Unbeatable Mind: My Autobiography (Maya Yoshida)
Southampton defender and Premier League benchwarmer Maya Yoshida is probably a man not many would be too bothered about learning more. But, being a Japanese in the Premier League, he can mean big money on the other side of the planet. A sometimes captain at Southampton (when allowed on the pitch) and recently named full captain of the Japan national side, Yoshida has written several books already for a kanji (hiragana, katakana and romaji-ban)-reading audience.
Something of an Anglo-Japanese co-production, Yoshida's autobiography (his, no one else's) focuses much on his days at Southampton over the last few years, but starts off in the vein of a self-help book, outlining the various factors in life that lead him to create his "unbeatable mind" and "samurai resilience."
This can, therefore, start off somewhat unintentionally hilarious; Yoshida channelling his inner-Alan Partridge, endlessly quotable in its words. Here are some favourites:
"Anyway, Pochettino had already said 'My door is always open,' in front of the team.
'I shall go and talk to him as he's said he'd welcome that,' I thought...
'If I was to pick you, who do you suggest I omit from the match-day squad instead?' the manager said to me when I asked him why I wasn't picked. He parried my question with one of his own, and my answer was 'That's not for me to decide. It's your decision boss.' Then he answered straight back this time, 'That's right. It's my decision. And you're not in.'
...I joked, somewhat piqued, 'Lads, his door's open but it looks like his ears aren't.'"
"It didn't take long to realise that there was no chance of seeing the birth of 'Maya Yoshida, the regular Southampton full-back.'"
"Small variations could be fried eggs or a pot of yoghurt."
"For someone living in Japan, both the Netherlands and Germany are faraway foreign countries. But once you're in Europe you can travel back and forth between these two adjoining nations very easily."
"I shall proudly call it the strength of an 'old bloke's face.'"
"I said 'That'll do for now,' and got the key for the car Honda-san was using before his transfer to CSKA Moscow. It was an Audi A3. Once inside I had a quick look around, and found the rear seats were covered with dog hairs from his beloved shiba inu. It was more like an Audi K9 (canine). Honda-san, honestly!"
Towards the middle, however, once established in the Netherlands, his move to Southampton focuses more on the difficulties he had in struggling to find a place in the starting eleven and realise his Premier League dream; becoming less self-help and looking more at the difficulties for a young player coming to Europe alone from Asia and adjusting to a new life. Southampton's successes seeing many of his teammates get head-hunted, as well as the large number of different managers he has had to work with and impress.
Now one of Southampton's' longest-serving players and sometimes captain, there is perhaps some worth in this book for Saints fans, as well as some insight into the difficulties for Asian players coming to Europe and the Premier League (they can't all win it in their first season like Kagawa and Okazaki). And though charming enough, perhaps "Unbeatable Mind" entertained me for some of the wrong reasons.
Days to read:12
Days per book: 14.8
King of the Bored Frontier (K.S. Silkwood)
In 1997 I was probably touching myself inappropriately. No. Well, yes, but my brief former flatmate was an art student in those days...or was he? (He writes under a pseudonym).
The second published novel as part of a trilogy - this is the first that I have read (as I like to keep things in order) - this is a diary-like account of a Third Year art student in London. As the title suggests, coming post-Brit Pop, post-Damian Hurst and post-everything, our hero is a cynical third year, tired of art, tired of students and tired of just about anything...apart from Adidas, alcohol, sex and eye-liner. As part of his final project, a satire is planned, though in this bored state, is it genius or Jermaine Jenas?
The art aside, the journey along the final year of art college is the story. With alcohol consumption placed above actual study and practice, one can't help but replace the featured college bar with my own memories of Newcastle University's Men's Bar circa 2004, just without the art, the Adidas, the eye-liner and the possibility of kissing anyone. But then, I didn't go to art college.
Knowing the author, I can see much him in the lead (let's not call him 'hero' this time), though with an added sense of bravado (or not), but with a wit and charm that makes you want to get the next round in and relive the good ol' days, feeling as though you are there and have met (and lived with) characters like those involved.
But mainly, "The King of the Bored Frontier" did feature a quite simple line that for once actually did make me laugh out loud (spelt LOL) on a Tube. I'll leave it up to him to guess which one it was...
I hope I've misinterpreted things.
Days to read: 17
Days per book: 14.8
Parade (Shuichi Yoshida)
"Parade" is the ultimate in urban flatshares in that four flatmates soon become five; all of them knowing little of each other's lives outside of the flat, with some barely at home.
Each chapter is narrated by one of the five, with attention given to their relationship with the flatmate who will become the next narrator. Featured among the twenty-somethings and late teens are: a student who works in a Mexican restaurant; the unemployed girlfriend of a TV actor; a shop manager who illustrates and spends each night drunk; a male prostitute; and an employee for a film production company.
The failed or temporary nature of the relationships they all form tell the story of modern living in a capital city, namely Tokyo, as well as their knowing little about the lives of the people they share a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen and lounge with; or choosing to turn a blind eye, as evidenced by the out-of-the-blue revelation coming at the book's conclusion. Careers and homes are fallen into, with lives occurring while other plans are in the initial stages.
The second best book written by a Yoshida I've read this past couple of months, "Parade" is a nice, steady read which shows a little of the life that everyone living in a capital city has probably experienced.
Days to read: 13
Days per book: 14.8
A Personal Matter (Kenzaburo Oe)
Kenzaburo Oe's "A Personal Matter" is exactly that: Coming a year after the birth of his autistic son (who grew to become composer Hikari Oe), it tells the somewhat shocking reaction of teacher "Bird" after his son is born with a deformity in his brain and the days following the birth.
The mother kept in the dark, Bird is left to be the sole decision maker as to how the child is managed. Initially, he follows suggestions to replace milk with sugar water; before rejecting surgery to try and save the baby, opting instead to take the child to a less reputable abortionist. All this is done alongside getting blind drunk and vomiting in front of one of his classes and having repeated sexual liaisons with a former college girlfriend. And this is just the first couple of days of being a father.
Bird's immediate reaction is to runaway. His dreams of Africa and a more active sex life immediately come to the fore as he tries to escape the reality of what is happening and take responsibility. This is probably very much a male reaction when placed in a position of having to make a decision on the life of their newborn, and probably reflects more than some of the thoughts that went through Oe's mind on his son's birth.
This is a tragicomedy: the initial reaction of the doctors involved one almost of delight at having such a rare case happen on their patch; as well as Bird's father-in-law offering him what he knows is a poisonous bottle of whiskey given his past, resulting in the aforementioned lesson plan. Though Oe still manages to weave in some social comment as to post-war Japanese society.
Bird's reactions are an exaggeration, but "A Personal Matter" is perhaps more refreshing than shocking for its honesty, humour and reflection of its age.
Days to read: 11
Days per book: 14.8