I decided on Life for Sale after a difficult search for Sword and Steel (print copies for the low low price of about 240$), the arbitrary decisions over what gets to be in print or not drives me insane. What is the point of being a (failing) imperialist superpower if I can’t get the books I want in my native tongue? That is a problem for some other time.
But it was quarantine, and my world had become smaller and smaller to the point where I no longer knew what day, what time, it was, and instead of this being depressing or oppressive, it was unbelievably freeing and dream-like. Finally, we were all living in a world where time meant nothing, and the world meant nothing, and, in this country, the world was teeming with mass death. My German Pessimist boyfriend P. Mainländer was celebrating with me in my empty room and stopped clock. I was barreling around the corner to annihilation. I figured this would not be a vein to stay in, considering that this state of affairs is literally unending in this country. I had heard mixed things about Sword and Steel, and it was becoming absurd to keep looking for it, so Life for Sale it was.
Opening with the shrillness everyone recognizes from failed suicide attempts, a young copyeditor Hanio Yamada decides to put his life literally up for sale. He has no wife, he has nothing keeping tethered to his small apartment in Tokyo, besides the expectation that he should be there, and his obvious failure at trying to end it all. A parade of strange, absurd, frightening and unbelievable things happen to him after he places his ad. What Life for Sale reminds me the most of, are the early episodes of Atlanta. The insidious, menacing undertone running through the scenes of the strange man giving Earn a Nutella sandwich, the fungibility of money and its purposes, and weight given to no-places; a parking lot, a bus stop. Hanio finds himself dealing with one thing after another — poisoned carrots, international crime syndicates, jealous lovers, vampires, and so many other absurd — but real — situations.
I had strange dreams reading Life for Sale. Of all the Mishima I’ve read to date, it’s the only one that could be considered even sort of funny, and it’s horniness has none of Mishima’s notorious men writing women. I recommended this book to a friend several days ago, and then today, a different friend told me he had COVID-19. I try not to be shocked by these things anymore. After the ceaseless death march of COVID in my life in April, I was no longer holding onto any dumb ideas about the disease like “young people don’t get it” and all that other shit. Young people die of shit all the time. A trend Mishima wholeheartedly agreed with — that violent, catastrophic, impossible deaths are the highest victory one could manage.
My friend will most likely be fine. His symptoms are mild, and he’s made of hearty Fort Wayne, Indiana stock. After making arrangements to speak on the phone, I asked if he liked Yukio Mishima. T loves Francis Bacon to death, and I thought that these two interests would fit together perfectly, and T always seemed to be so aggressively straight that I wouldn’t be surprised if all of his friends were in fact gay men who were in love with him. T’s little artist army. He replied of course he did, he had a framed poster of him in his room, he had the soundtrack to the Schrader film, but had never read any of his books.
So, instead of this entry being about routine, and the salaryman, it’s more hopeful that the surrealism, and horror, and unreality of Life for Sale can comfort my friend T, and me for that matter.
Purchase Life for Sale here.