Book Review

No Longer Human and How We See Ourselves

no longer human

‘No Longer Human’ is the second best selling Japanese novel of all time, it is also Dazai’s masterpiece. These factors are enough to make this book worth reading. This said there is a lot more to this book than international accord.

It starts with the introduction describing three different pictures of a boy. The boy changes a lot with each picture, it’s hard to believe he is the same person. These pictures set the stage for the book that follows.

Basics of The Story

The book is only four chapters and is about a boy named Oba. In the beginning, we learn he is a smart child. We also learn that he was abused by a maid in his home.

As he gets older he learns he shouldn’t say anything and always accept what is given to him. Rather than appear smart, he decides it will be easier to be a comedian. He does this because he thinks it will cause him less trouble.

At one point, a classmate notices that Obe falls on purpose, and is only pretending to be incapable. Because of this, Obe decides he must befriend the boy so his secret can be kept.

We learn Obe likes to draw and it is his dream to do drawings. He never shows his work to anyone but his only friend.

Time passes and he grows older. He goes to university in Tokyo. There he meets and befriends an art student. This new friend introduces him to all sorts of things he hasn’t done or seen before. He picks up drinking and his school suffers.

From this point on he becomes an alcoholic. He later meets a woman who helps him get a job as a drawer for a magazine. He finds some success, but his drinking becomes a problem again, and his life starts to fall apart.

From then on many bad things happen to him. The pinnacle of which, he tries to kill himself unsuccessfully.

Perception vs Reality

At the end of the book, we learn that the story is a collection of journals that was given to the author. He received them from a barkeeper who had received them from an anonymous source.

The barkeeper talks about Oba and thinks he is the source of the journals. She also says that he wasn’t at all like he described. In fact, he was the opposite, a very kind and friendly man.

This ending is what makes the book amazing. It changes your whole perspective of what actually happens in the story.

The book seems to be about the horrible life of a bad person. In this sense it is depressing, Oba is without a doubt a depressed. But this way of looking at it is dishonest because it doesn’t account for what other people see or know.

How About Us

This story shows the difference between what we think of ourselves and what the rest of the world sees. It also shows how our minds can get locked into thoughts and repeat them.

This isn’t to say that people don’t have real problems. But it is something to be aware of. The potential here is that we over think things and don’t see ourselves for who we are.

It could be that the world thinks we are a great person and our friends and family are happy with who we are. With this perspective, the negativity is only in our heads.

It is not always the case that our problems are this simple. But it is possible that this could explain part of them.

Rather than being like Obe, try to see yourself as the person that everyone else sees and respects you as.

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The bell jar by Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath was recommended to me many years ago, but I never thought to pick it up. Truth is, I thought it was famous because the author killed herself. Part of me also thought it was a girl’s book, in the sense that it written for a female audience.

Recently, I was ordering books on Amazon and decided to get this one as well. These days I have an affinity for books about unsavory and troubled people. So, the tumultuous life of the author and her death made it more interesting.

Troubled people tend to be fascinating. A troubled life isn’t usually as boring as a normal life, which is why they inspire books. The idiosyncrasies of peoples lives are what draws me to books like The Bell Jar.

In the beginning, the book starts out slow and whiny. I get the sense that Plath is using it as an opportunity to get some things off her chest.

Some of the problems she talks about, I can’t relate to. My bias, as a guy, I don’t have the experiences of a woman. Especially the problems Esther seems to have.

The book gets better around the half way point. Esther’s real problems start to show, and this is where the book gets interesting. The pace speeds up and I was much more engaged and focused on reading. The second half took half the time it took to read the first half.

Esther’s life is changing from normal too chaotic. The struggles of a student, turn into the struggles of someone with severe depression. At this point, it is much deeper into her life than you’d expect from earlier in the novel.

I won’t go into any more details because it is definitely worth reading. For anyone interested in depression, people, and well-written books.

This Book Is Amazing

I particularly noticed the quality of the writing. But don’t take that lightly, any published book must be good, so this was a step above many others. Also, at times there is a sense of poetry in the words that shines through.

There is an urgency that comes along with it. This could be the author’s emotion on the page, or the connection I made with the character, either way, it is strong.

This book gave me a perspective on the experiences of women that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. When I say this, I mean it was insightful beyond what I’d expect to get out of a book.

The back cover says, “Celebrated for its darkly funny and razor-sharp portrait of a society which refuses to take women’s aspirations seriously.” When I first saw this I didn’t believe it, but the book has proven me wrong.

This is an amazing book that is well worth reading. I recommend it for the quality of writing and insights into the world of women and depression.

5/5