Lilisin in 2020

KeskusteluClub Read 2020

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Lilisin in 2020

Muokkaaja: joulukuu 13, 2020, 7:07pm

Hello again everyone!

2019 ended up being an atypical year favoring female authors, debut authors published in 2018/2019, and authors I've never read before. I read a variety of genres I don't often read which led to some great page-turning adventures, and managed quick turn-around between purchasing books and reading them. However, I only read 2 out of 30 books in a language other than English which was much needed at the time but now that there are few English TBRs left, I'd very much like to plow through my French and Japanese TBR. So that will be my subconscious goal for 2020. As 2019 proved I never know which direction my reading will take me so it's always a fun adventure. I want to thank those of you who regularly visit my thread whether you post a comment or just tend to lurk. Onward to 2020!

Books in 2020:
1) Akira Yoshimura : La guerre des jours lointains (One Man's Justice)
2) Margaret Atwood : The Year of the Flood
3) Margaret Atwood : MaddAddam
4) Yan Lianke : Un chant celeste (Marrow)
5) Shi Nai-An : Au bord de l'eau, tome 1 (Water Margin/Outlaws of the Marsh, volume 1)
6) Shi Nai-An : Au bord de l'eau, tome 2 (Water Margin/Outlaws of the Marsh, volume 2)
7) Ryu Murakami : In the Miso Soup
8) William Golding : The Spire
9) Charles Maturin : Melmoth the Wanderer
10) D.H. Lawrence : Lady Chatterley's Lover
11) Akimitsu Takagi : The Tattoo Murder Case
12) Cormac McCarthy : Child of God
13) Carson McCullers : The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
14) Donald Keene : Chronicles of My Life: An American in the Heart of Japan
15) Jules Verne : Les Indes Noires (The Child of the Cavern)
16) Jules Verne : Robur le Conquerant
17) Yiwu Liao : Des balles et de l'opium (Bullets and Opium: Real-Life Stories of China After the Tiananmen Square Massacre)
18) Olga Tokarczuk : Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead
19) Larry McMurtry : Dead Man's Walk
20) Ursula K Le Guin : The Dispossessed
21) Evelyn Waugh : The Loved One
22) H.G. Wells : The War of the Worlds
23) Lester I. Tenney : My Hitch in Hell: The Bataan Death March
24) Elie Wiesel : Night
25) Natsuo Kirino : Intrusion
26) Kate Elizabeth Russell : My Dark Vanessa
27) Yasunari Kawabata : Dandelions
28) Ayobami Adebayo : Stay with me
29) Kerri Rawson : A Serial Killer's Daughter
30) Jon Krakauer : Into Thin Air
31) Daphne Du Maurier : My Cousin Rachel
32) George Orwell : Burmese Days
33) Akira Mizubayashi : Petit eloge de l'errance
34) Larry McMurtry : Leaving Cheyenne
35) Robert S. Boyton : The Invitation-Only Zone: The True Story of North Korea's Abduction Project
36) Duong Thu Huong : Roman sans titre (Novel Without a Name)
37) Richard Lloyd Parry : People who Eat Darkness
38) Amelie Nothomb : Riquet a la houppe
39) Jonathan D. Spence : The Gate of Heavenly Peace
40) Ngugi wa Thiong'o : The River Between
41) Shusaku Endo : Scandal
42) Emily St. John Mandel : The Glass Hotel
43) Kazuo Sakamaki : I Attacked Pearl Harbor
44) HG Wells : The Invisible Man
45) 奈都 宮下 : 静かな雨
46) 乙一 : 夏と花火と私の死体 (Summer, Fireworks, and My Corpse)

Books read in 2019 - 2018 - 2017 - 2016 - 2015 - 2014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2011 - 2010 - 2009

tammikuu 7, 2020, 4:09am

Happy New Year! Starring your thread for the future.

tammikuu 7, 2020, 9:45am

Always happy to lurk here. I love hearing about your adventures, as well as of the books you read.

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 8, 2020, 10:25pm

Thank you everyone for your well wishes! And now for my first review of the year.

1) Akira Yoshimura : La guerre des jours lointains (One Man's Justice)

I wasn't planning on reading a war book as my first book of the year but I was only 100 pages away from finishing the Atwood I was reading and so I didn't want to travel with that one as I knew I would finish it too quickly. So I grabbed this book instead to help cover the days I'd be traveling.

This book follows Takuya, an ex-Japanese soldier, right at the end of the war. He has received a postcard from a colleague telling him to come to headquarters. Hesitant to go, Takuya meets the colleague who gives him a sheet of paper to change his identity. It would seem that Takuya participated in the execution of American soldiers after Japan had already surrendered and there is a chance he could be searched for as a war criminal. He is suggested to create a new identity and abandon his family to avoid the death penalty.

We follow Takuya as he creates a new life in Himeji working in a box manufacturing company for matches. As Japan suffers from the aftermath of the war having to deal with shortages in food and supplies, while also trying to rebuild after losing family and neighbors, Takuya has to deal not so much with the consequences of his actions, but with the changing Japan he is witnessing. A Japan that just a few months ago was proud and mighty, at war against a great enemy, but now is weak and quick to surrender to its American compatriots as long as those compatriots are throwing chocolate bars and packs of cigarettes from their truck.

Takuya fears for his life every day as he delivers boxes, fearful that the police are chasing him, that someone will recognize him and denounce him and that his only way out is the gun he hides in his pack. All this while also dealing with the anger and resentment both towards the Americans but his fellow Japanese. How quick they've forgotten the bombs being dropped on their heads! How quick the women are to hold hands with a handsome white soldier.

And what about the concept of justice? Takuya is at risk of being called a war criminal and sentenced to death for killing a few soldiers. But are these soldiers not those who dropped bombs on and killed thousands of innocent civilians? Does that not make them the war criminals? And as time passes and more war criminals are caught and taken to trial, why does it seem that the more time passes, the less the Americans even seem to care about going through with the sentencing? It makes everything seem so subjective.

A very interesting book with some excellent introspection on the concept of justice post war.

My only qualms with the book was the heavy 3rd chapter that read like a history textbook that could have been cut down a bit. And the fact that we don't get to see Yoshimura's lyrical writing here. Yoshimura typically has a beautiful style that borders the line between reality and misticism with the ability of forming beautiful images on the page but this book was written in a much more straightforward way. However he does maintain his amazing insight on the human condition.

I'm a bit past reading war stories so I rated this a little lower than his other books but I think I would have rated it higher had I been more "in the mood" because it is definitely a must read in the sense of it giving an incredible perspective on the idea of justice in relation to war.

tammikuu 9, 2020, 1:03am

I liked One Man’s Justice, but I liked the 2 other books I’ve read by Yoshimura more: On Parole and Shipwrecks. Have you read either of those?

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 9, 2020, 1:07am

tammikuu 9, 2020, 8:27am

>4 lilisin: Great review of One Man's Justice, lilisin.

tammikuu 9, 2020, 10:02am

>4 lilisin: Wonderful synopsis of One Man's Justice, I had forged this and On Parole together. I don't remember the writing to be so stilted as Storm Rider which was similar in content with a true historic event but still Justice is definitely third best of the Yoshimura translated into English works. I do wish they'd make some of his other books available in English.

tammikuu 11, 2020, 7:06pm

following. Very interesting about One Man's Justice, and the perspective appeals a lot. And then there's >6 lilisin: ... a list of interesting books (although I take it only 3 are in English) Glad to come across this author. Noting.

tammikuu 14, 2020, 3:11am

2,3) Margaret Atwood : The MaddAddam Trilogy

I read the first book of Atwood's MaddAddam trilogy in December 2019 and immediately started reading the second book so I thought it best to review all the books as a whole instead of individually. For my own record I will be describing each book and its plot so these will obviously include spoilers. I suggest skipping these if you do not want to know what happens. I'll let you know when I start dropping spoilers.

If you do plan on reading this trilogy I have one bit of advice: read all the books back to back. The same characters (with sometimes two, three or more names) and same plots reappear in all three books and as there are a lot of characters going on, and a lot of things happening in parallel, I think it would be very easy to forget all the important details if one were to leave too much time between each book. So it is my suggestion that if you decide to read this trilogy, make room in your schedule. Fortunately they are very engrossing reads which means they are also very entertaining and quick-reading. I had no trouble jumping straight into the next book after finishing the first without feeling tired. Overall you'll be reading about 1000 pages but those are some of the fastest 1000 pages I've read.

The MaddAddam trilogy is a dystopian where humanity has been wiped out to be replaced by a new race. We follow a batch of characters on different sides of this dystopia: those who are preparing for a new world as they fear the old one is going to die soon, and those who are working to create the new world, at the sacrifice of the old. We follow these characters as their lives interweave with each other running parallel to some, and running directly into others. How did humanity die, what was the cause of it, and what are we to do about it.

Atwood puts everything into these books: environmental crisis, human overpopulation, human greed and selfishness, corporate greed, gene manipulation, elite society, capitalism, abuse, the vices of the human race, etc... Everything that can be destroyed and has been destroyed by the human hand is included in this trilogy. Because these books serve as a warning of what could happen in not a distant future, but soon. Now. While the masses frolic, and sleep with each other, and nibble on their fast food, corporations are gaining more and more power, manipulating your actions in ways subconscious to the consumer. We are at the mercy of the corporations who have become more powerful than the government and it only takes one simple plan to destroy it all.

I was very much captured by Atwood's world and wanted to know more but there were times where I felt she was trying to push too hard her agenda, even if I don't disagree with it. The third book lost the plot a bit so that Atwood could continue preaching to the reader and she started losing the strength of her characters. Coincidences started to pile up even more that they already were and the fact that the end of the world happened in just 6 months seems a bit short. Having the current events happening two years would have made more sense. Oreo cookies don't expire so quickly after all. In any case I enjoyed reading this trilogy and I definitely recommend it for fans of dystopian fiction but I stop at this book being entertaining, rather than life-changing and radical as I feel she wanted it to be.

And now spoilers for the three individual books below so that I have a record of the plots. DO NOT READ if you haven't read the books.

Oryx and Crake
This book is about Crake and Jimmy (Snowman) and how Jimmy has become to be what seems like the sole survivor of The Chaos. Crake and Jimmy grew up together spending time at Crake's house looking up disturbing websites online and playing games designed to create new creatures. Jimmy sees Crake's perusals of these games as the result of a very smart kid exploring their boundaries and the two continue their bond even as they separate towards different schools: Jimmy heading towards the arts due to his poor grades and Crake to the top science schools available. In the back ground The MaddAddamites are undergoing biological warfare trying to save the planet. Oryx is a character that Crake and Jimmy first saw on a kiddie porn website and Jimmy becomes obsessed with her. Jimmy and Crake reunite as adults where Jimmy mysteriously finds Oryx on Crake's arm, and Crake confesses to the master plan he has created. He reveals the creation of what will be known as the Crakers, a new species of human that has man's weaknesses removed. He also reveals that he created a superdrug to kill the masses in a mass plague and he wants Jimmy to take care of the Crakers in case of his death. Once the mass of deaths start they confront each other, Crake slits Oryx's throat, and Jimmy kills Crake. We now find him back in the new world as his character Snowman, about to confront a group of three humans surrounding a fire.

The Year of the Flood
We now repeat the entire story of Oryx and Crake but through the lives of Ren and Toby. Ren and Toby are former Gardeners, a group of people who follow Adam One who were going back to a life of organic, vegetarian, and free of current human vice, in preparation for the waterless flood, a mass plague that they believe is coming to change the world. We learn how they came to be Gardeners, how the Gardeners live, we read the preaching of Adam One, and we watch them prepare for the flood. Eventually a few rifts occur in the section and various members are scattered. We watch how Ren and Toby meet and how they come interlaced with the Jimmy and Crake plotline. Having both survived the waterless flood, Ren and Toby find each other again when Ren is in trouble. Toby agrees to help Ren find her friend Amanda who was captured by a group of ruthless men. We end the book with Toby and Ren confronting the ruthless men at their camp spot as Jimmy appears from the other side also about to confront the men.

With this book we stay mostly in the present of the post waterless flood world. Most of the former Gardeners and the MaddAddamites managed to survive the chaos and they are trying to build a camp together. However, two of the ruthless men from before escaped and they are now under threat. As the group deals with this threat, with the responsibility of the Crakers, and Snowman/Jimmy, we go back into the past to follow Zeb's story, the brother of Adam. Through his story we learn how the Maddaddammites and the Gardeners were created and we get more insight on Crake as a younger man as we realize that Crake was unintentionally created by the very group trying to stop him. The book ends with Jimmy and Adam dying during a battle with the escaped men as the other group members have to move on, the fate of the Crakers and themselves in their hands.

tammikuu 15, 2020, 2:27am

4) Yan Lianke : Un chant celeste (Marrow)

A quick 90 page read about the length a woman will go for her children.
Cumbered by 4 children prone to epilepsy and of sub-normal intelligence, You Sipo is left to herself after her husband's flight from responsibility. We follow You Sipo as she is tasked to find a "complete" husband for her third child, willing to lose everything so that her daughter might find a partner. When the husband of her first child comes to her with tales of woe but also a potential remedy, You Sipo discovers how much more she is willing to sacrifice for the her descendants.

I found the story beautifully written and told and could really feel the struggle of You Sipo as she finds the courage to confront the sins of her husband, and the dismissal from her village. Along with some little moments of humor, this was a nice perfect read to get back into Chinese literature.


I'll be without reviews for a while because I'm tackling next one of the five great Chinese novels: Au bord de l'eau (Water Margin) by Shi Nai-an. At nearly 2000 pages including the footnotes (that are very interesting and definitely worth reading) this one will take me a little while. See you guys on the other side!

tammikuu 18, 2020, 6:07am

I own a copy of La guerre des jours lointains, your review reminded me this. It's been a while sine I've read Yoshimura, so thanks for the reminder! I've not loved all the books from him, but Naufrages is wonderful and Le Convoi de l'eau pretty good as well.

I've not read your review of Un Chant céleste as I intend to read it soon. I'll come back to read it a bit later.

Looking forward to your thoughts on Au bord de l'eau. A Chinese classic, how appealing!

tammikuu 20, 2020, 4:58am

>11 lilisin: Un chant céleste sound intriguing. Yan Lianke seems to have a thing for human body parts and bodily fluids...

tammikuu 20, 2020, 6:22am

>11 lilisin: I’m intrigued by Un chant céleste too. Looking forward to reading your thoughts on Au bord de l’eau; great that you are brave enough to tackle something so long! My current 900-page novel pales in comparison...

tammikuu 20, 2020, 7:51am

>13 Dilara86:
I've only read this Lianke so I don't know his ... preferences.... but I do also have La Fuite du temps on my TBR to look forward to.

>14 rachbxl:
It reads like a Dumas as it's really just a very long adventure story. And it's been really fun so far! Actually it reads only a little bit slower than Dumas because the Folio edition has so many great and interesting footnotes I've also been enjoying. So no bravery needed really!

Muokkaaja: tammikuu 31, 2020, 2:50am

Still have 200 pages left in the first volume of Au bord de l'eau. When I first started I could only read 30 or so pages at a time due to whatever reason but now I'm flying through it just absolutely absorbed! I think the 2nd volume I'll be able to read much faster. In the meantime I bought three books in January when I walked past the winter sale table of foreign books at the bookstore on my way to the bouldering gym. That bookstore is huge and it's always so dangerous walking by. And at only 5 dollars a book I couldn't stop myself dipping into the cardboard box of sales.

I ended up with:
Lao She : Mr Ma & Son
Ryu Murakami : In the Miso Soup
Charles Maturin : Melmoth the Wanderer

I'm not supposed to be reading books in English right now but I can tell myself I'm building up the English TBR again for when I've successfully dwindled the French TBR. (Although I really should be reading that Murakami in the original Japanese. No excuse!)

maaliskuu 2, 2020, 1:32am

5) Shi Nai-An : Au bord de l'eau, tome 1
6) Shi Nai-An : Au bord de l'eau, tome 2

What a fantastic adventure.

This is one of the four great Chinese classics and it basically reads like the tale of Robin Hood if you were given the opportunity to meet every main member of the forest before they become the Merry Men. The book is separated in more or less three parts: Part 1) you follow the the stories of several prominent men and how they were deceived and tricked and schemed upon forcing them to abandon their per-the-law status to become bandits, Part 2) Song Jiang comes to be the most prominent bandit and little by little he is asked to assimilate other men into the bandit life, assembling all 108, Part 3) the 108 men have united and now Song Jiang and his men have been granted amnesty by the the government to fight against foreign invaders.

My book has only parts 1 and 2 since it is argued that part 3 was written by a different author. As I was reading the book in French, the only way to read part 3 is to own the Pleiade version (very expensive leather bound Bible-paper editions) so I stuck with the standard white Folio Classic books. I would have much enjoyed reading on but I also find that part 2 ends perfectly as it is.

This was a really enjoyable reading experience for me. I preferred the first part over the second as I loved reading more in depth about the main characters. In the second part new bandits are added to the party at such a pace that it becomes hard to keep up with all their names and a battle can start and end in two paragraphs. The ease in which some characters leave their side to join the bandits also gets a little silly at that point but overall, I still loved this book.

If you've been thinking about reading this one, while the size is certainly daunting, the story reads like a children's book and is great to escape in.

maaliskuu 2, 2020, 3:51am

>17 lilisin: Not that I read very many of them, but I loathe the paper used in Pléiade books. Not only is the print tiny, but it shows through. It's sometimes cheaper to buy a Pléiade that separate paperbacks because it crams so much in one volume, but what's the point if you can't read them comfortably?

maaliskuu 2, 2020, 7:07am

>17 lilisin: The English translation of this classic Chinese book is Water Margin. I was thinking of reading it and so it was good to read a positive review.

maaliskuu 2, 2020, 7:22am

>19 baswood:

I managed to turn the book into the February group read in the 1001 books group and everyone seems to be having a good time with it. There is an edition in English that has the full 100 or so chapters as well so maybe you'll even get to read part 3.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 2, 2020, 8:02am

7) Ryu Murakami : In the Miso Soup

Read a 2000 page book and suddenly reading an entire 200 page book in a day becomes easy! I read this because I wanted a totally different book and palate cleanser after having finished The Water Margin.

And boy did I get it! This book is sleezy and grotesque and will not make you a better person by the end so be wary!

It is about 20 year old Kenji, who acts as an unlicensed guide for foreign sex tourists, and his encounter with one particular American client, Frank. A dating-for-pay high school girl was sexually assaulted and dismembered the day before and Kenji suspects Frank might be the murderer.

While at its base this book is a thriller, Murakami presents an interesting look at Japan vs America with Shinjuku's ill-reputed sex-life district, Kabukicho in the background. The book was written in 1996 at a time that foreigners were still being snubbed and well before Kabukicho started its makeover by the Japanese government to turn it into a (non-sex) tourism hub. And Kenji is very quick to denigrate America in exchange for showing off Japan's superiority in all things manners and idealism.

"What's not good is that they {Americans} can't imagine any world outside the States, or any value system different from their own. The Japanese have a similar defect, but Americans are even worse about trying to force others to do whatever they themselves believe to be right."

"Japan is fundamentally uninterested in foreigners, which is why the knee-jerk response to any trouble is simply to shut them all out."

When Kenji realizes minutes upon meeting Frank that Frank is lying about his reason for coming to Japan, he is immediately reminded of the article about the high school girl. He immediately believes that someone like Frank could be the killer as no Japanese would kill like that. Only a foreigner could kill and dismember a body.

This is such a common mindset that actually still exists today where Japanese believe that Japanese can do no wrong. A brutal crime happens that is featured on the news and immediately residents here will think "must be a Korean, or some foreigner". Let's ignore the brutal murders in Kanagawa Prefecture where a Japanese murdered and dismembered several of his fellow compatriots and stuffed their pieces in a freezer. Ah yes, the saintly Japanese can do no wrong!

Kenji begins to take Frank to various sex clubs and Frank plays the typical American who knows nothing about Japan, reading out sex words in Japanese from his guide book as a means to "practice his Japanese".

This particular passage struck me:

"Americans don't talk about just grinning and bearing it, which is the Japanese approach to so many things. {...} I began to think that American loneliness is a completely different creature from anything we experience in this country, and it made me glad I was born Japanese. The type of loneliness where you need to keep struggling to accept a situation is fundamentally different from the sort you know you'll get through if you just hang in there."

Here Kenji is obviously referring to the famous phrase "shikata nai" or "shou ga nai": "it can't be helped; there's nothing you can do about; that's just how things are". This passage could so easily be written from an American point of view.

"Japanese don't talk about trying to push through an unfavorable situation, which is the American approach to so many things. {...} I began to think that Japanese loneliness is a completely different creature from anything we experience in this country, and it made me glad I was born American. The type of loneliness where you let yourself continue to suffer through an intolerable situation is fundamentally different from the sort you know you'll get through if you actually tried to change things."

Murakami's play with America vs Japan, and "normal" Japanese vs "Kabukicho Japanese", is interesting and the tension is high when supplemented by the thriller element. Is Frank the serial killer Kenji has read about in the newspaper or is his intolerance for anyone unlike him leading him to see things that aren't there?

Although grotesque I liked this book and it made me think about a lot of things. Certainly not a book for everyone but there are some things that you can actually take away from it.

maaliskuu 2, 2020, 10:46am

>21 lilisin: Very interesting. In the Miso Soup has stuck with me because of what you said in your review. It's gritter look at the underbelly of Japanee society. It's an interesting idea about lonliness. Also, interesting that I've always translated shikata nai into the equally famous American phrase "it is what it is" its good to know that I wasn't that far off.

maaliskuu 3, 2020, 2:47am

>22 stretch:

I think the loneliness of Japanese is a very common topic here. I liked how Murakami represented it by having a character seemingly disgusted with the seemed loneliness of Americans while he hypocritically works in world that basically was created to cater and take money from the lonely.

Shikata nai: a very convenient phrase that quite confuses the amateur translator. I think the translator did well with this book to avoid the cliche translations of that phrase. Although I was curious as to the amount of Japanese he left into the book. I wonder how smoothly those sections worked for those who can't read any Japanese.

maaliskuu 3, 2020, 11:02am

>23 lilisin: I can't speak for everyone but the sections left untranslated werne't frustrating to me. They acted as point of empahasis and to add athuenticity(?) to the story. I don't typically try to translate Japanese since the tools I have to do so are awful (web based translations are the worse) But I've come across the Shikata nai phrase used as a place holder in other stories and places. It was really the only concept that seemed important. I get the feeling that there may be a great deal missing for those of us that don't speak Japanese in those parts now in retrospect.

maaliskuu 4, 2020, 12:35pm

>17 lilisin: I had thought about reading this book for a while but did not really know what to expect, so thanks for this review that gives a good idea of what one would get from this book.
Now that I have read your review, I feel I really should read it, not in a near future though.

Muokkaaja: maaliskuu 5, 2020, 6:44pm

8) William Golding : The Spire

And now for something entirely different!

I purchased this book in 2009 back when I was mostly buying random classics without any true goal in mind. I'm pretty sure I bought this because I felt that having liked Lord of the Flies so much it would make sense to read another book by the same author.

But then I had gotten unmotivated to read the book after reading a few non-enthused reviews combined with the not very inspiring cover. And yet all along I knew I would like this if I would read it and I did!

This is about Dean Jocelin who had a vision to build a spire in his cathedral and his descent into madness with the project as he forgets his religious duties, becomes obsessed with the woman with the red hair, and continues to manipulate the master builder despite the builder warning him the spire can't be built due to poor foundations.

"Has it fallen?"
"Not yet."

These two sentences epitomize the book as we wonder when the spire will fall and when the dean will fall.

I really enjoyed the increase intensity of the characters as the sound of the warping beams from the spire increases in intensity as well. I haven't read a book in a long time with so much symbolism (I feel like the use of symbolism is a dying literary tool - am I wrong?) that it was fascinating to see how everything related to each other. The symbolism also wasn't deeply hidden and as open to debate as the infamous are the curtains blue question. Everything is pretty much spelled out for you -- even the dean describes his model of the new spire in his cathedral as a pair of male legs. Symbolism, yes. Nuance? Not so much.

But all of this is wrapped in Golding's superb writing and leads you to quite the twist at the end as we discover the truth behind Dean Jocelin.


This has given me a taste for some dark gothic style fiction so I have now started Melmoth the Wanderer by Charles Maturin. I'll see you guys again in 700 pages!

maaliskuu 5, 2020, 10:38am

Good luck with Melmoth the Wanderer for me it was 700 pages too long.

maaliskuu 15, 2020, 12:28pm

>21 lilisin: Great review of In the Miso Soup. You've sold it to me!

maaliskuu 30, 2020, 4:30am

I finished Charles Maturin's Melmoth the Wanderer last week and have been meaning to review it as I quite liked it. And in the meantime I started D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover which I'm also greatly enjoying.

maaliskuu 30, 2020, 8:16pm

Lovely review of In the Miso Soup. I've got a copy of this, but it dropped toward the bottom of my unread books and you've made me eager to pull it out and read it.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 11, 2020, 10:19am

I made a quick trip to the bookstore last night before Japan's state of emergency declaration to pick up a few books knowing that bookstores would be closed starting today. I usually only buy English-language books when they are on sale (not much choice but you can find some classics and unexpected finds for 5 dollars) as these books are exorbitantly expensive but I needed some lighter and shorter in-English fare to make up for the fact that my remaining TBR is made up some long concentration-needing books. Due to limitations in selection and to not damage my wallet too much I left with the following four books.

Hideo Yokoyama : Six Four
Olga Tokarczuk : Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead
Cormac McCarthy : Child of God
George Orwell : Burmese Days

I'm not sure if these will fit the conditions I went in with for buying books but they are different from my usual reads so maybe that will help make them more appealing if I my reading were to languish.

I still intend on reviewing Melmoth the Wanderer (which is one of those unexpected books I got from the 5 dollar sale!) and Lady Chatterley's Lover (again! only a few dollars!) but that can wait a bit more.

huhtikuu 8, 2020, 9:25am

>31 lilisin: How are things there, Lilisin? Is the virus just starting to climb and thus the state of emergency? Just curious. My daughter and family were supposed to travel to Japan in mid-June for their vacation this year. I’m guessing that won’t happen. I keep telling her that there is always next year.

huhtikuu 10, 2020, 7:08am

>32 NanaCC:

Exactly. The virus spread has just started accelerating and they can't identify the sources of contagion so finally (after much pressure from us living here) they made the declaration. We kept telling them we wanted it earlier so that we could contain the virus BEFORE it starts spreading but they were strangely insistent on waiting till AFTER it started spreading which is something countries abroad and cities like NYC have been warning Japan against doing for over a month already. It was all very frustrating.

Yes, you will mostly likely need to cancel your trip unfortunately as Japan is just starting this virus adventure and thus we'll be here awhile. Fortunately now with airlines being lenient with cancellations you can still wait till the last minute to cancel your flight without any monetary repercussions so you can still do that. But most likely there will be nothing to do as August events are already getting canceled.

huhtikuu 10, 2020, 5:12pm

>33 lilisin: Wishing you the best through this pandemic. I'm in a Southern state, so we just started a low-key stay home suggestion on Tuesday.

I've started In the Miso Soup and I'm very much enjoying it. Frank is more than a little creepy.

huhtikuu 20, 2020, 11:05pm

>26 lilisin: I read a number of Golding's books right around the time he won the Nobel (having already read Lord of the Flies when I was in high school, when I think many American kids read it). A few years ago, I reread a few of them, but The Spire was one I remember liking a lot years ago, but one I did not get to for a reread. So it's still on the list. As to those I reread, I did especially like The Inheritors about the contact between a group of Neanderthals and a group of either Cro Magnum or Homo Sapiens (more advanced humanoids anyway). I highly recommend it if you want to read more Golding

>31 lilisin: I recently read Seventeen by Hideo Yokoyama, and have Six Four on the tbr shelf, otherwise known as my Kindle, so I hope to get to it soon. and Burmese Days is another book I read years ago and remember loving.

huhtikuu 21, 2020, 7:04am

>35 arubabookwoman:

I love when you come and visit my TBR pile. Of course you have always already read what's on it!

I will definitely be looking for more Golding to read in the future. Although from the synopsis alone it doesn't seem like something I'd ever read, I'll add The Inheritors onto my list. I actually hesitated between buying Seventeen and Six Four but at the price of the books I went for the longer one to make my yen push a little further.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 28, 2020, 9:39pm

Oh goodness I've read 6 books since my last real posting and have let so much time pass before writing down my thoughts and comments even though I had so much going through my mind reading this. I guess it's best I start with most recently read so as to have a few fresh thoughts among the stagnant ones.

14) Donald Keene : Chronicles of My Life: An American in the Heart of Japan

This is the memoir of Donald Keene, one of the most famous academics on Japan. You can't get a degree in Japanese studies with hearing this man's name. And if you read Japanese literature in (English) translation you can thank Keene for helping bring all those figurative authors abroad. I purchased his memoir upon his passing last year.

He spans the course of his life starting with his upbringing in New York, to his introduction to his Japanese studies (via a Chinese friend), his time as an interpreter during the war, and then finally the development of his academic career and his friendship with Japanese authors such as Oe, Tanizaki, Mishima, Kawabata, Abe, Ariyoshi. See? This is why I told you to thank him.

Keene admits that his life is a series of luck. He didn't really have any idea as to what he wanted to do but one day he sad next to a Chinese classmate at lunch and ended up learning some hanzi. From there he was introduced to the Japanese world which made gave him the idea to join the Naval School of Languages, an opportunity that would allow him to learn Japanese at a frenetic pace that would allow him to interpret and translate during the war.

This would then lead him to pursuing his studies in Japanese literature which led him to a series of scholarships in Japan allowing him to study. His luck continued as being one of the first/few foreigners to be pursuing Japanese opened the door to a society that would be very closed off to those of us now studying the language. Being led around from Japanese great to another let him to an incredible career of translation and scholarship. (Although he didn't really translate fiction as much as he translated older poetry and classical texts, texts that even a enthused Japan-ist as I wouldn't even read.)

I appreciated Keene's own remarks of humbleness towards his own studies which I think would serve many of the Japanese language learners I know out there.

... I had replied that I had no time read newspapers. This was foolish, but I was determined to read as much as possible about Japanese literature during my one year in Kyoto and I thought that an hour spent mulling over haiku by Basho use of my time than reading a newspaper. But as the result of my nightly conversation with Nagai-san, I came to realize that I could not ignore the living culture of Japan. ... Under Nagai's influence I not only began to read newspapers but actually came to want to participate in Japanese life.

And of course these situations are always enough to make you groan out of experience but also smile out of experience.

I realized that today I am more likely to smile rather than protest when someone with an extremely common Japanese name such as Tanaka or Yamamoto hands me his card and expresses amazement that I, who have studied Japanese for only sixty years, can read the name, even if he fails to write the pronunciation in roman letters.

A charming book for those interested in this world.

13) Carson McCullers : The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

What a mix of emotions. I was admittedly a bit bored, while in love with the writing, while growing more and more hostile to the topic as I read on.

The story of four characters -- a white female child, a black medical doctor, a white drunk, and the white diner owner -- in the deep south and their interaction with a deaf mute who serves as a device for them to admit their worries and troubles.

It is a story about the deep south, a world where the poor stay poor, and the black stay black. Personal dreams are lofty, accomplishments are undermined by others, and education is pushed aside by the need for money. You don't need to read the book to know that you'll get frustrated and annoyed and you'll hate humanity and this book really gives you no hope. I think I needed some hope during these times and I got none which just made the book increasingly troubling.

An excellent book with beautiful writing although I must admit to some boredom as when I would put the book down I would forget about it for a while and not be so enthused to pick it back up and it took effort to get through some of the passages.

But still highly recommended and a must read.

I can't praise enough McCullers writing and the beautiful control she had over her characters. They were nuanced, flawed, and written to perfection without any stereotypes. That a 23 year old white woman in the 50s could have such an adult perspective (or maybe it's her youth that allows her to have the true insight to her surroundings) on the times and to be able to write such varied characters is impressive.

I wonder what the reaction to her would be during these times where "own voices" is such a hot debate but I can only praise her.

12) Cormac McCarthy : Child of God

Unpopular opinion? This might me one of my favorites of McCarthy's books.

It's dark. Nothing happens. There is no enlightment. It's just a story about how some people have no reason for being who they are just like some can't control the nature that dictates their circumstances.

The book follows one character who has been pushed away from society for his behavior after losing his home after being accused of rape (that he didn't do although he was horrible to the woman). But this was not the stepping stone for the degradation of his character and behavior, it was always there. He was always a bad man, and always would be a bad man. That's the nature of some men.

And he really does some disgusting things. Not a book for those who can't read about... sticky situations.

11) Akimitsu Takagi : The Tattoo Murder Case

A mystery I've had on my TBR pile since 2009 and happy to have read it.

A woman famous for his back tattoo confesses to our main character that she fears for her life and when she turns up dead not too soon after their brief love affair, he needs to find a way to find out who killed her, why, and how to do this without revealing his relationship with the woman. Especially not to his brother, the chief of police.

A fun mystery that I enjoyed mostly because it occurred only a little bit after that war which gave me a good glimpse on the Tokyo of the time especially as the characters wander around areas I'm very familiar with having worked and lived there.

Not really a book with plot twists as the mystery is solved in a way to which you properly follow along without having had any information hidden. A fun read, not a you-must-read-this type of mystery but enjoyable.


I have two more books to review but I'll save these still for another time. Hope that is sooner rather than later!

9) Charles Maturin : Melmoth the Wanderer
10) D.H. Lawrence : Lady Chatterley's Lover

huhtikuu 29, 2020, 12:33am

>37 lilisin: That Keene memoir sounds great, taking note! I read a few of his translations and his lectures on Japanese writers when we did the RG Japan/Korea theme read, and he came across as someone it would have been really interesting to know.

toukokuu 3, 2020, 11:25pm

15) Jules Verne : Les Indes Noires (The Child of the Cavern)

I've been hearing the term "comfort read" a lot these days and I tried to think of what a comfort read is for me but I couldn't come up with anything since most people would mention rereads. I'm not a rereader so there is no book that I can just go back to every time I need something comforting. But then, as I eyed my Jules Verne TBR pile, I realized that I have a "comfort author", an author that I can always turn to when I want something comforting.

I just love following along the whimsy, the fantasy, the adventure, and the lightness that comes with a Verne. I'm always promised a great adventure and when that is accompanied by a wonderfully descriptive writing style that is full of excitement, I can't help but be washed away in reading delight.

What I particularly like about my Verne TBR pile is that I have old French copies that have no blurb on them at all. So I just pick up whichever book title sounds like the adventure I want to take at the moment and read on.

This particular title is about a mine in Scotland that has been closed due to there no longer being any coal left to mine. But one day, a former engineer of the mine is called back in the form of a letter by his friend, the former foreman who stayed behind to live in the abandoned mine. It requests that the engineer come immediately to the mine. However, not moments later does a second letter show up telling him never mind, no need to come, but this time the letter isn't signed. Our engineer decides to go back to the mine and lo and behold the foreman has found a possible new source for coal. Excited at this new prospect they begin to inspect the new area but it seems that a mysterious presence is following them, trying to warn them to get out.

Interestingly Verne writes the books in his adventure series as a means to explore unknown lands, and whimsical possibilities beyond human grasp, but in this book, through experiences in a mine he actually shows the readers the beauty of the world we already know, and the beauty behind human connection.

Yet another fun book by Verne. Of course I loved every moment that I read.

toukokuu 13, 2020, 7:36am

>39 lilisin: That's another Verne to add to my list

toukokuu 22, 2020, 5:11am

16) Jules Verne : Robur le Conquerant

My last entry I talked about how Verne is a comfort read so wow, I did not expect to get stuck on this one the way it did! It sent me right into a reading slump as I just could not get myself to pick up the book and finish it. I don't ever read two books in a row by the same author and maybe that's what did it for me but I was in such an adventure mood that I thought reading another Verne would be a great idea.

Unfortunately I got stuck.
This book is about the race for the sky as the president, his servant, and the secretary are part of an aeronaut society trying to create a giant dirigible. As the society debates the specs a strange man, Robur, comes into the room declaring the society's science a waste of time as to fly the skies it will take a machine that's heavier than air, not lighter!

Robur, not being taken seriously, is kicked out of the room leading him to kidnap the three aforementioned characters. They are taking on a voyage across the world but as they were taken by force, instead of being struck by the wonders of the air, they debate and scheme about how they'll get back to the ground.

I had two main issues with this book.

1) The characters are detestable. This isn't usually a problem for me but there is not enough mystery behind the characters to the make any of it interesting. And Verne's abuse of the servant's "negro-city" really grated on me. Verne has had black characters before and has treated them with more humanity but this time the servant was merely a ploy to be abused. Was quite unsavory an experience.
2) I think the fact that this story takes place in the air takes away a lot of the usual fantasy and whimsy of Verne's books. Usually you are swept around to a far away land -- the depths of the ocean, the earth -- and so you can encounter lands that don't exist, but as a modern society we all have already seen the earth from above, that takes away a lot of the wonder in the book that readers at the time it was written would have been fascinated by.

So mostly the book just felt like an aerial repeat of Twenty Thousands Leagues under the Sea without the wonder.

Definitely on the bottom of my list of must-read Verne.

17) Yiwu Liao : Des balles et de l'opium (Bullets and Opium: Real-Life Stories of China After the Tiananmen Square Massacre)

In an entirely different direction this called out to me while I was washing the dishes one evening. When trying to come up with what book I'm going to read next I like to peer over my shelves mentally until something flashes, and this was that flash.

It's a look at the Tienanmen Square event in China. Yiwu Liao was locked up for his portrayal of the massacre through a poem and subsequently lost his life to the event as he was socially and politically ostracized. Liao interviews other victims of the Chinese government, youths who had participated with optimism at the ability to make a change, but who were then struck down, sent to jail over and over again over the years over veiled motives meant to keep the former Tienanmen partipators subdued and forgotten.

We go over each interviewee's role in the initial protest, to their subsequent capture and arrest, and to their experiences in jail. As difficult as jail was, what was more difficult was the world they were released back into; a world they thought that would be changed due to their efforts back in 1989. And yet instead they were released into a China obsessed with money and power and doing everything it can to forget anything about the massacre. The interviewees become disillusioned as their own neighbors became their enemies, manuscripts and belongings related to the event taken over and over again by the secret police, years of work stolen, just like the years of their life.

What was it all for? Is is still worth fighting to force China to remember?

It's a dark disillusioned look at the event, a must-read I would say. And although it gets a bit repetitive at times that is necessary as it strengthens the point that this isn't just one individual's fantasy. This a real event that happened to many people who all experienced the same turmoil and hardship. It's an event that must remain in memory not only outside of China, but within.

kesäkuu 4, 2020, 4:44am

18) Olga Tokarczuk : Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

My first time reading this Nobel Literature Prize winner and I enjoyed the book quite a bit. I'm not too sure how much I'll remember of it a few years down the line but the reading experience itself was pleasant.

Janina, a former engineer who has secluded herself to a small Polish village in the woods where she mainly works on her astrology and teaches part time at the local school. She is already known to be a little bit out there but when a murder happens, and then more bodies turn up, she starts getting wilder as she starts to the believe the animals of the forest are killing these people as revenge for being hunted and killed.

It's a book that explores several themes while keeping a seemingly fairytale feel to it. I enjoyed the theme of animal cruelty and I felt for the character who knows she's fighting a worthy cause but can't seem to understand why others won't take it or her seriously. Her anger with the system where people seem to get away with things simply because of who they know followed by this tendency to murk the line between justice and tradition was palpable.

On a side note I really disliked the cover at first but after reading about 50 pages and then realizing the cover is a forest in the twilight under the snow and not just random black and blue lines made it much nicer. Seeing the trees for the forest or something like that, eh?

I will pick up Flights next by her as I'm interesting in reading more from her.

kesäkuu 7, 2020, 9:27am

>41 lilisin: If that whets your appetite for more about Tiananmen I highly recommend The People's Republic of Amnesia.

kesäkuu 7, 2020, 10:54am

>43 wandering_star:

Oo! I recognize that cover so thanks for bringing the book back to my attention. I'm definitely putting this on my wishlist.

kesäkuu 26, 2020, 4:26am

19) Larry McMurtry : Dead Man's Walk

The first prequel to the Lonesome Dove series where we first meet Gus and Call as young fledgling Texas Rangers about to go off on their first mission towards New Mexico. On the way they will encounter the brutal Texas landscape, Comanche Indians, the Mexican army, and Apache Indians bringing an initial party over 100 down to just a handful.

We get to see Gus and Call meet Clara and Maddie and it was so much fun revisiting this world especially knowing what will happen in future events. Although I was surprised that Gus and Call seemed to switch personalities when they were younger: Gus now a quiet reserved kind of guy and Call the outspoken act-before-you-think type. Interesting to see how their experiences will completely flip their personalities.

While this book isn't as deep a reflection on humanity and the beauty and cruelty of nature, and instead reads more like an adventure story, I still loved reading this and couldn't stop walking around with the book in my hands so that I could sit down somewhere and read more.

20) Ursula K Le Guin : The Dispossessed

Shevek is a physicist whose talent is being diminished on his home planet of Anarres, and thus manages to find a way to get invited by the planet Urrras to continue his work there. While initially amazed by the beauty of Urras, Shevek gradually becomes suspicious of his surroundings as he receives mysterious messages and feels like he is being watched all the time. When he starts asking questions like where are all the poor people?, things get even stricter around him and he finds himself seeking escape.

The book compares the two planets: Anarres was created by a group of rebels on Urras who went off to create a new settlement: a utopia with no central government. On it, everyone contributes the system of the planet and every profits off of it equally. There is no such thing as money, or power, or "want" but life is difficult on this dry parched planet. On Urras, man lives freely and the planet is plenty with greenery, and water and delicious foods, but the rich seem to be the only one enjoying these luxuries.

It's a book about anarchy, capitalism, utopic/dystopic governments and it tests all the theories around the two societies, showing where one lacks and one triumphs, and vice versa.

Le Guin's writing was once again wonderful and very lyrical. However I must admit I felt a bit disconnected to this book. I think Le Guin was too intelligent for me and there were so many ideas that I started getting overwhelmed by them all. Remarkable achievement thought that certainly dismantles the idea of genre fiction.

21) Evelyn Waugh : The Loved One

We are introduced to three characters, when a man named Abercrombie goes to the home of Hinsley to lament the humiliation that Dennis Barlow is bringing to the English community, there in Hollywood. The Englishmen have a reputation of superiority over the Americans to maintain and insists that Barlow stop his job at the pet crematorium.

Hinsley himself, a one-hit-only screenwriter, has just been disgracefully fired from his job without notification, and upon learning of the new commits suicide. Abercrombie, in a means to keep Dennis busy declares that Dennis should take care of the funeral arrangements.

There Dennis meets a woman and decides to attempt to woo her, but not out of any true sentiment for the girl but more to try and outdo the other man who is courting the woman.

Dennis' is anything but a man and his character will bring down whomever he encounters.

This is my first Waugh and I was told this would be quite the black comedy by the back of the book but I think I grinned sarcastically only once. I understood the concept of the book, and I understood what are supposed to the be the comedic moments but I was not attached to the book at all and this ranks right up there with The Great Gatsby for me; as in, not very high.

22) H.G. Wells : The War of the Worlds

The next book I read was this classic of classics in the sci-fi world. I had seen the movie with Tom Cruise and although the characters/actors are horrible in that movie, the world was fascinating and the alien invasion was impressive.

This book takes place around London when Martians land on the planet and start to take over. The book is credited with the invention of the "heat ray", a weapon used in so many subsequent scifi plots.

It was impressive to enter this world of Wells and I enjoyed myself but reading this as a modern reader it's more a book to read due to its historical significance to the scifi world than it is to be haunted and tortured by the plot itself.

23) Lester I. Tenney : My Hitch in Hell: The Bataan Death March

The latest book I read was a war memoir about Lester Tenney who was an American soldier who survived the Bataan Death March and the subsequent 3 and half years in Japanese prisoner of war camps, the last being renown historically as the worse of the POW camps in Japan. The torture is horrific, the scenes he describes are jaw-dropping and the pain he experienced is fascinatingly horrible.

How he managed to survive such a treatment by the Japanese is remarkable and fascinating and he writes about it so skillfully in this book. I really enjoyed this one and it will definitely be added to my list of must-reads for those interested in this event.

kesäkuu 26, 2020, 4:49pm

>45 lilisin: If you can find the Orson Welles radio place of War of the Worlds it's worth a listen.

kesäkuu 26, 2020, 7:37pm

>46 janemarieprice: It is indeed -- and it is available both from OTR podcasts and sites and over on YouTube. :)

>45 lilisin:
Evelyn Waugh is one of those authors who is a lot OF his time. Most of the black comedy comes from recognizing who he is talking about or at least recognizing what this person is like -- most of the characters are thinly disguised real characters. I found most of his novels to be better on a second read -- you notice what the person is like during the first and then you can see these situations on the second. But he is an acquired taste indeed.

Interesting thoughts on the rest.

kesäkuu 29, 2020, 3:58am

>46 janemarieprice:

I've heard that mentioned before so it's interesting you mention it as well.

>47 AnnieMod:

Yes, I could feel he was of his time. And I could understand the style of humor -- while I couldn't say who the real people are -- but I didn't find it humorous. I'd still interested in reading his more famous books. As an aside I also need to learn to start saying his name as Evelyn instead of Eva Lynn.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 29, 2020, 4:04am

24) Elie Wiesel : Night

I wish I had read this for school in middle school. I think this is a perfect way to introduce the emotions behind the Auschwitz concentration camp to kids of this age as Elie himself was only 14 at the time. I think this is most worthy of being on the curriculum for any WWII studies.

However, for myself, reading this as an adult, the war memoir I just read about the Bataan Death March was objectively better. But with this I am comparing the experience of a 14 year old boy with that of a 20 year old soldier, who although is still relatively young, had at least trained for war even if he was only at battle for about a month before his squad had surrendered to the Japanese.

Unfortunately as an adult the oversaturation of WWII related books from the point of the view of the Europeans had me reading this more as a means to tick a box so that I can finally say that I've read this famous book.

So, a good book, no objection there, but I'm no longer part of the target audience.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 29, 2020, 12:26pm

>48 lilisin:

:) I did not mean to imply that you did not get the humor. Apologies if it read that way. I find his books to be more satire than humor - I don't need satire to be humorous. I actually did not know he is a he until after I had read a few of the books and stumbled on a picture of his... some English names are very confusing. :)

>49 lilisin:

Do you plan to read the other 2 or just stop with this one? I read the first one on my early 20s and the latter 2 a decade later -- they do read a bit juvenile but I found them as engrossing as Anne Frank's Diary. Not great literature per see but still...

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 29, 2020, 12:22pm

>45 lilisin: >48 lilisin: The loved one is arguably Waugh's worst book... Something like A handful of dust or Vile bodies is more his "normal" satirical style, and Brideshead revisited and the WWII trilogy (Men at arms, etc.) are the more serious ones. Not everyone's taste, and as Annie said very of-his-time (and English, Catholic, and a terrible snob as well...). But really good writing if you can get past that yuk factor.

BTW: his first wife was also an Evelyn. It's widely thought that they did it on purpose.

Muokkaaja: kesäkuu 30, 2020, 4:25am

>50 AnnieMod:

No offense was taken! And similarly I thought I was balancing my reading with a female author when I remembered it was a him! Just yesterday though I heard his name pronounced by an English person so finally I know how to pronounce his name properly.

I think I'm officially retiring from anything related to the Holocaust so I won't be continuing with the other two. In fact, I bought this book at a French language book sale and they had Dawn but I'm glad I didn't purchase it.

I think juvenile is the right word for it but I was afraid of seeming too insensitive or even, dismissive, to such a sensitive topic. I think paired with Anne Frank's Diary would be excellent. I had only read the diary in middle school myself.

>51 thorold:

... if you can get the past that yuk factor.

I think we need to work on your marketing skills. :)

It's widely thought that they did it on purpose.

How very confusing!

heinäkuu 9, 2020, 7:25pm

>45 lilisin: I thought the older War of the Worlds movie had some things to recommend it, also.

heinäkuu 9, 2020, 7:31pm

>51 thorold: I hope there was affection or family connection between them, at least.

heinäkuu 9, 2020, 7:33pm

>47 AnnieMod: I wondered if it was Eve-uh-lynn or Eva-lynn, but never enough to go find out.

heinäkuu 9, 2020, 7:45pm

>55 sallypursell: I had a bit of help in that - as I had seen his name written in Bulgarian and Russian and they are phonetic (mostly) - he is Ивлин (Ivlin) there -- but so is his first wife. Not that some names are not really badly mangled when they are moved to the Cyrillic-based languages of course - but that one was not one of them. His last name is different in both languages though - Bulgarian uses U and Russian uses V (The English W is hard for my languages so depending on when it came into the language and from where, it can be either in Bulgarian. We use V at the start of Washington for example. (same letter that Virginia starts with). :).

And I am off on a tangent again in someone else's thread. :)

heinäkuu 10, 2020, 12:36am

>56 AnnieMod: I read Cyrillic letters from when I studied Russian, although my remembered vocabulary is very small. That clarified it completely.

heinäkuu 10, 2020, 12:59am

>55 sallypursell:, >56 AnnieMod:

I recently heard someone pronounce his name as Eve (as in Christmas Eve) - Lynn which made a lot more sense for me as a male name.

heinäkuu 10, 2020, 1:27am

Yeah - the Russian/Bulgarian version starts with a short I instead of the long of Eve but other from that it is the same. Wiki actually has a transcription - long I at the start before the v, followed by how you would pronounce Lynn at the end so that sounds about right on how to explain the pronunciation. It still sounds female to me but some names just do not move properly across cultures. Now you made em wonder how his name will be written in kana. :)

heinäkuu 10, 2020, 3:31am

>59 AnnieMod:

Oo! Good point. The Japanese often gives the actual correct pronunciation! Checking on his wiki page we get:

Yep, as you say, a long I at the beginning!

heinäkuu 14, 2020, 4:08am

25) Natsuo Kirino : Intrusion

I keep getting burned by marketing these days. Books keep getting marketed as something they are not and then I pick up the book thinking it's the other things when really it's something else. Then, even if the book is good, since it went contrary to what I thought it was going to be about, somehow it leaves me just a bit disappointed. It's really quite aggravating.

This book was marketed as a thriller so I picked it up as a thriller and then when it wasn't thrilling I was getting bored. But if it had just been marketed as a book that observes the role of man and how his existence means that a woman can never fulfill the full potential she has, then I would have been thrilled by how accurate the book is at portraying this.

So deception by the marketer made my reading experience much less pleasurable. And this isn't the first time this thing has happened. Again, aggravating. And by reading the reviews of other French readers (this book has not been translated into English) everyone hated the book some due to the book but also because they were expecting a thriller and didn't get one.

In any case this book is about Tamaki, a young author, who is using another author's (Midorikawa) book as inspiration for her own. Her goal is to find the character O. in his book that fictionalizes his own life about his affair with O and how he reconciles with his wife, Michiko. Her experiences in writing the book and the plot of the book itself start to mirror her own life as she reflects on her own love story.

The book, although a bit slow and tedious at times ended up being quite a frustrating but introspective look at how men always win. Despite proof that Midorikawa has molested a minor, despite the fact that he was having an affair, despite the fact that he was never present at home, he is still able to blame all his faults on his wife as it is her job to keep him in check. And even if it is her job to keep him in check, she is never to be elevated to a status higher than his. Because he has to win. He is a man after all.

Kirino is a very feminist writer and she portrays so well this frustrating piece of society. Even when depicting very strong female characters she never fails to show what their position in society is.

It's unfortunate that this book was lost to marketing because it does have a lot to say even if it's not the most interesting way to say it.

heinäkuu 14, 2020, 10:53am

Hmm, maybe the only way to completely avoid deceptive marketing copy is to never read it? But then how do we choose the books we read? And what to do when more copies can be sold when a book is described as something it isn't? I saw similar complaints about how Hideo Yokoyama's novels are marketed as thrillers, when they are really examinations of Japanese police and newspaper cultures.

heinäkuu 14, 2020, 7:53pm

>62 RidgewayGirl:

Yes, I'm thankful I've read people's warnings about Yokoyama's novels because I have his Six Four on my TBR and now I can look forward to it exactly for the insight it will have on the Japanese police culture rather than setting myself up for a thriller.

I think the issue lies often with once an author writes a certain type of book, publishers want to keep them in that bubble. So Kirino's more famous book Out definitely reads as a thriller that just happens to have additional insight on women in Japan but for those who might miss out on that part it can be just a thriller. And with the success of that book it's probably tempting to keep her in that bubble. But this book I just read is most definitely not a thriller so I was set up for disappointment despite it not being a bad book!

heinäkuu 17, 2020, 7:24pm

>63 lilisin: Everytime you talk about Out I've written a reminder to put that in my Amazon cart to buy. What I just realized is that I did buy it already and it's sitting on my shelf for months. Damn camofalgue, the eye just disappears. Intrusion still sounds fascinating, even if it doesn't live up to its thriller billing. So many Japanese books to read next...

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 22, 2020, 4:08am

>64 stretch:

So many to read, indeed. One of my favorite contemporary books just got its translation out so please go read The Hole by Hiroko Oyamada. This is the book that when I first read it five years ago I wanted to be the one who translated it. I was obsessed with the idea. But I don't have the experience, and most of all, I don't have the discipline to undertake such a project. Unfortunately as I feel like I would have actually done a great job.

I'll post the book's promotional page and blurb here:

Asa’s husband is transferring jobs, and his new office is located near his family’s home in the countryside. During an exceptionally hot summer, the young married couple move in, and Asa does her best to quickly adjust to their new rural lives, to their remoteness, to the constant presence of her in-laws and the incessant buzz of cicadas. While her husband is consumed with his job, Asa is left to explore her surroundings on her own: she makes trips to the supermarket, halfheartedly looks for work, and tries to find interesting ways of killing time.

One day, while running an errand for her mother-in-law, she comes across a strange creature, follows it to the embankment of a river, and ends up falling into a hole—a hole that seems to have been made specifically for her. This is the first in a series of bizarre experiences that drive Asa deeper into the mysteries of this rural landscape filled with eccentric characters and unidentifiable creatures, leading her to question her role in this world, and eventually, her sanity.

heinäkuu 22, 2020, 7:12am

>65 lilisin: Thanks for the heads up. I'm always terrible about following those kinds of things. The Hole sounds wonderful let weird. Loved the Factory so I have high hopes for this one. I'll order this one as soon as get home from this trip.

It's funny the Korean book I'm reading also called the Hole is experimental and strange in its own quiet way.

Muokkaaja: heinäkuu 27, 2020, 4:09am

Because it's the summer (although rainy season still hasn't ended, ugh!), the big bookstore here is doing their summer book sales. There were two English book sales and one French book sale which I ended up getting a good score out of. No more sales till the winter ones so I picked up everything I could especially since the books were cheaper than what I could even get them at in their respective countries.

Natsuo Kirino : Monstrueux
Natsuo Kirino : Intrusion *read
Akira Mizubayashi : Petit éloge de l'errance
Patrick Chamoiseau : Texaco
Romain Gary : Le Vin des morts
Alexandre Dumas : Le Capitaine Paul
Elie Wiesel : Nuit *read
Isabel Allende : Retrato en sepia *which turns out I read in college in French but I remember nothing so...
Larry McMurtry : Leaving Cheyenne
Ayobami Adebayo : Stay with Me: A novel
Daphne du Maurier : My Cousin Rachel

Muokkaaja: elokuu 6, 2020, 4:04am

Letting those reviews get away from me again.

26) Kate Elizabeth Russell : My Dark Vanessa

An excellent book about Vanessa who had an affair with her teacher when she was 15, and he 42 or so, when she was in boarding school. Her past comes back to her when, in the present, another woman has accused their former teacher of sexual assault on a minor and tries to get Vanessa to back her up. Vanessa however doesn't understand the words this girl is using -- assault, rape -- as she is convinced that her relationship was one of love. As we go back into the past and realize that Vanessa is still in contact with her teacher, we come to realize that not only was she in fact abused and taken advantage of, but also that her teacher has very much gaslighted her and Vanessa needs to hold on to this concept of love to save her from facing the possible reality of her situation.

The author magnificently portrays the feelings of a young girl as she grows up into her late 20s, while also tackling issues like victim blaming and the poor decisions made the by the boarding school disciplinary board.

The book is very good at taking us through all the emotions Vanessa is going through, as well as giving a very well written look at the social environment of the 90s compared to present day. The author's writing is strong, not letting you realize it's a debut novel, and I have to commend her on the sex scenes that were so well written that they felt very much real and realistic versus some of the sex scenes I've read in other contemporary books that don't advance the narrative at all and seem to just be there to shock you.

Highly recommended.

27) Yasunari Kawabata : Dandelions

A very boring book that centers around a conversation between Ineko's mother and Ineko's semi-fiance. Ineko has just been dropped off at a mental institution because she has developed a condition where she just stops seeing things. For example, she has stopping seeing her fiance's face. They will be together and she can feel him, tough him, is aware that he is there, but it's like her eyes deny his existence. However, we do not talk with Ineko in this book. Instead the book is the back and forth between her mother and her fiance as they discuss possible contributing factors to her condition. And it's utterly boring. Oh my gosh! Their conversations go in circles in that way that just drives you insane.

- I agree with what you just said.
- I didn't say that.
- But you did say that.
- Really? Well, maybe I did. But that's not what I meant.
- Ah, I see what you mean. I agree with this new statement that is now contradictory to what you said previously that I had agreed with.

At the end I'm not sure what Kawabata wanted to discuss with this book. This was his last book before he committed suicide and it was published unfinished. The book does manage to end cleanly but what is it about? I had to read a professional review online from someone else and they seemed to have gotten a lot more out of the book than I did.

The review in question:

But this is why I never recommend Kawabata to anyone who wants to pursue Japanese literature. This was my first revisit of the author in 20 years since reading one book and abandoning the other and even with my gained life experience and gained Japan experience I still found this terribly boring.

elokuu 6, 2020, 10:43am

I've made a note of The Hole. The cover is gorgeous.

Muokkaaja: elokuu 7, 2020, 10:52am

>68 lilisin: I felt bad when I read A Thousand Cranes, it was just so tiresome and never went anywhere at all. It was just words on a page and nothing else. I tried giving it the benefit of the doubt, but it truly wasn't good. I sort of gave up on writers of his generation, moving to a more contemporary Japanese literature. I still have a couple of authors to get to, all of whom are fatalistic in their mindset. i'm still not motivated to get to them.

elokuu 6, 2020, 8:00pm

>69 RidgewayGirl:

I hope you enjoy it! Coming out soon!

>70 stretch:

I think I will still try Kawabata's Snow Country at some point as that is his most famous and I think most plot-driven out of all his works. In terms of writers of his generation Soseki is lovely, Akutagawa is harrowing, and Tanizaki is great. I haven't read the other authors from his generation other than those as I prefer the post-war writers which is the generation right after Kawabata. I remember not hating Thousand Cranes as I thought it showed the subtleties and complexities behind relationships of the time. So the story did have something to say even though it was slow-paced and a bit agonizing. Dandelions was just agonizing with no goal in mind. At least to me. :)

elokuu 6, 2020, 8:17pm

28) Ayobami Adebayo : Stay with me

The story of Yejibe and Akin and their struggles with infertility while Nigeria struggles with yet another coup in its political backdrop. Akin's mother gets tired of Yejibe's inability to have children and forces a second wife on Akin, but he has his own ideas on helping their situation.

It's a book about love for a spouse, oneself, and one's children; a question about devotion; a sad song about the struggles of infertility. The book takes us back and forth between the present where we discover that Yejibe is no longer with Akin, and the past as we see how their love is tested then broken down to the point where Yejibe leaves.

I would call this a good, standard book that was pleasurable to read. Nothing super memorable or new, per se, but a good look at Nigerian culture and the Nigerian influence on a universal concept such as love and infertility. I admittedly was probably more interested in the political workings in the backdrop -- and would be interested in reading more about that -- but I did very much like the characters of Yejibe and Akin.

elokuu 17, 2020, 2:27am

29) Kerri Rawson : A Serial Killer's Daughter

I've been struggling to read my usual literary fiction as everything seems to be bugging me so I went to the bookstore to look for some nonfiction, which I figured wouldn't leave anything up to interpretation, so it would satisfy this sense of curiosity I'm having. This book is something that reminds me of when I used to watch shows on tv about America's scariest whatever, leading me to know quite a bit about our serial killers.

In any case, this book strangely screamed out at me asking me to buy it and I enjoyed it. It did exactly what it said it would do; it explored the relationship a daughter has with her serial killer father, the BTK killer, and how she handled the discovery that he had been hiding something so horrible for 30 years. Obviously it was a shock that lead to intense trauma, anxiety and PTSD, along with a loss of faith and understanding of her childhood.

We follow her as she presents the murders he did and how those fit within the timetable of their family. We also explore the period where they were just a family of four and how that kept him too busy to pursue further murders. But as his children got older and started pursuing their own lives he found himself bored again and desiring to remind the police of his existence. The book doesn't got into the details of his murders because as his daughter, she doesn't want to know this things. She already is struggling with separating the dad she loves with the man who committed these murders and that is enough.

A well presented book about the sorrow a daughter goes though as she grieves the man she loved. Recommended for anyone interesting in the topic and want something straightforward to read as there are no surprises in the text.

Muokkaaja: syyskuu 23, 2020, 3:49am

I've ready quite a few books since my last post but I just can't seem to get myself to sit down and write my thoughts, even when I have them! Hopefully I can write down something soon before this list gets too long and I forget the details I wanted to remember. But my thread does have a tendency to get neglected as we approach the end of the year. It's still a little early for that though, I feel.

30) Jon Krakauer : Into Thin Air
31) Daphne Du Maurier : My Cousin Rachel
32) George Orwell : Burmese Days
33) Akira Mizubayashi : Petit eloge de l'errance
34) Larry McMurtry : Leaving Cheyenne
35) Robert S. Boyton : The Invitation-Only Zone: The True Story of North Korea's Abduction Project
36) Duong Thu Huong : Roman sans titre (Novel Without a Name)

marraskuu 26, 2020, 1:27am

And more books I've read since September but haven't reviewed yet. I'm pretty sure these will just never get reviewed. Unfortunate as I always like to go back to my old threads and see my thoughts on the books I read that year but I just can't get myself to sit down and write my thoughts.

37) Richard Lloyd Parry : People who Eat Darkness
38) Amelie Nothomb : Riquet a la houppe
39) Jonathan D. Spence : The Gate of Heavenly Peace
40) Ngugi wa Thiong'o : The River Between
41) Shusaku Endo : Scandal
42) Kazuo Sakamaki : I Attacked Pearl Harbor
43) HG Wells : The Invisible Man

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 26, 2020, 12:20pm

>75 lilisin: I think I'll be on the look out for Scandal as my next Endo, something like the love child of Abe and Murakami sounds too good to pass up.

Was the River Between good, I never heard of that one but it sounds good from the blurb?

Muokkaaja: marraskuu 28, 2020, 10:06pm

>76 stretch:

I'll be interested to see what you end up thinking about Scandal. I really thought it was so much different than his other works I've read. I still haven't made up my mind about it.

To start out with my criticisms, for being a short book I thought The River Between a bit repetitive and I wanted more about the actual infiltration of Christianity. But it was actually a lovely little book that had a tragic look at a character who was trying to find a compromise that would embrace both sides and bring the community forward, but is torn down by two extremes. The author's use of the separation of the two sides in terms of tradition vs Christianity in contrast to the physical separation with the mountain ridges and the valley that cuts in between created a beautiful imagery. I think the book is worth your time but I think his other books will be better and I look forward to reading them.

I do find it harder sometimes to review a book by an author when it's the first book I read of theirs as I like to compare an author's work to their body of work.

joulukuu 30, 2020, 7:50am

Well, these are the last books of 2020. Will I discuss them? Doesn't look like it at this rate but Christmas miracles could still happen. I'll update with the link to my new thread once I set it up and will also post my final thoughts on the general trend my reading took this year. For now, just the last three books I read this year!

44) Emily St. John Mandel : The Glass Hotel
45) 奈都 宮下 : 静かな雨
46) 乙一 : 夏と花火と私の死体 (Summer, Fireworks, and My Corpse)