Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Tokyoites (Edokkotachi): City of Dreams, a short story by Jacob Ritari

Inari statueEach Wednesday in September, author Jacob Ritari is sharing with us one of his unpublished short stories set in Tokyo. This week's story is City of Dreams. This story is structured a little differently from the previous ones and as you'll see it's not the story of one or two main characters, but rather a whole eclectic handful of them. You might also recognise a particular name, and a kind of re-telling of the old folk tale from which it comes.

If you've looked at the calendar, you'll have realised as well that today is the last Wednesday in September, and therefore today is the fifth and last of Jacob's stories to share with you this month. However, I hope you'll be as thrilled as I am that Jacob has agreed to entertain us with further guest posts, every couple of weeks or so, when the inspiration strikes. To that end, he'd also be very happy to respond to any of your requests. If you have a topic or question relating to his writing, or his life being newly back in Japan, or something else that you'd like to hear his take on, please don't hesitate to leave a comment, or to email me, and I'll be sure to pass them on to him. I know I'm certainly looking forward to hearing more from him. But for now, on to the story...

Monday, September 27, 2010

JLit Book Group Discussion: 'The Sound of the Mountain' by Yasunari Kawabata

Welcome to the Japanese Literature Book Group discussion of The Sound of the Mountain by Yasunari Kawabata. (My apologies for the delay, it took longer than expected to put together the links for this post).

About the author
Yasunari KawabataYasunari Kawabata, son of a highly-cultivated physician, was born in 1899 in Osaka. After the early death of his parents he was raised in the country by his maternal grandfather and attended the Japanese public school. From 1920 to 1924, Kawabata studied at the Tokyo Imperial University, where he received his degree. He was one of the founders of the publication Bungei Jidai, the medium of a new movement in modern Japanese literature.

Kawabata made his debut as a writer with the short story, Izu dancer, published in 1927. After several distinguished works, the novel Snow Country in 1937 secured Kawabata's position as one of the leading authors in Japan. In 1949, the publication of the serials Thousand Cranes and The Sound of the Mountain was commenced.  The Lake (1955), The Sleeping Beauty (1960) and The Old Capital (1962) belong to his later works, and of these novels, The Old Capital is the one that made the deepest impression in the author's native country and abroad.

Friday, September 24, 2010

'The Pillow Book': Week Seventeen (Things that give you pleasure)

Pillow BookThis week I'm looking at entries 241 to 260 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, 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, as I'd love to hear your thoughts on Sei's rants and musings.

Week Seventeen
McKinney: Entries 241 - 260 (p. 205 - 230)
Morris: Entries 131 - 132 (p. 204 - 205), 142 - 150 (p. 213 - 235)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Tokyoites (Edokkotachi): Fukkatsu no Jumon, a short story by Jacob Ritari

Each Wednesday in September, author Jacob Ritari is sharing with us one of his unpublished short stories set in Tokyo. This week's story is Fukkatsu no Jumon, which roughly translates as "Resurrection spell". It's the story of Taichi Tawara, a young nine-year-old boy, who has a special skill, that I'll let you discover for yourself by reading the story. This week's story is a little different in tone from the previous ones, and I look forward to hearing what you think of it.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

'The Last Block in Harlem' by Christopher Herz

Fiction, originally published 2009, re-released 2010
Amazon Encore, ebook, 224 p.
From the publisher:
All fire escapes lead back to the same block in Sugar Hill, Harlem- where kids run through hydrants and music blares from stereos plugged into lampposts. When a new resident (the story's unnamed narrator) notices the trash polluting the picturesque streets and tainting the block's beauty, he is spurred to action. However, his best intentions go awry when the clean-up brings media coverage that in turn, sets off a rash of evictions and ushers in an influx of new and affluent tenants. In an attempt to preserve his neighborhood, the tenant mobilizes a grassroots effort to improve the neighborhood from the inside out.

Realizing he has yet again polluted his reality with unintended consequences, his fight to clean up the block evolves into a quest to cleanse his soul. The choices he makes cannot change the past and the secrets that haunt him, but will alter the future for himself, his family...and the last block in Harlem.

Monday, September 20, 2010

'The Makioka Sisters' - Book Three (JLit Read-along)

The Makioka SistersWelcome to the Japanese Literature Read-along discussion of Book Three of The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki. In the Vintage paperback, Book Three takes us from page 327 up to the end at page 530. For general information about the book and the author, please visit the discussion post for The Makioka Sisters - Book One.

Vocabulary and Cultural Context
The following links provide further explanation or illustration for some of the cultural or other references to enhance your reading of the book. (Click on the links for more information. Page numbers refer to the Vintage International paperback, ISBN: 0679761640)

"She looks so young." Teinosuke, who was seeing them as far as Osaka, glanced at Yukiko across the aisle. As though it were a fresh discovery, he whispered his admiration to Sachiko. And indeed there were few who would have believed that Yukiko was in that troublesome thirty-third year. (p. 333)
Yakudoshi, or the "years of calamity", is the belief that people will experience misfortune or illness during certain years of their life. Generally, for men these are 25, 42 and 61, and for women 19, 33 and 37.

Friday, September 17, 2010

BBAW: Looking Back and Looking Ahead

It's Friday and the last day of Book Blogger Appreciation Week. Already!? I still have lots of posts I want to go back and read this weekend, but that means it's time to take a look at where we've been and where we're going.

This has been quite a weird blogging year for me. I've been struggling with the blogging blues, often wondering just what I'm doing this all for, and feeling like I'm not measuring up, or letting you all down. I have lots of ideas and things I want to blog about though so it hasn't been for lack of inspiration. Mostly I've found myself struggling with just finding the time to blog, resulting in often sporadic posts, or unexpected absences. And I've really struggled to get out there and comment on all the blogs that I love, which makes me sad. I have missed having that conversation with all of you. But despite my less than ideal blogging presence these last several months, along came Book Blogger Appreciation Week to remind me what I love about blogging and to get me back on track.

Book Blogger Appreciation Week is all about bringing bloggers together to pay tribute and appreciate each other. So I was thoroughly touched to be mentioned by both Tony and on Hawaii Book Blog in their "First Treasures" posts on Monday. So honoured. Then there were all the wonderfully kind comments on Sheila's interview with me on Tuesday. Your appreciation means so much to me! Thank you for reminding me just why I do this, as well as sticking with me through this 'dry spell'. And a big thank you to Amy and everyone who worked hard to give us a successful Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2010.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

BBAW: Forgotten Treasures

There are so many tempting contemporary books being published all the time in English, that it's easy to overlook books from other countries, originally written in other languages. Much like subtitled movies that sadly get less attention than their Hollywood blockbuster counterparts. I know I'm in a minority but I've always preferred those smaller, foreign films, and books with the magical words "translated from the ... by ..." always catch my eye. It's great to read books by English authors set in different countries, but I think it's even more enriching to read a book from the other culture's own perspective. Ideally, I would be able to speak, and more importantly read, in several different languages but unfortunately that's only a dream, so literature in translation is the next best thing. And as you know, my passion for world literature has become more focused on Japan these last couple of years.

For today's Book Blogger Appreciation Week topic on Forgotten Treasures, I had hoped to put together a list of Japanese literature that I think deserves more attention, but this has ended up being a rather busy week and time got away from me. So you'll have to make do with just a couple recommendations.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tokyoites (Edokkotachi): Maintaining Radio Silence, a short story by Jacob Ritari

Each Wednesday in September, author Jacob Ritari is sharing with us one of his unpublished short stories set in Tokyo. This week's story is Maintaining Radio Silence, the story of Sasahara-san, a young university student, as he conducts a kind of personal experiment. Just what that experiment is, you'll have to find out for yourself. As with both of the previous two stories, Jacob once again gives us a thoughtful story with quiet depth.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

BBAW Interview Swap: Sheila of Book Journey

It's Day Two of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, 2010, and that means it's time for the annual Interview Swap! This year I got to swap questions and answers with Sheila of the blog, Book Journey. Sheila is a very active blogger, and is the hostess of It's Monday, What are You Reading? among all the other things she's involved with. I got to meet Sheila, briefly, in New York earlier this year for Book Expo America, but it was great to get to know her a little better from this interview, and I hope you enjoy getting to know her a little better too!  So please give her a warm welcome here, and be sure to stop by Book Journey too!

How long have you been blogging, and why did you decide to start a book blog?

Sheila:  I started book blogging in early 2009 more as an online journal for the books I read.  At that time I did not know about book blogging and when I had a comment on my blog (a comment! That was scary!) I followed it to see if it was spam and it opened up a whole new world to me. I could not believe there were people out there just like me. :) That day - that I now refer to as my Blogiversary was on June 9th, 2009.

Monday, September 13, 2010

My Summer Vacation

First of all, Happy Book Blogger Appreciation Week, a week of celebrating all things blogging and bookish, that begins today. It kind of snuck up on me this year what with being away until last week and then the jetlag which I'm just beginning to get over. So I'm completely unprepared and I'm abstaining from participating in today's topic because I can't possibly choose just one or two special bloggers. But please know that I truly appreciate all of you! Really, I do! 

Instead, today, to get back into this blogging thing, I'm going to tell you a little about what I did on my summer holiday. It had been about a year and a half since I'd last been "home", so first of all it was so nice to see my dad (who is looking a bit older but still keeping well), my favourite aunt and uncle, and to catch up with friends, a couple of them with new babies for me to meet.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Tokyoites (Edokkotachi): Futaride, a short story by Jacob Ritari

Each Wednesday in September, author Jacob Ritari is sharing with us one of his unpublished short stories set in Tokyo. This week's story is Futaride, which can translate roughly as "the two of us, together".  It's the story of Ako Sawamura, a 15 year old Japanese girl who on this day skips school to spend the day with a boy she met online.  And ... I don't want to say anything more about it, you'll have to read it yourself to see how it turns out.  I'll just say that I read this story for the first time yesterday and I'm still thinking about it. 

Although officially unpublished, Futaride has previously appeared online. In Jacob's own words, it was "a contest winner in a small local magazine a few years back".
From the Chronogram website:
"Futaride" was selected from nearly 100 entrants by guest judge Valerie Martin (Orange Prize winner for Property), who wrote, "The deceptive calm of this story takes us right to the edge of the darkest place possible, and leaves us there to think it over. I admired both the style and the sensibility of Ritari's story."