Monthly Archives: March 2012
The Old Man & the Monkey is wonderful–touching and believable (even if it could never happen!).
It follows a very similar format to his Grandfather and the Raven book: an old man befriends an animal that is considered a pest by society; his wife is slowly won over; society doesn’t approve; yet, in the end, their lives and eventually their neighbor’s lives are much richer because of the strange relationship.
It is short–Amazon puts it at 22 pages–and can be read easily in one sitting. (Grandfather and the Raven is much longer) I do not think it should be longer, though. It seems to be just right. Writers tend to add unnecessary words to bolster an artificial word-count. The Old Man and the Monkey gets us right through the story while still managing to create a relaxed “I’ve known this old man for years” feel.
As with this Raven story, it is written in a Japanese fairy tale style and filled with Japanese related themes (because it takes place in Japan). Even though the story is peppered with Japanese terms and culture, it is very readable for all. Three or four Japanese words have footnotes that seem to have been deleted in the ebook format but surely are in the printed version. Again, I don’t think this is a problem even if you don’t know what “onigiri” is. But it would be nice to have that fixed for a future ebook version. (onigiri is a rice ball usually with pickled plum in the middle, by the way.)
The following is an example of the prose. Emotional, romantic, nostalgic, love of nature–these are all words that come to mind. Here, the old man and his loving wife are going on a secluded picnic (where Genjiro would later meet his monkey friend):
Sometimes when the weather was sunny and warm, Genjiro would turn to his wife and smile, and she would nod and pack a lunch with onigiri, dried fish, pickles, and miso soup, and the two of them would go to Genjiro’s favorite spot and spend an hour or more eating and looking and saying very little, because little needs to be said after so many years together.
I probably shouldn’t have chosen that particular sentence since most of his sentences aren’t this long. But when reading it, I thought it exemplified Mr. Polley’s writing style.
The story itself, like the Raven, is an allegory that ends with a moral lesson. This lesson is to not pre-judge others before giving them a chance. It is obviously against racism and prejudice, but not in a beat you over the head way.
In short, buy it and read it! You won’t regret it. It is moving emotionally and a delight to read. If you’ve read his Grandfather and the Raven and enjoyed it, I think you will enjoy this even more despite the similarities.
Five stars! I hope Mr. Polley does more of these. Grandfathers can still do a lot of good things.
Having read C. J. Martin’s “Tanaka and the Yakuza’s Daughter”, I was surprised to see him appear with a mid-19th century murder mystery. The surprise was very much worth the read. Short, fast=paced and with an ending that surprised me. Very well-done, Mr. Martin.
I did do a review for one of his books, but I wasn’t expecting this review. He just happened to discover that I had it out, read it, and left his review.
Thank you Mr. Polley!