Monday, March 29, 2010

'Dance Dance Dance' Discussion (JLit Book Group)


Welcome to the Japanese Literature Book Group discussion of Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami.

About the Book
Dance Dance Dance (ダンス・ダンス・ダンス, Dansu dansu dansu) is Haruki Murakami's sixth novel. It was first published in Japan in 1988, and the English translation by Alfred Birnbaum was released in 1994. The book is a sequel, of sorts, to Murakami's novel A Wild Sheep Chase. In 2001, Murakami said that writing Dance Dance Dance had been a healing act after his unexpected fame following the publication of Norwegian Wood and that, because of this, he had enjoyed writing Dance more than any other novel. [Information courtesy of Wikipedia]

Dance Dance Dance
In this propulsive novel, one of the most brilliant writers at work in any language fuses science fiction, the hard-boiled thriller, and white-hot satire into a new element of the literary periodic table. As he searches for a mysteriously vanished girlfriend, Murakami's protagonist plunges into a wind tunnel of sexual violence and metaphysical dread in which he collides with call girls; plays chaperone to a lovely teenaged psychic; and receives cryptic instructions from a shabby but oracular Sheep Man. Dance Dance Dance is a tense, poignant, and often hilarious ride through the cultural mosaic that is Japan, a place where everything that is not up for sale is up for grabs. [Blurb courtesy of Random House]

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sunday Salon: Sign me up! (or, Reading Challenges I can't resist)

Sometimes I wonder if I'm not actually living in an alternate world where time passes faster. Or maybe I've just been reading too much Murakami this month. Either way, I hadn't intended to take a blogging break last week, but events, and life transpired against me. However, even though I wasn't blogging, I was still reading. I caught up on some other reading I was behind on, and finished Dance Dance Dance this weekend, ready for the Japanese Literature Book Group discussion tomorrow, and overall, 'Murakami March' has been an interesting experience. Other than reading all the Harry Potter books the year the last one came out, I don't think I've read 5 books by the same author back to back before. I'm looking forward to getting back to The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, Book Two of which we'll be discussing on April 15th, but I'm going to take a little break to fit in a couple other books first. So now I'm reading Admit One: My Life in Film by Emmett James. It's definitely an appreciated change of pace from Murakami. Speaking of Murakami though, just a reminder that if you've read, or done some other Murakami-related activity this month, you have until the 31st to add your link to, or comment on, the Hello Japan! March mini-challenge post to be eligible for one of the prizes.

Friday, March 26, 2010

'Pillow Book' Friday: Week Six (the morning after)

The Pillow Book/makura no soshiThis week we're looking at entries 51 to 60 of The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon, as presented in the McKinney version.  However, as always I've included the corresponding numbers in the Morris translation too, when possible, for those of you reading along with that version.  For more information on the different translations, please visit the 'Pillow Book' Friday page. 

Week Six
McKinney:  Entries 51 - 60 (p. 53 to 56)
Morris:  Entries 36 - 41 (p. 76 to 79)

[51] Page boys - To be properly impressive and delightful, a page boy should be small, and have very neat hair, with a slight glint to it, and a crisp hairline. He should have a pretty voice, and speak decorously and politely.

[52] Ox handlers - An ox handler should be big and well-built and clever-looking, with rather wild hair and a red face.

Friday, March 19, 2010

'Pillow Book' Friday: Week Five (Unsuitable things, playful flirting, and cats with white fur)

The Pillow BookIt's the fifth week of our read-along of The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon, so this week we're looking at entries 41 to 50, as presented in the McKinney version.  However, as always I've included the corresponding numbers in the Morris translation too, when possible, for those of you reading along with that version.  For more information on the different translations, please visit the 'Pillow Book' Friday page. 

Week Five:
McKinney:  Entries 41 - 50 (p. 47 to 52)
Morris:  Entries 31 - 35 (p. 70 to 75)

[41] In the seventh month when the wind blows hard and the rain is beating down, and your fan lies forgotten because of the sudden coolness in the air, it's delightful to take a midday nap snuggled up under a lightly padded kimono that gives off a faint whiff of perspiration.
Morris (31): In the Seventh Month, when there are fierce winds and heavy showers...

[42] Unsuitable things
Morris (32): Unsuitable things

[43] A lot of us are gathered in the Long Room, indulging in some rather rowdy chatter, when a fine-looking young fellow or a servant lad to the Palace Guard Captains comes by, carrying a handsome bundle or sack of clothes...
Morris (33): I was standing in a corridor of the palace with several other women when we noticed some servants passing.  We summoned them to us (in what I admit was a rather unladylike fashion) and they turned out to be a group of handsome male attendants and pages carrying attractively wrapped bundles and bags.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

'In the Wake of the Boatman'

by Jonathon Scott Fuqua
Fiction, 2008
Bancroft Press, hardback, 305 p.
From the front flap:
Puttnam Douglas Steward isn’t having an identity crisis – he is one. To his father Carl, he’s a disappointment, and has been since the day he came home from the hospital. To his mother, he’s “Mama’s Boy,” and will forever be nothing less and nothing more.

The Army thinks he’s a hero, having single-handedly saved his troops from an ambush when they stumble upon a major, unknown supply line in Vietnam, then exposing a major Soviet espionage ring in the U.S.

Only Milton, Putt’s college friend turned environmental activist, and Putt’s sister Mary see that something is deeply confused about Puttnam Steward. Yet neither of them knows that the only time Putt ever truly feels happy is when he wears a woman’s clothes and becomes, for a brief, fleeting moment, someone else. And they don’t know how much that disgusts him.
I actually read this back in December and shame on me for getting so behind on my reviews, even with whatever was going in real life at the time. Normally, having read the book so long ago I would expect the story to have already faded from memory. However, in this case, the characters, and several scenes from the book have still stayed with me, which I think says a lot.

Monday, March 15, 2010

'The Wind-up Bird Chronicle' Discussion - Book One (JLit Read-along)

Japanese Literature Read-along

Welcome to the discussion of Book One, the first part of our 3-month read-along, of Haruki Murakami's The Wind-up Bird Chronicle. Book One: The Thieving Magpie (June and July 1984) takes us to page 172 in the Vintage paperback, both the US and UK editions. For more information on the book editions, and schedule, please visit the Japanese Literature Read-along page.

About the Book
The Wind-up Bird ChronicleThe Wind-up Bird Chronicle (ねじまき鳥クロニクル, Nejimaki-dori Kuronikuru) is Haruki Murakami's eighth novel. It was first published in Japan in 3 volumes, which constitute Books One to Three, in 1994-5. It was translated from the Japanese by Jay Rubin, and published in English in 1997. It received the Yomiuri Prize for Literature in 1995, and was a finalist for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in 1999.
From the back cover:
Japan's most highly regarded novelist now vaults into the first ranks of international fiction writers with this heroically imaginative novel, which is at once a detective story, an account of a disintegrating marriage, and an excavation of the buried secrets of World War II.

In a Tokyo suburb a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife's missing cat. Soon he finds himself looking for his wife as well in a netherworld that lies beneath the placid surface of Tokyo. As these searches intersect, Okada encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists: a psychic prostitute; a malevolent yet mediagenic politician; a cheerfully morbid sixteen-year-old-girl; and an aging war veteran who has been permanently changed by the hideous things he witnessed during Japan's forgotten campaign in Manchuria.

Friday, March 12, 2010

'Pillow Book' Friday: Week Four (and a 1000-year-old tree)

The Pillow BookIt's Week Four of our read-along of The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon, and this week we're looking at entries 31 to 40. Just a reminder that for the numbered entries, we're following the McKinney translation, but as always I've included the corresponding numbers in the Morris translation, when possible, for those of you reading along with that version.  For more information on the different translations, please visit the 'Pillow Book' Friday page. 

Week Four
McKinney:  Entries 31 - 40 (p. 33 to 47)
Morris:  Entries 22 - 30 (p. 55 to 70)

[31]  While I was visiting Bodai Temple to hear the Salvation Lotus Discourses, I received a message...
Morris (22):  When I visited Bodai Temple to hear the Eight Lessons for Confirmation, I received this message from a friend...

[32]  The place known as Koshirakawa is the home of the Koichijo Commander...
Morris (23):   Smaller Shirakawa is the residence of His Excellency, the Major Captain of the Smaller Palace of the First Ward.

[33]  In the seventh month, when the heat is dreadful, everything in the building is kept open all through the night, and it's delightful to wake on moonlit nights and lie there looking out. Dark nights too are delightful, and as for the sight of the moon at dawn, words cannot describe the loveliness.
Morris (24):   It is so stifingly hot in the Seventh Month that even at night one keeps all the doors and lattices open.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

'A Wild Sheep Chase' Discussion (JLit Book Group)

Welcome to the Japanese Literature Book Group discussion of A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami.

About the author

Haruki MurakamiHaruki Murakami was born in Kyoto, Japan, in 1949. He grew up in Kobe and graduated from Waseda University in Tokyo. He is the author of several novels, including The Wind-up Bird ChronicleThe Wind-up Bird Chronicle, and Kafka on the Shore, some non-fiction, numerous short stories and essays. He has received many literary awards both in Japan and internationally, and his work has been translated into about forty languages. Murakami has also translated several works by American authors into Japanese, including F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Carver, Raymond Chandler and others.
[Information taken from the Random House Murakami site]

For a more detailed biography, check out the following links:
Murakami: Titan of postwar literature (The Japan Times)
Marathon Man (The Guardian)
Jazz Messenger (The New York Times)

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

a new look

It may have looked like I was unplugged from the internet these last few days, but even though I didn't respond to any comments, or write up any posts, or open up Google Reader, or log on to Twitter, I was busy behind the scenes working on my new template any spare minute I had. I'm sure I'll still be tweaking things here and there, and there are other little things I still want to tidy up, or re-organise, but I wanted to share it with you. And well, at last, here it is!

new template

Friday, March 05, 2010

'Pillow Book' Friday: Week Three

The Pillow BookThis week, after a slow start last month, we resume our leisurely read-along of The Pillowbook of Sei Shōnagon.  But even if you haven't started yet, we are only a few pages in, plus it's the type of book you can just dip into here and there, so feel free to join in any time. Also just a reminder that for the numbered entries, we're following the McKinney translation, but I'll include the corresponding numbers in the Morris translation when possible.  For more information on the different translations, please visit the 'Pillow Book' Friday page.  So it's Week Three, and we're looking at entries 21 to 30.

[21]  Women without prospect, who lead dull earnest lives and rejoice in their petty little pseudo-pleasures, I find quite depressing and despicable.
Morris (12): When I make myself imagine what it is like to be one of those women who live at home, faithfully serving their husbands - women who have not a single exciting prospect in life yet who believe that they are perfectly happy - I am filled with scorn.  (p. 39)

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Hello Japan! March mini-challenge: A Month of Murakami

Hello Japan!
Hello Japan! is a monthly mini-challenge focusing on Japanese literature and culture. Each month there will be a new task which relates to some aspect of life in Japan. Anyone is welcome to join in any time. You can post about the task on your blog. Or if you don't have a blog, you can leave a comment on the Hello Japan! post for the month. Everyone who completes the task will then be included in the drawing for that month's prize. For more information, just click on the Hello Japan! button above, or if you have any questions please feel free to email me at inspringthedawn AT gmail DOT com.
March's Topic

March is all about Murakami, Haruki* Murakami that is.  This month for the Japanese Literature Book Group we'll be reading two of his earlier books, A Wild Sheep Chase, that we'll begin discussing on March 10th, and Dance Dance Dance that we'll begin discussing on March 29th. As well, we'll be starting a new read-along book this month, and you guessed it, it's by Murakami as well. On March 15th we'll discuss Book One of The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, with Book Two and Book Three following on April and May 15th respectively. So since it was shaping up to be a month of Murakami, I thought we might as well go across the board to include the Hello Japan! mini-challenge too.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Hello Japan! mini-challenge: February round-up

Hello Japan!

February's mini-challenge was to appreciate Japanese film, which you did, featuring a variety of different genres.

Teresa's submission:
My son owns the DVD of "Linda Linda Linda" and had been wanting me to watch it, so this was a perfect month for me to do so. It's a funny, sweet movie about 3 high school girls who need to find a singer for their band in order to perform in the school's festival, which is happening in 3 days! In a quirky teenage way, they recruit a Korean exchange student who doesn't know much Japanese to learn the 3 songs by The Blue Hearts that they've chosen to play. The movie is strong on characterization (not so much on plot, which is fine with me) and is true-to-life to the way teenagers live, work, play and have friendships. I liked it a lot.

Sakura of chasing bawa watched the movie Goemon.
Although I felt the film could have been a little shorter, I’m just nit-picking because I enjoyed it tremendously and urge you to watch Goemon if you can, especially if, like me, you happen to like alternative historical fantasies. Although fleshed out with various legends, Kiriya’s film is based on actual events in Japanese history. Just in a way you’ve never seen before.

Kristen M. of We Be Reading had a Studio Ghibli movie-watching marathon!
Though time-consuming, this has been a wonderful project and I really appreciate Studio Ghibli more now that I have watched all of these films together. I don't love them all and, in fact, there are some that I probably won't ever watch again, but they all have value for one reason or another. And it was a different experience to watch some of our favorites and really focus on the fact that they are Japanese films.