Book Review – Netsuke by Rikki Ducornet (2011)

NetsukeMy Rating: 4 of 5   ||   My Review on Goodreads   ||   More About The Book   ||   Author’s Website

In the family of exhilaration, stupor is a vulpine breed. One can often find it lying sulking behind the pure aura of dream, its distant and more heralded cousin. But make no mistake, Sir; its sulking is its unusual way of bulking up its body, flexing its muscles, gritting its teeth and augmenting its personality, all to handover that singular fatal blow which sends dream and its fragments, many fathoms down the irretrievable pit of life. Should you not be a nimble-footed and quicksilver witty, losing your handful of possessions (dreams included) would be your only alternative.

And here we have, a psychoanalyst, under the hypnotic spell of not just stupor, but an erotic one at that! If pressed to unravel the plot, my review may not last more than a sentence: a married couple, a psychoanalyst and his artist wife, Akiko, living through a rough patch in their relationship, which is further endangered by the wayward attitude of the husband, gathering sexual partners with the urgency of gathering shells on the beach before the sunset. But the beauty of this work lies not in what the couple is doing but why the couple is doing what they are doing.

Ducornet is unabashed in her portrayal of the husband, disbanding him to tell his guilt as a first person account. Should that mean he mellows and gives dignity to his actions? He doesn’t. Because he feels compartmentalizing life between spouse and partners brings the essential prick of culpability, that tingling sensation of unexpected capture which fuels the Thanatos. It is not without reasons that the dangerous has a greater pull than sheltered since living is what we do every day, annihilation is a captivating aberration.

Akiko pointed out a series of anamorphoses and their cylindrical mirrors. Painted on paper, they were incomprehensible, an ugly spill of color. But when one looked at their reflections on the curved surfaces of the mirrors, they became fully visible. And they were erotic. Shamelessly so. They were beautiful and they were obscene. I am like these.”

The netsuke which epitomizes tenderness, beauty and utility, can also contract streaks of devilish germs if not placed in the proper menagerie under the right lighting. Although the collection of physical netsuke that Akiko presents her husband, stand helpless witness to his clandestine sessions of copulation, the metaphoric netsuke was none other than Akiko herself. Like the collection, she was beautiful and tender, glazed and precious; but like the collection, she was admired from afar, imprisoned in her body and traded for better pieces. And in her mute, equanimous stupor, she opened her palms and let slip the jewels that were holding her dazzle among all other netsuke.

I often wondered how it feels to defend a miscreant. Knowing he has committed a wrong and still choosing to defend him requires courage or indifference? Perhaps both. Perhaps because deciding who the miscreant is mandates a far stronger armory than that of testaments and evidences. And perhaps sometimes, the defendant turns offender with the surreptitious carving of undesired lines that smudge the distinction between impulse and restraint, shoveling vanilla minds to a prolonged stupor of duplicitous identities.

The penultimate second I saw, Akiko and her husband were burning in the conflagration of retrospection and stealing a side glance at each other in the search of a guilty wrinkle. The last second I saw, the netsuke had turned dark in their reflection.

Netsuke

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