Before I proceed, I must firstly make a confession here. Prior to my attending the World Horror Convention in San Francisco in ’06, I did not know the name. Oh, I was familiar enough with The Ring from all the hoopla generated from its American theatrical and subsequent video release, and at the time it was all the rage. I never saw it at that point, am not certain if its sequel had yet emerged at that time. At that convention, I was prowling about the
dealer's tables, and I came across a young Japanese lady sitting alone at a table displaying several stacks of the same unattractive-looking books she was literally giving away. I say unattractive, from the point of view of a guy with an eye for something offbeat and twisted and appealing to me, cool covers depicting creatures or zombies or a maniac holding a severed head, and not, rather, a skyscraper photograph below an Arizona mountaintop photograph.
But that’s just me.
Aside from that, it was a historical love story and not my typical reading material of choice, or so I assumed, at least not something that would in itself attract me into buying it at a local book store.
The lady was most gracious, and I was nonetheless grateful, adding it to my collection of books I would soon afterwards read and review.
Throughout the course of the convention, I found myself spending time with Koji, first accidentally spilling my drink all over his shoes and making an ass of myself, then for the longest time conversing and laughing with him and his interpreter over a few drinks at my table on the balcony of a publisher’s private party. He was mild-mannered, cordial, remarkably intelligent and possessed about him a rare wit.
The man truly impressed me, and I’ll never forget that time with him. It goes without saying but I’ll say it anyway…..if you’re going to be introduced to an exciting author you’ve never previously heard of before though has been accomplished enough as to produce a pop culture horror sensation, that’s the way to do it.
Almost immediately upon returning home from the convention I set out to purchase Ringu on DVD (and not yet the Americanized The Ring, since I prefer to see the original foreign production before any Hollywood remake), and put Paradise on my reading schedule.
Ringu, the literary masterpiece itself (which I’m reading any day now) has been highly regarded as Mr. Suzuki’s first novel, but not so. It’s this one. The tale reads like an epic though has an easy 200 or so pages to it, and is divided into three parts, each linking together with the other, each taking place in historical periods hundreds of years apart from the other, progressively. Over this vast timescape, two souls long to be with one another, only to find loss and separation even after death. Firstly belonging to a prehistoric Mongolian tribe, the man sets out to achieve his manhood by hunting a legendary red deer. When he succeeds, the deer becomes his strength, and he becomes not only able to wed the woman he loves and be a father to their son, but is on his way to becoming chief of the tribe.
That is, until terrible things happen which shake their world.
The two meet again on an uncharted island centuries later, the man washed ashore from the aftermath of his sea ship going under in a storm only to be taken in by the peaceful inhabitants of the island paradise he’s inadvertently discovered, and by an exotic maiden who leads him into a cave where someone long ago had inscribed the image of a magical red deer.
Not long afterwards, terrible things happen which shake their world.
The final act takes place in modern times, set first in New York and then the vast Arizona desert, where the man is a successful composer of symphonies that wears the images of a red deer around his neck for good luck, who crosses paths with a woman journalist frustrated with her life and who has longed for true love for so very long……
I’m so grateful for having this book handed to me despite my initial disinterest. It read like a masterpiece, was a breath of fresh air and reminded me of all of those important masterworks I grew up reading in school for good grades and book reports. You know the same ones. Steinbeck, Ken Kesey, Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Hemmingway, Twain, London. Stuff I wouldn’t likely have ordinarily read unless I had to under those circumstances, classic works which actually ended up inspiring me and enhancing my life and my love for literature. Paradise reminded me of this love, and of the fact that even now I should broaden my reading horizons. It was thrilling, overflowing with emotion and poetic genius, the sort of book you find yourself reminiscing over in your mind weeks after you put it down. This book should be required reading at any high school or college here in America, and I say this, with the urgency to actually start a campaign.
I think, just like me, if more readers who otherwise wouldn’t be drawn to it were exposed to its pages, Suzuki would be well on his way to achieving the sort of status that all great names in world literature share.