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Book reviews for "Saunders,_E._Dale" sorted by average review score:

The Woman in the Dunes
Published in Paperback by Vintage Books (1991)
Authors: Kobo Abe, E. Dale Saunders, and Erroll McDonald
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Profoundly Poetic
Kobo Abe's Woman in the Dunes in both an existential allegory as well as a masterpiece of sensual terror.

The story begins when teacher and amateur entymologist, Jumpei Niki, decides to get away from things for awhile and searches for insects in an isolated desert region of Japan near the sea. When he realizes he's missed the last bus back to a "real" town, the local villagers offer to find him a place to stay for the night.

Although there are no hotels available, Jumpei is escorted to a rope ladder extending down into a pit in the sand. At the bottom he finds a ramshakle hut and a lone woman living in a bizarre situation; she spends the entire night, every night, shoveling sand away from her home in order to stave off her own burial and the subsequent destruction of the village. The sand is given to the villagers in return for water and other necessities, something the woman views as "community spirit."

To his horror, Jumpei awakens to find the rope laffer gone and discovers he's been targeted as the woman's new partner and "helper." Jumpei resists and even makes a futile attempt at escape, to which the woman says, "I'm really sorry. But honestly there hasn't been a single person to get out yet."

Inevitably, Jumpei and the woman engage in a series of sexual encounters that have more to do with an affirmation of life than with physical or emotional attraction. This book is many things, but a love story is definitely not one of them.

When the woman (who remains nameless) suffers an ectopic pregnancy, Jumpei suddenly finds himself alone in the pit and free to go, yet enigmatically (or so it may seem), he refuses to do so.

Obviously, this shattering and gorgeous story is open to many levels of interpretation; only a few are obvious.

Jumpei clearly represents the "new, Westernized" Japan, while the woman personifies "traditional" Japan and tate mae. Rather than buying into the futility of life, the woman calmly accepts the role life has assigned to her with dignity and patience.

Although she is often treated unfairly (and even abused) by Jumpei, the woman in the dunes still bathes him regularly and cooks his dinner every day, accepting him without anger or scorn.

Westerners may view the woman in the dunes as complacent and weak, but in reality, she is anything but. Her ability to carry on day after day, in the face of overwhelming odds, as well as her seeming peace of mind personify the maxim that suffering exists only in the eye of the beholder.

At times, the message of this book may seem to be that life is futile; that no matter how much you struggle, you'll simply be forced to struggle again and again, so much so that when opportunity does come knocking, a useless existence may seem safer than an uncertain freedom.

The real problem, however, and the crux of this book, is one of perspective. Although Jumpei's "old" life may seem to be the better and the more fulfilling (as well as the more free), is it really? If you were to ask the woman in the dunes, I think she might smile, turn her head shyly and suggest you get back to work.

Nasu, nasu, nasu, nasu
This was the first Kobo Abe book that I have read, but it will not be the last. This book is about a school teacher named Jumpei Niki who enjoys collecting insects to escape his mundane life. Junpei is not the most likeable of characters He is cruel, abusive, and seems to think that he is superior to those around him. On a short vacation, he decides to go to the coast to find a certain type of bug in the dunes. He does not find it, however. He is also too late to catch the last bus home, so he stays the night with a woman who lives down in a sand hole. The next morning the rope is gone, and Junpei is stuck with the woman who spends every night shoveling sand. Junpei of course puts up quite a fuss, who wouldn't, but his demands to be released fall on death ears. Junpei does manage to escape once, but is caught and put back into the hole. This nearly crushes his spirit.

This is a very interesting book very sparse like the works of Kawabata and it is centered around the one man Junpei, Thw woman is never given a name. The woman, however, is the most interesting character in the book she is a very hard worker, who is very complacent, doing almost whatever Junpei says. However, when Junpei goes against the ways of the dune she mildly speaks her mind, and when he pushes her too far she pummels him.

A very nice read. Check it out.

Thought-provoking attention to detail and human existence
I bought this book on a whim, with no knowledge of Abe or even of Japanese writing. It was a pleasant surprise to read such a consuming book. Like the sand that tumbles into his home each night, I was drawn into the story. The book can be confusing at first, because what he describes is a different reality than any of us have experienced. The situations and questions that surface in this book are challenging. I found myself struggling along with Nicki and wondering how I would react in his position. It's no fluff piece of literature and it demands a lot of you, but it was well worth it. I have read Abe's "Secret Rendezvous" which also is about an outsider that has an insurmountable situation to deal with, but it is no comparison to "Woman in the Dunes" which is definitely Abe's masterpiece.

The Box Man
Published in Paperback by North Point Press (1995)
Authors: Kobo Abe and E. Dale Saunders
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Completely nonessential.
I think of The Box Man by Kobo Abe and I try to recall one memorable image, or one compelling character, or one trenchant observation, or indeed one particularly inventive or colourful turn of phrase. I can't come up with a single one. It baffles me how someone can write something as memorable, compelling, trenchant, inventive and colourful as Woman in the Dunes, and then write something as devoid of any of these qualities as The Box Man. My only explanation is that this was written by a Kobo Abe from a strange parallel universe where Abe never wrote anything good, and somehow made its way here through a rift in space and time.

Upon picking up The Box Man and reading the first page, I naively and laughably thought that this was to be a sort of social commentary or just a story about homeless people. No, that wasn't at all the case. Apparently, unlike a regular homeless person, a "box man" has some sort of extremely deep philosophy that singles him out as someone who lives on a higher plane of existence. Except after reading the book, I came not a bit closer to understanding what this philosophy is, or to caring about finding out. This was exacerbated by Abe's extremely self-indulgent style, in which no concern is exhibited for time or flow, random unidentified narrators come and go with no warning, pages and pages are occupied with pseudo-intellectual "societal observations" and uninteresting non sequiturs, and so forth.

Keep in mind that such a style doesn't have to be bad. Plenty of authors like to jump around in time and make up their own stylistic rules. Plenty of authors like to wax eloquent about society. Plenty of authors come up with absurd premises and make great works out of them. But there are authors who do this well, and those who do not. The Box Man has laughably been called "surreal." But something like, say, Un Chien Andalou, though it also has absolutely no actual narrative structure, is chock full of striking images, which are memorable despite having nothing to do with reality or even with each other. The Box Man tries to be like that. It tries very, very hard, and it is very self-conscious about it. But it fails, because there is nothing above the norm in it - just a desire to "break conventions" for the sake of breaking conventions, to break conventions as a substitute for narrative, commentary, characterization, originality, emotion, and any worthwhile thought. Supposedly there is a nominal narrative here (there's something about an unsolved murder in places), and supposedly there's an existential parable here (some people ask themselves and each other some wooden and ham-handed questions about existence), but really, there is nothing even original (to say nothing of "masterful") about any of this. And don't even get me started on the oh-so-affected "photo inserts" with their oh-so-affected captions.

Woman in the Dunes leaves me spellbound, but The Box Man is an utter waste of time. It's shorter than Woman in the Dunes (178 pages in my edition) but every single line is an excruciating exercise in tedium. And as you read, you'll get the feeling that Abe is deliberately insulting your intelligence by writing such pretentious nonsense when he has shown himself to be capable of masterpieces. Stay far, far away from this "novel."

a title for your review
Half the time I wasn't sure what the heck was going on so I consider this book to be, in part, a book questioning reality/ontology. The "box man" would ramble on about some scenario/reality/happening and then reveal that it was all his imagination. That's pretty much how my life goes about, more imagination than substance, so this book is a rather effective looking-glass. Given that, this plays a significant role in the play of "my dissatisfaction with the book." I don't want to be reminded of my anonymity and social lackings. I have little problem recommending this book to others--sometimes i recommend bad books to people for my own kicks--but there are other books I'd prefer to see sittin in my lap. In keeping with the question of reality, if its even addressed in this book (what the heck do i know--answer: nothing) I'd prefer to read Mark Daneilewski's House of Leaves or Joseph Heller's Catch-22 and definitely The Medusa Frequency by Russell Hoban (I list these books only to impress you. It's pure show.).

There are elements of identity problems in this book, as far as I can see anyway. The person lives in a box, he/she doesnt have a name, and he/she usually only looks at people while they in turn, people, only see a box, if that. That's pretty cut n'dry. Again, there are other books that attack this idea more vicously. See: Fight Club

My biggest problem with the book is this: I have no clue if the box man was a murder or not. I love biggest problems and I consider this to be a rather large one, unanswered questions. So, Ill give this my recommendation, but, will the joke be on you?


The Box Man delves into what it is to be seen and what it is to see, the phenomenon of looking and being looked at. There are many parallels with sartre's Being and Nothingness - the idea that one despises being looked at because he is forced to think about his imperfect facticity, and that the unseen viewer, be it at sartre's keyhole or abe's observation window, is put in the privledge position of remaining pure transcendance, or purely beings of the mental realms that are untouchable by the outside world. Abe's style of writing leaves the reader guessing whether or not he is the voyeur or the exhibitionist.

The Ruined Map
Published in Paperback by Kodansha International (1993)
Authors: Kobo Abe and E. Dale Saunders
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Reversing the psychology of Woman in the Dunes.
Though not as successful in achieving its aims as The Woman in the Dunes, this is still an intriguing twilight-zone type of story. A young private investigator is set on the trail of a man who, we are led to believe, has run away from his wife. The only clues are a torn piece of paper with a sketched map of where he last met someone in connection with his work. But as he carries out his investigation everything gets more and more uncertain, rather than becoming clearer. Each person he comes into contact with at the beginning of his investigation has an identity, a relation of some sort to someone else in the story, but as events unfold, each and every one of them becomes clouded in a mini-mystery of their own, until, after falling into the hands of the wrong people and receiving one hell of a beating, even the hapless investigator, who has by now lost his job and livelihood, loses his ow! n identity and is left wandering off we know not where. In some sense The Ruined Map is an attempt at a reversal of the psychological drama of The Woman in the Dunes. Rather than re-establishing his identity and fitting in in a totally bizarre environment, our hero drops out of an environment he is familiar with and apparently loses all sense of his own identity. While it is convincing, I feel that my liking for Abe's weird world is all that got me through the middle section of this book, though the odd beginning and the truly chaotic ending are very enjoyable. I suggest reading this one first before going on to The Woman in the Dunes which is all round a better read.

One of Kobo Abe's finest writings
Kobo Abe, one of the greatest surrealistic novelists, liked to depict, with the precise calculation and unconstrained freedom of mind that Picasso gave his work, entangled and precarious relatiionships between an individual and the society to which he "belongs". In "The Ruined Map", Kobo Abe casts spotlight on his lifelong motif from a different angle. Unlike his other books such as "The Box Man" and "Kangaroo Note", "The Ruined Map" is based on a relatively realistic situation. Almost all characters act apparently normally, and there seems to be nothing that makes us question sanity in the situation that surrounds them. The hero, who is a private investigator, is asked to find a young woman's husband who suddenly disappeared several months ago. He tries to find "rational explantions" of her husband's abrupt disapearance, but however, the notion of rationality soon traps him, challenging his conventional understanding of the relationship between an individual and the society. Kobo Abe explores his unique conception of identity with more restrained techniques of surrealism than in his most famous work "The Women in the Dunes". Yet, an insightful reader should realize that Abe ingeniously embedded the surrealistic subject in a realistic setting.

The Face of Another
Published in Paperback by Vintage Books (04 February, 2003)
Authors: Kobo Abe and E. Dale Saunders
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a disgrace to Abe
I've loved most of the Abe that I've read, but this one was terrible. The "philosophical musings" mentioned by one reviewer are complete BS. The main character constantly reads deep philosophical meaning into things that are very straightforward. Don't waste your money on this--read The Woman in the Dunes or Kangaroo Notebook instead.

An Extraordinary Achievement
Not one of the truly great novels, no doubt (and there are so few), but outstanding and amazing, nonetheless. Recommended, despite philosophical musings of a gratuitous density and complexity -- at times, quite beyond full comprehension.

Slow-going at first but well worth it!
I initially found this novel hard to respect since the central theme of a man and his mask seemed trite and a cliche. However this setup does allow the novel's main character to seduce his wife, posing as a stranger; a strange social situation which was described with much empathy and insight by Abe.

Buddhism in Japan
Published in Textbook Binding by Greenwood Publishing Group (1977)
Author: Dale E. Saunders
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Buddhism in Japan: With an Outline of Its Origins in India
Published in Paperback by University of Pennsylvania Press (1964)
Author: E. Dale Saunders
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Esoteric Buddhist Painting (Japanese Arts Library)
Published in Hardcover by Kodansha International (1987)
Authors: Hisatoyo Ishida and E. Dale Saunders
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Temple of Dawn (The Sea of Fertility)
Published in Hardcover by Vintage/Ebury (A Division of Random House Group) (22 July, 1974)
Authors: Mishima Y, E. Dale Saunders, and Cecilia Segawa Seigle
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