Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Nagai Kafū, Noted Rake and Whoremonger

Avram Moskowitz, defense lawyer in Duluth, responds to the previous post from Dr. Nabil al-Tasnimi:
Dr. Nabil al-Tasnimi,

Nagai Kafū, noted rake and whoremonger . . . Not a very flattering epithet, I must say. But we can forgive Jonathan Crow; he’s a movie critic. Harder to forgive are the specialists who engage in such self-righteous moralizing.

Take for example the following from Kafū the Scribbler, Edward Seidensticker’s classic literary biography of Kafū. After a brief fling with an American prostitute named Edyth, the young Kafū is described as a “cold and unaffectionate person, [who is] quite prepared to enjoy Edyth and move on, in the name of art.” According to Seidensticker, his callousness only increases with time, and “one follows the long parade of women through his life—most of them, like Edyth, of doubtful reputation— feeling that they were more used than loved.”

“Love,” Seidensticker solemnly concludes, “is an element wanting in both Kafū’s life and his work” (20).

But what kind of love, exactly, did Seidensticker have in mind, because it seems to me that Kafū’s entire oeuvre can be read as a profound and ongoing meditation on the very nature of love and desire? My guess is that Seidensticker, like many Americans of his generation, remained somewhat captive to the old bourgeois notion of love— l'amour bourgeois— which regards eros as something separate. Kafū’s life and art brims with eros, but is dry of “real love,” these critics say. Kafū, I suspect, would have responded by arguing that the distinction between romantic and erotic love is only illusory, that they are in fact two faces of the same head.

But back to Crow’s phrase, “noted rake and whoremonger.” Certainly, there’s some truth to his statement: Kafū did spend much of his life mongering whores. But my problem isn’t with the statement’s veracity; it’s with the implied value judgment.

[I’m afraid I have a client waiting for me in the lobby; I’ll have to continue with this in my next letter.]

Avram Moskowitz, defense lawyer in Duluth


Anonymous said...

What are you talking about, "the old bourgeois notion of love?" You're going to have to be more specific.

-Ian Hogarth

Anonymous said...


Are you defending whoremongering?


Anonymous said...

Defense of whoremongering is inexcusable! Avram Moskowitz, defense lawyer in Duluth, I accuse thee of whoremongery!

-Sally Suzuki

Anonymous said...

I have no idea who I am but I might at times whoremonger.

-Josh Lander

Anonymous said...

Am I right to read this post, Ryan, as an roundabout defense of your way of life?

-Muhammad Idrees Ahmad

Ryan said...

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad,


Anonymous said...

Jonathan Crow was a law against the blacks in America.

Anonymous said...

I think that was Jiminy Crow.