Too Much of Nothing

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Too Much of Nothing
Author: Kyoichi Katayama
Specifications: ISBN  978-4093864381
192 pages
13.5 x 19.5 cm / 5.4 x 7.8 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Shogakukan Inc.
Tokyo, 2016
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Set in a regional city, the story centers on an average high-school boy, the first-person narrator, who plays guitar in a four-member band and is almost obsessively focused on figuring out how to express himself artistically. In this context he has learned from many different folk and rock musicians of the classic era, but more than anything else he is a Bob Dylan junkie. As it happens, a virulent and generally fatal disease of unknown origin and no known cure begins afflicting young males in their teens, and just when he is finally beginning to find his voice, our young protagonist falls ill and is forced to go into quarantine. Confined in his hospital room, he curses the older generations that are responsible for making the world the way it is. But it doesn’t seem cool to merely point the finger of blame, so he reflects on statements his hero Bob Dylan has made as well as on how he lived as he contemplates his own fate and the meaning of life and death. Being quarantined in a hospital apart from his ethically compromised elders, he regards Dylan, who at times has behaved in ways that offended morality, as giving him the courage to be negative. As long as he is thinking about Dylan, he is able to push his own illness and the inevitability of his impending demise out of mind. Soon, he and his bandmates, who have by now all followed him into quarantine at the same hospital, decide to put on a performance. Determined to go out with a bang, they crank the volume up and play their hearts out.

Punctuating the narrative is a mysterious man calling himself Joe Public, who makes periodic appearances to offer incisive remarks on contemporary society that act as an intriguing counterpoint to the main story line. The author who wrote of young love in the runaway bestseller Sekai no chūshin de, ai o sakebu (Socrates in Love) here offers a tale of young men coming of age and coming to terms with their imminent death at the same time, deprived of any chance to experience the normal joys and sorrows that life brings but nevertheless determined to live out their remaining days to the fullest.