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Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Writer's Life 3/25 - Spirituality

Japan's Suicide Forest or Sea of Trees (Aokigahara) is on the northwestern flank of Mount Fuji. It is said to be haunted by ghosts, and is a place where many have taken their lives. The rate has led officials to place a sign at the forest's entry, written in Japanese, urging the suicidal to seek help. As a further deterrent, the numbers are no longer released to the media. Last night, courtesy of Netflix, I watched a film set largely in that area. The Sea of Trees (2015) stars Matthew McConaughey as a professor of science who has suffered a tragedy that has leveled him. In the forest he encounters a Japanese native, played by Ken Watanabe, despondent about business failure but who has decided he wants to live. The American tries to help him find his way out and eventually regains his will to live during a grueling battle for survival. Throughout, there are flashbacks of the American's recent past. The wife is played by Naomi Watts. The acting is first-rate, as is the cinematography. The film was not shot in the far east but in the Purgatory Chasm in Massachusetts, which is fitting, as at one point Watanabe's character suggests they are in Purgatory. As they chat, McConaughey's character says: "God is more our creation than we are his." He believes science can explain anything. His companion is given to spirituality. It's an interesting conflict, but I doubt anyone's opinion on these matter will change after viewing the film. I admire the sincerity but remain unconvinced regarding the matter, although I am by no means one who believes science has all the answers. Gus Van Sant was at the helm. He is a Hollywood stalwart, amassing 36 credits as a director, 25 as producer, 13 as writer, ten as actor, eight as editor. Other notable works of his are Drugstore Cowboy (1989), To Die For (1995), and Good Will Hunting (1997). Chris Sparling did the screenplay. He also wrote another flick I admire, Buried (2010). 6000+ users at IMDb have rated The Sea of Trees, forging to a consensus of 5.9 of ten. Several cite the slow pace. The tone is low key. The impatient should pass. It would appeal most to those given to spirituality. Is it new age gobbledygook or profound allegory? I lean toward the former, but I respect a work that delves into such matters and offers something different than the usual big screen fare. Here's a pic I found at It was among others of Aokigahara, so I assume it is the sign beseeching potential suicides to seek help. I hope this isn't another case of "You know what happens when you assume?"

Kudos to House conservatives for not allowing themselves to be pressured into voting for the health care proposal. There's no sense replacing a horrendous law with a bad bill. Yes, it's a setback for the president, but so what? Any new proposal that doesn't allow people to cross state lines to buy insurance should be a non-starter - and that's only one sticking point.

My thanks to the gentleman who bought a book in Russian that had an eagle on the cover, to Jack of Chase, who swapped ten books for Irving Wallace's The Seven Minutes; to Monsey, who purchased two self-help books; and to the woman who bought The Island of Doctor Moreau by H.G. Wells, Japan's Imperial Conspiracy by David Bergamini, a thick tome I thought might never sell, and Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose in Russian. I also thank the kind folks who bought books yesterday evening. I was so bummed by the zero return of the afternoon's session that I returned. I might not have if my car hadn't been in the most favorable position. I hadn't been affected that negatively in a long time. It may have been attributable to the forecast of four straight days of showers. It sprinkled again today, and I packed up early, as it was annoying to constantly cover and uncover the wares.
Vic's Sixth novel: 
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