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Sayonara, Gangsters [Hardcover]

Genichiro Takahashi , Michael Emmerich
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 1 2004
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.

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Product Details


Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Takahashi's first novel to be translated into English can be amusing, sexy, moving, intelligent and maddeningly obtuse-often all at the same time. Which is exactly what Takahashi, acclaimed author of postmodernist romps and former porn director, intends. Somewhere in a future time and place, people have no names. Lovers find this inconvenient, so they begin naming each other. The two main characters settle on the following names: the woman is the Nakajima Miyuki Song Book, and the man, who teaches at a poetry school, is Sayonara, Gangsters. Their cat, who prefers milk-and-vodka and is a great fan of Aristotle, is named Henry IV. The first of the book's three parts tells the story of Sayonara, Gangsters's former lover, "the woman," and their daughter, named both Caraway and Green Pinky. One day the couple receive a postcard from City Hall that reads, "We Were So Sorry to Learn of the Death of Your Daughter." Sayonara, Gangster then describes Caraway's removal to the Children's Graveyard, where she is deposited in a cork-lined metal case. In the second section, Sayonara, Gangster explains his work at the poetry school, with a long disquisition on the death of poetry by the poet Virgil, who has metamorphosed into a refrigerator. The last section is an action-filled account of three gangsters who come to be taught poetry and who are killed after a gunfight with a detachment of armored police. Emmerich's playfully virtuosic translation makes all this more fun than work, rendering Takahashi's mischievous tale in candy-coated prose.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"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

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars WOW! April 16 2004
By Leo
Format:Hardcover
I have never read anything like this book, and I doubt I'll ever have a chance to read anything like it again---at least not until I go back and reread it. And I know I will. Many, many times.
Certain sections and scenes, especially in the second part, and the quirky/sad/hilarious/devastating language in which this book is written keep echoing through my head, so that I actually feel like carrying this book around with me to take out for a moment on the subway or in the elevator on my way up to the office. I want to have it on hand when I need it.
This is the kind of book I NEEDED right now. The whole thing with the "gangsters" and the speech by the President of the United States at the beginning and the feeling of despair at being unable to make things happen resonate with what we are going through right now in the US in a way that is absolutely eery and astonishing, considering that the book was first published in Japan in 1982.
I heard Takahashi read in March. I went on a whim because I saw the event listed in The Village Voice. And even though I couldn't understand his Japanese and had no idea WHAT he was saying until the translator, Michael Emmerich, read his English version (which is incredible!), I still GOT something out of the Japanese-language part of the program. I got the sense that THIS GUY IS THE REAL THING. His voice was tingling with energy. I don't know why it took so long for this book to be translated (maybe the right translator just never came along until now? I certainly have never read any translation like this), but I know that I want to read more. Right now this book is the only one available; fortunately, it's the sort of "novel" that will be completely new next time.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars a definite must read April 24 2004
Format:Hardcover
i read this book last weekend, in one sitting. once you start, you won't want to put it down. and once you do put it down, it will stay with you for a long time, different parts echoing in your head. it's an incredibly funny book, but funny with pathos, threaded with an immense sadness. it's also incredibly timely, and very politically oriented in a wacky, all-over-the-place kind of a way. as jonathan safran foer says in his blurb on the back, it's a book that can't really be described. you just have to read it. i promise you won't regret it.
Was this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing April 14 2004
Format:Hardcover
a collection of absurdist sketches and/or short meditations with almost no plot, few characters save the narrator, and endless references to milestones in literary history shouldn't really amount to an amazing novel. and yet genichiro does it, and effortlessly (aided no doubt by the excellent translation by michael emmerich; i am familiar with some of the original and translating this book is no easy feat). a super fast and intensely thought provoking read, crystal clear in its reserved ambiguity.
just read it.
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  14 reviews
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Conventional wisdom has it that people who read novels..." Oct. 25 2004
By Jonathan E. Shapiro - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
"...stop being able to make accurate judgments, you know."

Extremely strange, yet approachable novel about a poetry teacher who constantly frets over his lack of purpose in an insane world where everyone finds out when they're going to die and cats have favorite authors. It seems to be an anology for both modern writing and living in a police state. Like Kurt Vonnegut, Takahashi buries what may be a very personal story beneath lots of fantastic, "out there" elements. I enjoyed it, although this is definitely a "cult" book, and I don't see it appealing to mass audiences. Still, I'd love to see more works from the author get translated into English.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars amazing April 14 2004
By "abraxxas" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
a collection of absurdist sketches and/or short meditations with almost no plot, few characters save the narrator, and endless references to milestones in literary history shouldn't really amount to an amazing novel. and yet genichiro does it, and effortlessly (aided no doubt by the excellent translation by michael emmerich; i am familiar with some of the original and translating this book is no easy feat). a super fast and intensely thought provoking read, crystal clear in its reserved ambiguity.
just read it.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a definite must read April 24 2004
By "gerasimo" - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
i read this book last weekend, in one sitting. once you start, you won't want to put it down. and once you do put it down, it will stay with you for a long time, different parts echoing in your head. it's an incredibly funny book, but funny with pathos, threaded with an immense sadness. it's also incredibly timely, and very politically oriented in a wacky, all-over-the-place kind of a way. as jonathan safran foer says in his blurb on the back, it's a book that can't really be described. you just have to read it. i promise you won't regret it.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WOW! April 16 2004
By Leo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I have never read anything like this book, and I doubt I'll ever have a chance to read anything like it again---at least not until I go back and reread it. And I know I will. Many, many times.
Certain sections and scenes, especially in the second part, and the quirky/sad/hilarious/devastating language in which this book is written keep echoing through my head, so that I actually feel like carrying this book around with me to take out for a moment on the subway or in the elevator on my way up to the office. I want to have it on hand when I need it.
This is the kind of book I NEEDED right now. The whole thing with the "gangsters" and the speech by the President of the United States at the beginning and the feeling of despair at being unable to make things happen resonate with what we are going through right now in the US in a way that is absolutely eery and astonishing, considering that the book was first published in Japan in 1982.
I heard Takahashi read in March. I went on a whim because I saw the event listed in The Village Voice. And even though I couldn't understand his Japanese and had no idea WHAT he was saying until the translator, Michael Emmerich, read his English version (which is incredible!), I still GOT something out of the Japanese-language part of the program. I got the sense that THIS GUY IS THE REAL THING. His voice was tingling with energy. I don't know why it took so long for this book to be translated (maybe the right translator just never came along until now? I certainly have never read any translation like this), but I know that I want to read more. Right now this book is the only one available; fortunately, it's the sort of "novel" that will be completely new next time. If you still haven't had the fantastic, heart-wrenching, hilarious experience of reading it, order it. Right now. I promise you, it's just what you need.
If you were a friend of mine, I'd give you a copy of Sayonara, Gangsters. That's how good this book is.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What a Trip! Jan. 14 2006
By Mouldy Pilgrim - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
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.
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