Wasting one of the world’s highest literacy rates?

In case the original book wasn’t mindnumbingly simple enough for you, it seems that a manga version of Kanehara Hitomi’s Hebi ni Piasu has been released.

Hebi Manga

I know that this book received tons of attention in Japan when it, along with Wataya Risa’s Keritai Senaka was awarded the prestigious Akutagawa Prize in early 2004, but after reading it in Bungei Shunju that March, my initial impresison was (and for the most part still is): publicity stunt.

Reading this recent post over at Japundit hasn’t given me cause for greater optimism. I know we’re admonished not to judge a book by it’s cover, but when a 13 year old kid wins a national literary award for a work called Kono Misteri ga sugoi, it’s time to start asking questions about the national intelligence quotient.

I think it is a wonderful idea to encourage the budding literary talents of Japanese youth, but are you telling me that the best Japan has to offer is in the first grade? At least one person seems to think so. The post links to a Yomiuri story (Aptly titled “Teen writers steal spotlight / Veterans worried publishers putting businessbefore talent”) has Shinji Inagaki, chief editor of Shogakukan’s literature section saying this:

“Young people in their teens and 20s, who have been said to be aliterate, are actually quite adept at reading and writing text messages on their cell phone. Their desire for creativity is strong,” he said.

Text messaging = creative drive???!!!

Fortunately, not everyone in the entire Japanese population appears quite so deluded as suggested by the article’s mention of declining sales figures. Let’s hope this trend, like most others in Japan, is short lived.

One thought on “Wasting one of the world’s highest literacy rates?”

  1. Overall I enjoyed reading Hebe ni Piasu, although the enjoyment peaked fairly near the beginning and then gradually declined until the lousy end. Despite it’s flaws, I think it was a promising piece of work for someone who’s only 19. Still, I wouldn’t say it was worthy of the Akutagawa prize. Then again, looking at the list of previous winners, there’s only a couple on there that I know, and one of them is Ishihara Shintaro all the way back in 1955. I tried to read some of his fiction once and it didn’t exactly impress me, although I should try again someday.

    Incidentally, the official Akutagawa prize home page doesn’t have much to say-is this prize specifically for newly published authors? If that’s the specific intention, then Miss Kanehara may deserve a little more slack. On the other hand, I also see that there are several years in which only one prize was given, or no prize was given out at all, the former as recently as 1999 and the latter as late as 1986.

    I think what I’m basically getting down to, and keep in mind I’ve been awake far too long and should go to bed, is that there should be a clear distinction between prizes intended for established artists and rising stars, because when you get right down to it they just aren’t measuring the same thing.

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