There is no doubt in my mind that A Personal Matter is a skilfully executed piece of literature. And I hated reading it. The main character, Bird, is a 27 year old who dreams of going to Africa. When his son is born with a brain hernia, he is faced with deciding between surgery for his son (which may or may not allow him to develop normally) and preventing the surgery and allowing the baby to die.
Maybe it's because I'm a young father myself, but the very idea that Bird would even consider allowing his baby to die disgusted me. Reading this book was a disturbing, and unpleasant experience. At the same, the mere fact that Oe was able to illicit these feelings in me as strongly as he has shows that he is good at what he does. Unfortunately, what he did here is create a character so selfish and depraved that I actively hated him while reading.
With all that said, this brings up an interesting question: do I recommend a book that I hated reading, one full of characters I found offensive and deplorable if it was all intentional? How do you handle situations like this? Do you still recommend the book even though you hated it in terms of content, because it's an example of good writing? Or do you choose from myriad other books that are contain good writing, but are not despicable? I would certainly never recommend this book outright, but I have to admit, if you want something that deals with difficult problems in a vicious manner this book is perfect for you.
"But it seems that reality compels you to live properly when you live in the real world" (164).