpleasant this book left me with an empty feeling that was an all too clear indicator of this book's "low caloric" contents.

Takahashi needs to be applauded for a fluid and engaging narrative of a trip on yet another road to nowhere. While from an entirely conceptual point of view the difference between real clothes and those sold to the "New Emperor" are equally valid artistic expressions, I prefer a tasty full plate from a silent cook over the discourse of a more philosophical endowed colleague that accompanies an empty one.

I will be the first to agree, that this is a personal preference. It could be argued that this literary Tai Chi represents a great attempt at putting the sound of one hand clapping on paper in an engaging narrative. Yet the writer's (possibly intentional) trickery emulates a genre that was perfected in the first half of the 20th century to which he really has little to add.

Reading this book was like watching a skilled calligrapher compose really pretty Kanji pictograms, while at the end realizing that they had no meaning.

I greatly prefer Haruki Murakami for both exquisite calligraphy and meaningful writing.
Have a beer, virgil  Oct 29, 2005
Similar to many of my book purchases I bought Sayonara, Gangsters on a whim. I had heard that the novel was quite surreal and unlike other translated Japanese novels available to English readers. Being wary of the hype, I picked up Sayonara, Gangsters and began reading it. I hated it. I disliked it not because of the surrealistic world that Takahashi weaves, but because of the brevity of the pages. Some chapters were only one paragraph and some were only one sentence that led to a quite disjointed read. I grew frustrated with the book and put it down after reading some fifty pages. I let a couple of days pass and picked up the book again and reread the fifty pages. Knowing what to expect, I was quite as disappointed with them the second time around. The next fifty pages were a bit of a chore as well, but after page one hundred the novel started to catch my interest, so I made my way through the remaining two hundred plus pages at a relatively steady pace.

Summarizing the novel is near impossible. It seems to be set in warped version of modern Japan. A place where four gangsters wreck havoc on individuals, robbing banks, shooting people, putting bombs in the president's bubble gum, etc., this Japan is a place where people receive cards from city hall informing them that they are going to die, where large black cats mourn the deaths of their mothers and siblings while drinking milk and vodka, and news reporters are arms with brass knuckles and beat to death experts on various issue. It is also a place where one's lover gives names. This novel tells the story of a poetry teacher named "Sayonara, Gangsters" and his girlfriend "The Nakajima Miyuki Song Book." Told in first person through the perceptions of Sayonara, Gangsters, the reader is given a detailed account of the protagonist's life. Sounding as bored as a Murakami Haruki narrator, Sayonara, Gangsters informs the readers of his love life, work at the poetry school, and his encounter with the four gangsters.

While definitely not being everyone's cup of tea, Sayonara, Gangsters is an interesting novel, but one that left me a bit empty. Was I supposed to get anything out of this novel, or was it just a trip into the bizarre mind of Takahashi? This novel created waves in Japan when it was released in 1982 and one wonders if this was because of the novel itself or because of the banality of Japanese literature at that point and time? Like many questions, this one is hard to answer, but if you like surreal literature give this one a try. It might be a little much for those steeped solely in the works of Murakami Haruki and Yoshimoto Banana, but for those of you who like Abe Kobo and Murakami Ryu, this might be right up your alley.

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