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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Crimson Thread
of Abandon

Terayama Shūji

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To purchase The Crimson Thread of Abandon

Title: The Crimson Thread of Abandon
Author: Terayama Shūji
Genre: Stories
Written: (Eng. 2014)
Length: 137 pages
Original in: Japanese
Availability: The Crimson Thread of Abandon - US
The Crimson Thread of Abandon - UK
The Crimson Thread of Abandon - Canada
  • Translated and with an Introduction by Elizabeth L. Armstrong

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Our Assessment:

B : nice collection of unusual tales

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Japan Times . 4/10/2014 Madeline Barbush

  From the Reviews:
  • "Each borrows and mocks the conventions of a classic fairy tale, but reeks of hopelessness and misfortune, leaving his characters no happy endings." - Madeline Barbush, The Japan Times

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Crimson Thread of Abandon collects twenty of Terayama Shūji's odd melancholy and surreal stories.
       The opening story, 'Ribbon of the Sea', is a good introductory one: like many of the others, it is divided into several short sections, and moves from one character and situation to another. It is a yellow ribbon that is the unifying thread of the story and an entirely surreal fantasy sequence that starts things off: seven-year-old Mizue, annoyed by an illustration of an old woman in her picture book cuts the image out -- and it promptly comes to life (a trick repeated elsewhere in the collection, too). As thanks for liberating her, the old woman offers some free advice: "Beware the yellow ribbon, for it will bring nothing but misfortune." The story jumps ahead to Mizue's tenth birthday, and she gets a present wrapped in a yellow ribbon -- and it all goes downhill from there, as one fate after another is affected by: "the yellow ribbon of misfortune".
       In a matter-of-fact tone Terayama offers these fantastical near-fairy-tales, with often wildly creative premises. People suddenly are transformed into birds; an eraser allows its user to literally erase anything from existence; an Alice-figure cuts out her shadow -- and then finds herself with two; a town suddenly finds itself entirely without fire, as even matches won't light ay more; there's a doctor who can inject any sort of memories into patients. Almost always, Terayama uses such elements just as a starting-point, jumping off into often completely unexpected directions. There's nothing obvious about where Terayama takes readers, and what resolutions there are rarely count as happy endings -- and yet the stories have a fundamental sort of plausibility, as real life, too, rarely works out as neatly as fairy tales or indeed most fiction would have it.
       There are variations on the game of hide-and-seek ("a lonesome game", as Terayama observes on more than one occasion) -- including a nicely turned one in 'Hide-and-not-go-seek', an almost conventionally told fairy tale, but yet again with a (nicely pulled off) dark ending.
       In 'Gotta Dance' a character finds she can't entirely control her body any longer. Reaching for the children's book she wants to read, "her unruly hand selected de Sade's book", Justine, instead; wanting a glass of grapefruit juice, her hand picks up champagne instead. She finds she: "had become imprisoned in her own body" -- and resigns herself to it:

     Mizue will probably discover "herself" when she grows up, but for the time being she surrenders. She decided to let her hands, feet, and mouth determine her behavior.
       Terayama's distinctive, unusual stories are adult tales, but with a childish free spirit to them. The mix of fairy-tale elements -- often very basic, simple premises or features -- and the unusual twists Terayama subjects these and his characters to make for enjoyably loopy rides. Extremely compact, often quickly jumping from one idea and set of circumstances to the next, the stories make for a heady read.
       The collection is a neat little discovery.

- M.A.Orthofer, 8 March 2015

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The Crimson Thread of Abandon: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Japanese author Terayama Shūji (寺山修司) lived 1935 to 1983.

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