Japanese Literature Challenge: "First Snow on Fuji" and "The Housekeeper and the Professor"

A few months ago, I decided to read a few books for Bellezza's 3rd Annual Japanese Literature Challenge


First, I read First Snow on Fuji, a collection of short stories by Yasunari Kawabata.  It was hit and miss.  I find that a lot of short stories are unsatisfying to me because they don't have a lot of forward motion or story arch.  They're often more like paintings-with-words than actual introduction-complication-climax-conclusion stories.  Sort of like, "Let's just watch these people for a few days...OK that was nice, now on to someone else."

These were worse than usual in that regard.  So much description--by the end I could smell the air in the place the author was writing from, but I didn't know or care why I was sniffing it.  Does that make sense at all?


Since First Snow was a bit of a disappointment, I decided to read another book for the challenge--The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa.  It had a bit of the same painting-like quality, but enough movement to make it a very nice story.  As a basic summary, the Housekeeper goes to work for the Professor, who is a brilliant mathematician but only has 80 minutes worth of memory due to a car accident.  Eventually the Housekeeper's son (nicknamed "Root" because his head is flat like a square root sign) gets brought into the mix, and they form a sweet little family, despite the fact that the Professor is meeting them for the first time everyday.  

The obvious question in the story is whether things need to be remembered to have meaning. The obvious answer is that no, they don't.