Wednesday, July 28, 2010

'Shyness & Dignity' by Dag Solstad

Fiction, 1994 (English translation, 2006)
Translated from the Norwegian by Sverre Lyngstad
Shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, 2007
Graywolf Press, trade pb, 150 p.
ISBN: 9781555974466
From the back cover:
Elias Rukla begins yet another day under the leaden Oslo sky. At the high school where he teaches, a novel insight into Ibsen’s The Wild Duck grips him with a passion so intense that he barely notices the disinterest of his students. After the lesson, when a broken umbrella provokes an unpredictable rage, he barely notices the students’ intense curiosity. He soon realizes, however, that this day will be the decisive day of his life.

Dag Solstad, praised in Norway as one of the most innovative novelists of his generation, offers an intricate and richly drawn portrait of a man who feels irrevocably alienated from contemporary culture, politics, and, ultimately, humanity.

Monday, July 26, 2010

JLit Book Group Discussion: 'Battle Royale' by Koushun Takami

Welcome to the Japanese Literature Book Group Discussion of Battle Royale, the novel, by Koushun Takami.

About the Author*

Koushun Takami was born in 1969 in Amagasaki near Osaka and grew up in Kagawa Prefecture of Shikoku, where he currently resides. After graduating from Osaka University with a degree in literature, he dropped out of Nihon University's liberal arts correspondence-course program. From 1991 to 1996 he worked for the prefectural news company Shikoku Shinbun, reporting on various fields, including politics, police reports, and economics. Although he has an English teaching certificate, he has yet to visit the United States. Mr. Takami is currently working on his second novel.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

'Pillow Book' Friday: Week Fifteen (Things that prove disillusioning, and Elegantly intriguing things)

Pillow BookThis week we're looking at entries 181 to 200 in the McKinney translation of The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon.  As always, I've included the corresponding entry numbers in the Morris version too though, when possible, for anyone reading along with that version.  For more information on the different translations, please visit the 'Pillow Book' Friday page. Don't hesitate to jump in anytime, whether you've read along from the start, or not.  Or if you're not reading along because you've read the book previously. It's the kind of book that can easily be dipped into here and there, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on Sei's rants and musings.

Week Fifteen
McKinney: Entries 181 - 200 (p. 176 - 185)
Morris: Entries 118 - 119 (p. 193 - 194), 172 (p. 254), 177 - 180 (p. 257 - 259)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Cat + Haiku = Catku

My day: first a nap
Then a leisurely dinner
Followed by sleeping

Sunday, July 18, 2010

'Bad Marie' by Marcy Dermansky

Fiction, 2010
Harper Perennial, trade pb, 212 p.
From the publisher:
Bad Marie is the story of Marie, tall, voluptuous, beautiful, thirty years old, and fresh from six years in prison for being an accessory to murder and armed robbery. The only job Marie can get on the outside is as a nanny for her childhood friend Ellen Kendall, an upwardly mobile Manhattan executive whose mother employed Marie's mother as a housekeeper. After Marie moves in with Ellen, Ellen's angelic baby Caitlin, and Ellen's husband, a very attractive French novelist named Benoit Doniel, things get complicated, and almost before she knows what she's doing, Marie has absconded to Paris with both Caitlin and Benoit Doniel. On the run and out of her depth, Marie will travel to distant shores and experience the highs and lows of foreign culture, lawless living, and motherhood as she figures out how to be an adult; how deeply she can love; and what it truly means to be "bad".
So, a couple of weeks ago, on a Friday, two books arrived in the post, Bad Marie being one of them. I thought I’d just read the first page to get a feeling for it before I put it on my stack to read later this summer. Well, the first page soon led to the first chapter, and before I knew it I’d read through almost half of the book. I’m pretty sure that if I hadn’t needed to sleep, and go out for a while on Saturday, I probably would’ve just stayed up and read it all in one sitting. As it was, as soon as I had a chance I polished it off on Saturday afternoon. Simply put, I devoured this book. Sure, it is a slim novel at just over 200 pages of reasonably big print, but I just couldn’t put it down.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

'The Makioka Sisters' Book One - Discussion (JLit Read-along)


Welcome to the Japanese Literature Read-along discussion of Book One of The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki. In the Vintage paperback, Book One takes us from the beginning up to page 150. 

About the author
Junichiro TanizakiJunichiro Tanizaki was born in Tokyo in 1886. He began his literary career in 1909, which was followed by the publication of several stories, and a brief career in Japanese silent cinema. His reputation grew when he moved to Kyoto after the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923. Most of his well-known books, at least in the West, came from this time. He was awarded the Order of Culture by the Japanese government in 1949 and in 1964 was elected to honorary membership in the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, the first Japanese writer to be so honoured.  He is considered "one of the major writers of modern Japanese literature, and perhaps the most popular Japanese novelist after Natsume Sōseki."  He died in 1965 at the age of 79.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"How reluctantly..."

pink peony

How reluctantly
the bee emerges from deep
within the peony

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Three stories by Nikolai Gogol

I've been meaning to read Gogol for ages and in fact, I've had this copy of his short stories sitting on my shelf unread for quite a few years now. So the Classics Circuit Imperial Russian Literature Tour was just the perfect nudge to finally take it off the shelf and dive in. I have to admit that I haven't read all the stories yet, so I hope you don't mind that today I'll just talk about three of them.

My knowledge of Russian literature and authors is almost non-existant. I've read a couple of the Russian masters; Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, and The Death of Ivan Ilyich, as well as Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment so many years ago that I barely remember it. That pretty much sums up my experience with Russian literature, so before starting to read any of these stories by Gogol, I went in expecting more of the same serious, dramatic writing that I'd read in these other works. If you're familiar with Gogol, you can imagine how delightfully wrong I was. Sure, there is still bleakness, and poverty, and death, and personal torment, and strict issues of class, but I also discovered, much to my delight, witches, and ghosts, and other fantastical creatures.

Friday, July 09, 2010

'Pillow Book' Friday: Week Fourteen (when Sei first went into court service, and the power of a sneeze)

Pillow BookThis week we're looking at entries 161 to 180 in the McKinney translation of The Pillow Book of Sei Shōnagon.  As always, I've included the corresponding entry numbers in the Morris version too though, when possible, for anyone reading along with that version.  For more information on the different translations, please visit the 'Pillow Book' Friday page. Don't hesitate to jump in anytime, whether you've read along from the start, or not.  Or if you're not reading along because you've read the book previously. It's the kind of book that can easily be dipped into here and there, and I'd love to hear your thoughts on Sei's rants and musings.

Week Fourteen
McKinney: Entries 161 - 180 (p. 163 - 176)
Morris: Entries 111 - 117 (p. 181 - 193), 171 (p. 253), 175 (p. 255)

Thursday, July 08, 2010

'Taroko Gorge' by Jacob Ritari

Fiction, 2010
Unbridled Books, eBook, 241 p.
From the publisher:
A disillusioned and raggedy American reporter and his drunken photojournalist partner are the last to see three Japanese schoolgirls who disappear into Taroko Gorge, Taiwan’s largest national park. The journalists—who are themselves suspects—investigate the disappearance along with the girls’ homeroom teacher, their bickering classmates, and a seasoned and wary Taiwanese detective. The conflicts between them—complicated by the outrageousness of the photographer and the raging hormones of the young—raise questions of personal responsibility, truthfulness, and guarded self-interest.
The world and its dangers—both natural and interpersonal—are real, changing, and violently pressing. And the emotions that churn in dark rooms overnight as the players gather in the park visitors’ center are as intense as in any closet drama. There’s enough action and furor here to keep readers turning the pages, and the cultural revelations of the story suggest that the human need for mystery outweighs the desire for answers.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2010

As you probably know Book Blogger Appreciation Week is coming up in September. It's basically a week-long, online party to celebrate book bloggers and the book blogging community. Registration ends tomorrow and I've kind of left it to the last minute as I couldn't decide which way to go. I haven't been posting quite as frequently over the last while, so I debated whether to opt for my blog to be up for an award or not. However, I was incredibly thrilled to have In Spring it is the Dawn shortlisted for the Best Cultural Review Blog Award last year, and I like to think that you still look here for reviews and news of Japanese Literature and to chat about all things Japan. Plus I do hope to get back to a regular schedule over the summer. So, here are my five links for consideration for this year's category of Best Cultural Book Blog.

Monday, July 05, 2010

What I've been reading

I ended up under the weather last week, literally, both health-wise and weather-wise. But luckily it didn't keep me from reading. In fact, I simply devoured Taroko Gorge by Jacob Ritari last week. It's the first book I've read entirely on my new toy, the Sony Reader that we picked up when we were in New York. I started out reading it on the train but I just couldn't stop myself and had to keep reading it at home too every chance I got. A mystery but so much more. Another fabulous title from Unbridled Books! It'll be out this week and I hope to have my review up later this week as well.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Hello Japan! July mini-challenge: Haiku

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.
July's Topic

In June we focused on manga, a relatively modern art form, so for a change of pace, this month we're going to look at a different kind of art, the written art of haiku. From WikipediaHaiku (俳句) is a form of Japanese poetry, consisting of 17 moras (or on), in three phrases of 5, 7, and 5 moras respectively. Although haiku are often stated to have 17 syllables, this is inaccurate as syllables and moras are not the same. Haiku typically contain a kigo (seasonal reference), and a kireji (cutting word). In Japanese, haiku are traditionally printed in a single vertical line, while haiku in English usually appear in three lines, to parallel the three phrases of Japanese haiku. Previously called hokku, haiku was given its current name by the Japanese writer Masaoka Shiki at the end of the 19th century.

Hello Japan! mini-challenge: June round-up

Hello Japan!

Thank you to everyone who took part in the Hello Japan! mini-challenge last month. June's Hello Japan! task was to to read, or otherwise enjoy, manga. 

Novroz of Novroz' Favorite Things has been reading manga for 19 years(!) and tells us about some of her first manga discoveries. She also posted on manga-related cosplay, with pictures. And a Top 5 list of her favourite manga of all time.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

'Emma, vol. 9 & 10' by Kaoru Mori

The basic premise for this series is a love story, with a predictable outcome, but that ending is mentioned below. You've been warned!

Written and illustrated by Kaoru Mori
Translated and adapted by Sheldon Drzka
Fiction/manga, CMX, 206 p.
Originally published in 2007; English translation 2009
Emma series, volume 9 (of 10)
Meet the Merediths and experience William and Hakim’s first encounter!
Catch a glimpse into the lives of the Merediths – the German family that Emma worked for – and their other maids. Join youngest son Erich on a traumatic journey to find his lost pet squirrel. Learn how Mr. and Mrs. Meredith met and discover that despite their outward appearance, they are a very happy and passionate couple. And don’t miss a story that shows how the friendship between William and Hakim began! Finally, get ready to meet three new characters who are entangled in a love triangle.