todd logo        Todd Shimoda's Writer's Blog                                           home | Twitter | Facebook
ENTRY

Review: Isle of Dreams
April 20, 2011

(This review will appear in The Asian Review of Books)

Isle of Dreams
Keizo Hino

In Keizo Hino's novel originally published in Japan in 1985, Shozo Sakai, fifty-years-old and widowed, drifts through the days working for a construction company, and through the nights drinking with co-workers and clients. On his days off, he drives around looking at buildings. He is especially drawn to an island of reclaimed land in Tokyo Bay where also the city dumps its garbage. From there he can see the city skyline in one glance. Ironically, this manmade island is called the Isle of Dreams.

Shozo visits the Isle every Sunday where he "felt that it was during his wanderings about the reclaimed land that he was his true self, while during the week he was someone else." Strangely, he finds that the fresh trash, particularly pieces of clothing, "kindled in him a feeling bordering on the sexual, something which, since the death of his wife, he had thought irrelevant to him."

On one otherwise quiet and contemplative Sunday, he is nearly run over by a speeding motorcyclist using the empty asphalt and trash piles as a race track. The rider stops when Shozo yells he was nearly hit. The rider takes off a black racing helmet and Shozo discovers the rider is a young, attractive woman. After a lengthy non-apology, blaming Shozo for "loitering," the woman drives off.

Put off and intrigued by the woman’s brash behavior, so opposite of his, he becomes obsessed with seeing her again. Some weeks later, he happens upon several motorcycles roaring through the area. The last motorcyclist gets in an accident and the others continue on unaware of the mishap. Shozo goes to the rider's aid, and it happens to be the woman. She is alive but in pain. He flags down a taxi and they take her to a hospital.

When he returns the next morning, she has already checked out and stuck him with the bill. But at least he has her name now: Yoko Hayashi. Rather than discouraged, the encounter leaves him energized: "He was well aware of some inner stimulation. It was as though his spirit were acting quite on its own." When he tracks down Yoko, he discovers she is not who she seems, but then it is too late for him.

The Isle of Dreams is a haunting, edgy, and surprising novel well worth reading. The feelings of dread and blind obsession it evokes is indicative of the current times, as we try to build an economic recovery on the garbage of greed and overconsumption. The intensity of the ending sends out a warning to guard one's soul, whatever that may actually be.

COMMENTS

Number of comments: 2
click here to add a comment

Jo Reed
Sounds like a 1960s Italian movie. I'll read it!

Gail
Kowaii! I'm not sure I can handle the constant feeling of dread while reading a book. I've been reading "Night Train to Lisbon," which has some similarities to "Isle of Dreams." Next in my pile of books is "Soul Mountain" by Gao Xingjian.

ARCHIVE

date (comments)

Review: Moshi, Moshi by Banana Yoshimoto
April 13, 2017 (2)

First Annual Little Tokyo Book Festival
September 1, 2016 (2)

Review: Tales of Old Tokyo
April 13, 2016 (0)

LA Times Festival of Books
April 4, 2016 (1)

Review: The Translation of Love
February 14, 2016 (1)

Review: Holy Ghosts: The Christian Century in Modern Japanese Fiction
October 7, 2015 (1)

Review: Japanese Literature - From Murasaki to Murakami
September 25, 2015 (1)

Review: The Book of Tokyo
August 28, 2015 (1)

"Why Ghosts Appear"
July 7, 2015 (2)

Review: The Game of 100 Ghosts
March 31, 2015 (1)

Editing, editing, editing
October 30, 2014 (1)

Review: Light and Dark
July 30, 2014 (2)

Review: Landscape with Traveler
June 30, 2014 (1)

Gabriel Garcia Marquez
April 30, 2014 (2)

Review: Triangle
March 30, 2014 (5)

Review: The Guest Cat
February 28, 2014 (2)

2013: Year in review
December 30, 2013 (6)

Review: Jasmine
November 30, 2013 (1)

Review: The Case of the Sharaku Murders
September 30, 2013 (2)

A well-realized voice
August 31, 2013 (1)

How to find a publisher
July 30, 2013 (2)

Review: Kiku's Prayer
June 30, 2013 (1)

Review: The Goddess Chronicle
May 28, 2013 (2)

Review: Paprika
April 21, 2013 (3)

Review: A Straight Road With 99 Curves
March 30, 2013 (1)

Gripping writing
February 28, 2013 (2)

Review: Salvation of a Saint
January 19, 2013 (2)

2012 in review
December 30, 2012 (2)

Review: Ninja
September 30, 2012 (2)

Review: My Postwar Life
August 21, 2012 (1)

New interview with Colin Marshall
July 15, 2012 (3)

Book events
April 25, 2012 (2)

Subduction
March 14, 2012 (8)

Review: A Room Where the Star Spangled Banner Cannot Be Heard
January 14, 2012 (1)

Review: Plainsong
December 20, 2011 (3)

Review: The Devil's Disciple
November 29, 2011 (2)

Haruki Murakami
October 5, 2011 (2)

Busyness and demons
September 25, 2011 (2)

Characters: The Bully
July 30, 2011 (3)

Review: Manazuru
June 28, 2011 (2)

Deadlines!
June 24, 2011 (2)

Review: Butterfly's Sisters
May 18, 2011 (1)

Review: Isle of Dreams
April 20, 2011 (2)

Cades Award for Literature press release
April 12, 2011 (2)

Japan and other news
March 29, 2011 (1)

Borders bankruptcy
February 17, 2011 (2)

2010 review
December 17, 2010 (6)

Congratulations Mario Vargas Llosa
October 7, 2010 (2)

OH! wins best book award
September 23, 2010 (2)

Review: Kissing the Mask
August 22, 2010 (1)

Jonathan Lethem: Writing at the margins
July 12, 2010 (2)

Review: Love in Translation
June 22, 2010 (3)

Jose Saramago
June 18, 2010 (0)

Marketplace of Ideas interview
June 11, 2010 (2)

Imagining Memory
May 6, 2010 (1)

Upcoming Los Angeles events
April 7, 2010 (2)

Time and energy
March 30, 2010 (2)

Review: Botchan
February 28, 2010 (2)

J.D. Salinger
January 28, 2010 (1)

2009 Reviewed
December 31, 2009 (5)

Review: The Word Book
December 12, 2009 (1)

Chaat and Chat event with OH!
November 6, 2009 (2)

Home at last
November 2, 2009 (2)

Los Angeles events
October 17, 2009 (1)

Poets and poetry
October 7, 2009 (1)

Time + place
September 24, 2009 (1)

The future of books
September 23, 2009 (1)

October book tour
September 6, 2009 (1)

Blogging at Powell's Books
August 28, 2009 (2)

The evolution of an idea
August 3, 2009 (1)

The Poetics of Motoori Norinaga: A Hermeneutical Journey
July 9, 2009 (2)

Tour debrief
July 2, 2009 (3)

Book tour events
May 18, 2009 (3)

Simply in the mood
April 24, 2009 (2)

Book tour
April 8, 2009 (6)

The Necessary Book
March 2, 2009 (2)

"Murder Makes the Magazine"
February 7, 2009 (3)

John Updike
January 27, 2009 (2)

2008 misc. (good news, bad news)
January 1, 2009 (3)

Publishing woes and query letters
December 13, 2008 (4)

Punctuation compunction
November 16, 2008 (3)

The Fountain of Youth (and other Ideas)
October 10, 2008 (2)

David Foster Wallace
September 14, 2008 (2)

Ending it all
September 12, 2008 (2)

The mystery of plotting, the plotting of mysteries
August 29, 2008 (3)

Blocking out the block
August 20, 2008 (3)

"What kind of books do you write?"
August 8, 2008 (2)

Theory of Satisfaction: Part 4
July 21, 2008 (3)

Show and tell
July 14, 2008 (3)

Theory of Satisfaction: Part 3
July 7, 2008 (7)

Advice for first-time writers (Barry Gifford and me)
June 30, 2008 (6)

Theory of Satisfaction: Part 2
June 18, 2008 (3)

To be or not to be
June 10, 2008 (6)

Theory of Satisfaction: Part 1
June 3, 2008 (6)

Virtual unreality
May 31, 2008 (4)

The purpose of this blog
May 21, 2008 (5)