So instead of talking about my reading this week, I'd really like to get your input on some ideas I've had for my blog. I hinted at some new content in my BBAW: Setting Goals post on Friday, and what I've been thinking of fits in with my earlier decision to have more of a Japanese focus on my blog.
But let me say right off the bat that I would never want to detract from Bellezza's wonderful Japanese Literature Challenge. She's a fantastic hostess and I hope she continues to host this challenge for many years to come. The ideas I've had would simply be optional extra events for those interested in perhaps going beyond the books.
The first idea I've been toying with is starting a kind of discussion group or event to talk about Japanese literature and culture. Inspired largely by Dewey's Weekly Geeks, and the Read-a-thon mini-challenges, I thought it might be fun to have a monthly(?) topic relating to Japanese literature and culture, with a fun task for you to do. Some possible topics/tasks could be: to go out for Japanese food, or make something at home and report back with photos or recipes, to watch a Japanese film and tell us about it, to read a manga, to make an origami crane, whatever really. Anyone who wanted to join in could write up a post on their own blog, and submit the link, or simply chat about it in the comments on the dedicated post here.
Or it could just be a central place to talk a little about what Japanese lit we've been reading that month. Or if anyone had a specific question about some aspect of Japan, we could use that as our starting point for a discussion, say, on cultural differences, or some seasonal custom, for example. I'm certainly no expert on Japan, and in some ways my experiences here have been somewhat limited, but I'd be happy to share more of what my life here has exposed me to, and for the rest we could hopefully learn more about this fascinating country together. It would also give you a chance to have a little taste of Japan no matter where you are. And there would be little prizes.
The second idea is ... well, first let me ask you this ... Have you ever read a Japanese literature novel and wondered about some of the customs described in the book? Or not completely understood something and wished you could talk about it with someone else? You know the Japanese are famous for their subtle, open-ended novels.
Mark David recently mentioned that it would be nice to start up some discussions on books that we've read in common for the Japanese Literature Challenge. I agree, and although there are already several online reading groups, I wonder if there would be interest in a very casual group that would read and discuss some Japanese literature books together. Maybe bi-monthly(?) and nothing too formal. Just a chance to meet in one place, as it were, to chat about a book, to ask any questions about cultural aspects that are unfamiliar, have a spoiler thread so we could talk about the ending if we wanted to, and so on. We could start out with books that a lot of people have already read, such as The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa, which already has several reviews over at the JLit Challenge review site, and perhaps graduate to some other books later on. Like for my Reading Japan Project, I'm open to reading books set in Japan by non-Japanese authors as well. I've been wanting to read The Love We Share Without Knowing by Christopher Barzak every since Nymeth's glowing review so that could be a choice too.
This book group style would work for shorter books but the other possibility is a kind of read-along. I recently found out that Matt of A Guy's Moleskine Notebook is already hosting a Tale of Genji Read-Along, which I regret missing out on, but maybe there are some other books that you would like to read together at a slower pace, and by reading them together encourage each other on. I know I keep putting off reading I Am a Cat by Natsume Soseki because I have the complete 3 volumes in 1 version and it's quite the chunkster, or I wouldn't mind re-reading The Pillow Book, or Haruki Murakami's The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, or any number of Japanese novels that might be more rewarding to read and discuss with others.
I also know that everyone is busy, and committing to read a specific book can be difficult to do so I was thinking that perhaps the occasional group reads could be interspersed with other themed reading, such as having a short story month where you choose the story you want to read, or to read any book by a certain author, or books set in a certain time period, or... well, you get the idea.
Along similar lines, Kristen M. at We Be Reading's Poe Fridays also made me wonder about possibly doing a regular Japanese short story feature, perhaps reading one story a week, or one every two weeks. Haruki Murakami has several short stories, for example. I wonder if reading one story a week might be too restricting though, or too slow of a pace; perhaps the straight-forward reading group method would be better?
So as you can see I haven't figured out the details yet, or even which of these ideas would work best, so that is where you come in. Please please let me know what you think, even if it's to say that you have no interest whatsoever. Don't hesitate to be honest because I'd rather know now if there's no point going forward with any of this. Or if one idea has more interest, I'd rather pursue that one. And if you have any other suggestions or ideas, I'd love to hear them. I'll still be reading, reviewing and highlighting Japanese literature here, along with my other reading, regardless if this gets off the ground or not. Plus, now that it's cooler and I actually feel like leaving the house sometimes, I plan to start posting more photos again with perhaps a regular 'Views of Japan' or 'Everyday Japan' feature, or something like that.
So, as the Japanese might say ikagadeska - what do you think? If you'd rather not get into it in the comments, please feel free to email me (inspringthedawn at gmail dot com).
I suppose you'd also like to know who is the lucky winner of a copy of Beyond the Blossoming Fields by Jun'ichi Watanabe, courtesy of Alma Books. Sorry for making you wade through the rest of this post to get here. Thanks to everyone who entered and tweeted. I enjoyed reading your answers to the question I posed about the fictional characters or real women that you admire. The answers ranged from family, to famous historical figures to beloved fictional characters, and if you're interested you can read everyone's replies in the comments section on the giveaway post. Well, I added up all the extra entries, and then with a little help of random.org, we have a winner. And the winner is ...
Eva of A Striped Armchair!I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did, Eva. Please let me know your mailing address so that I can pass it on to Alma Books, and then hopefully the book will be on its way to you very soon.
If you didn't win today, don't despair as Buy a Friend a Book Week is coming up in the first week of October, and you'll have another chance to choose a book then.
Also a reminder that you still have until Tuesday to enter my giveaway for two mysteries. Have a great week everyone, and don't forget to have your say on these ideas. Thanks!