by David G. Lanoue
Red Moon Press, P.O. Box 2461, Winchester, Va. 22604
is a very clever novel about a guy who is writing a novel about
Japanese haiku poets. The novel darts back and forth between present
day and centuries ago, in a mystical, funny, stand-up comic Flaubert
way. The main character, Buck-Teeth, is a not so bright character
who is learning how to write haiku from a master, Cup-Of-Tea. So
far, Cup-Of-Tea's greatest haiku is the famous "Little snail/inch
by inch/climb Mt. Fuji!" Buck-Teeth writes okay haikus but Cup-Of-Tea
never comments on them, he just looks disdainfully at Buck-Teeth.
One of Buck-Teeth's less innocuous haiku is "In the dead cat's eyes/harvest/moons".
A Lord Kaga enters the picture and also wants to learn how to write
haiku and is smitten with a woman. In the throws of love he writes
99 love haikus, all of which Cup-Of-Tea declines comment on. Finally,
tired, Lord Kaga musters up "The old fart/stacks the winter/kindling"
to which Cup-Of-Tea smiles and approves of! The humour here is witty
The novel is told in a colorfully
descriptive way and is a real page-turner. The author's friends
in his writing group visit the ancient time of the Japanese poets
to enjoy a festival and then come back in time to write the three
versions of the last chapter. It all works to clever comic effect.
Along the way we learn lessons in how to write and edit haiku, and
some Zen proverbs and life lessons. The author visits modern day
Japan to try to find where Cup-Of-Tea, Lord Kaga and Buck-Teeth
used to live, to no avail. I found myself transfixed by the tale
the author spun, how he wove together different time-frames.
This book works on many levels, first
as a comic novel, second as a haiku primer, and third as a historical
piece.The author breaks down the fourth wall in an amusing way and
tells us halfway through the novel how his dad read the first chapter
of this work in progress and says, "Why don't you write about Richard
Nixon? We can never have too many books about Nixon!" The author
seems to be familiar with many Japanese customs. Cup-Of-Tea, Buck-Teeth,
and three other students have a Forgetting-The-Year party on December
31st: "Buck-Teeth tried to follow Mido's advice, but did not go
out of his "right mind" the night of the Forgetting-the-Year Party.
After three cups of warm sake, irresistible waves of sleepiness
overcame him. By the time Mido leaned over the writing table to
refill the young poet's cup, Buck-Teeth was slumped forward head
cradled in his arms, deep in a delicious slumber. After so many
nights tossing and turning to the tiny comings and goings of the
mice, Buck-Teeth finally slept; would sleep all that night and much
of the next day.He would wake up late on New Year's afternoon and
rise a new man." Then a funny scene occurs when Cup-Of-Tea and his
other three students write a haiku in the snow with their pee, and
only one of them can complete the haiku because they run out of
fuel! I really dug Haiku Guy by David G. Lanoue and will
revisit it often.