Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Monday, August 31, 2009

"The Crimson Labyrinth" by Yusuke Kishi-Japanese Horror Novel-Sunday Salon

The Crimson Labyrinth by Yusuke Kishi (288 pages, 2006) is my fourth Japanese Novel and my first Japanese Horror novel.

As the book begins we are thrown into a terrifying situation. The lead character Fujiki awakes from what he at first thinks is an alcohol induced blackout (he has had them before). He awakes in some sort of canyon with crimson colored walls that are way beyond his ability to scale. Compared to the only place Fujiki has experienced, super urban Tokyo, it is almost as if he has been taken up in a space ship and transported to another world. We begin to learn a little about Fujuki. Right out of college he landed a good job in a huge company. His future seemed secure and he married.

"It was as if he had received a written guarantee from the Emperor of Japan, and he never entertained the notion that his company might collapse before he reached retirement".

Fujuki's world crashes in on him. His wife leaves him. He lacks the will to seek a replacement job and drifts into near homelessness when he is evicted from his company housing. At this point I had to stop to reflect on this a bit. In Europe, the USA, and most of Asia people no longer expect life time employment and millions of people have to reinvent themselves at least partially ever year due to corporate turmoil. This is a fact of the modern world and most people cope with it. Fujuki does not seem to even try. Maybe this is reflective of Japanese cultural expectations but it caused me to lose my respect for the central character. Later on as you read the novel we perhaps begin to wonder if someone picked him just because he was a thrown away person.

As Fujuki begins to explore the Labyrinth he ends up meeting eleven more people all of dubious backgrounds. We learn that Fujiki somehow now defines himself as "Unemployed". We learn that every one in the Labyrinth seems to be caught up in a vicious survival game in which eleven will die and one will be well rewarded. Fujiki partners with a female character who draws pornographic cartoons for a living and wears a hearing aid. He begins to see it may all be a very decadent play for the amusement of some hyper wealthy person.

All of the players in the novel have game boy like devices that give them instructions. Exciting things happen. There is romance and people turn cannibal on us. We even meet an insane talking platypus. The players divide into four teams to explore the Labyrinth.

I do not want to give away a lot of the plot of the novel as that is the fun of the book. Along the way we do learn a lot of National Geographic type matters which I enjoyed a lot.

In The Crimson Labyrinth we see how dangerous it is to define yourself through your job, especially a corporate job that could be lost at any moment through the whim of some unknown to you party. Maybe the strange rigged game that the players are in is a model of Japanese Corporate life gone very bad.

I think what I liked best in this book were the incidental things I learned along the way. I liked the ending a lot. Fujuki thinks he has it all figured out but really there is no reason to believe he does. I did not develop a great sense of vicarious fear during this book. Maybe that is because I did not care about the characters. Maybe part of the point is that no one does. Fujuki seems without inner resources. I enjoyed this book pretty much. It is not on the level with the prior three Japanese Novels I reviewed. I think part of my enjoyment of the novel did stem from the fact that it was my first Japanese Horror novel so I was very curious about the book.

I obtained this novel in a book swap with a fellow book blogger Peter of KyusiReader

Peter has posted a very interesting and insightful review of the book on his blog.

This will be my first book for the R I P Challenge

It is my fourth book for The Japanese Challenge 3

I thank Carl and Dolce Bellezza for hosting these great challenges.

I feel bad in saying this but to me this book is not worth the list price of $14.95 (USA). If you can get a library copy or a used one or swap for it somehow. It is not a bad book and should be an ok first Japanese Horror novel for most people. If any one has any good ideas for a first Japanese science fiction novel or epistolary novel please let me know.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Reading Life Receives an Award

Thank you very much to Jessica of A Book Lovers's Diary for awarding The Lemonade award to my blog.
Here are rules governing the award:

The Lemonade Award is a feel good award that shows great attitude or gratitude. Here are the rules for accepting this award:

- Put the Lemonade Award logo on your blog or post.

-Link your nominees within your post.

-Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog.

I wish to nominate for the award:

1. Diane of Bibliophile by the Sea

2. Claire of Paperback Reader

3. Suko of Suko's Notebook

4. Ann of Table Talk

These blogs, along with A Book Lovers's Diary, are a consistent source of great insights into The Reading Life.

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Monday, August 24, 2009

Two Very Different Ladies That Love Balzac-

I recently read two very different novels worlds apart in their setting, style, and characters but with a common theme.
They both center around women who love the novels of Balzac, whose lives have been radically affected by a reading of his works. One is an English Academic and the other is a Chinese seamstress in the time of Mao's re-edification programs in rural areas of China.

A Start in Life by Anita Brookner(1982-176 pages)

Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress Dai Sijie (2000, 172 pages, trans. from French by Ina Rilke)

Dr Ruth Weiss, the central character in A Start in Life and the little seamstress (that is how she is always designated)
in Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress are as different as two women from the same planet can be.

Dr Weiss is a literary academic who lives a very beige colored life. Her only striking feature is
her beautiful red hair. She lives in cramped quarters and is alone a lot. She is very careful and cautious.
Her real life does not begin until she is between the pages of a book or in a library or bookstore. She has published a book called Women in Balzac's Novels and has a second volume in the works. She basically gets paid to read what she wants to read, write about it and talk about it. Before we say, wow this sounds great, we must linger over
the opening sentence of the book: "Dr Weiss, at forty, knew that her life had been ruined by literature". I will admit the book had me at that point. I wanted to know why and I wondered if mine was also somehow and I can already see my middle daughter, 13, retreating into a world of books one day.

The little seamstress works for her father, a traveling tailor, in rural China during the period of Mao's re-edification programs. She is young, full of life, pretty and has many suitors. All she has ever read in her life are works approved by people's committees and the sayings of Chairmen Mao. Two late teenage cousins of affluent families have been sent from the city to do very hard work among the peasants in order to re-edify them. Both of the cousins become infatuated with the seamstress and one of them begins an affair with her. The cousins come into to possession
of a magic suitcase full of 19th century novels, Gogol, Dickens, Flaubert, Melville. The biggest treasure in the suitcase is a number of Balzac novels. (All the novels have been translated into Chinese.) The cousins at once set about reading and rereading these works. They are most taken with Balzac, maybe because they have more of his works but we are never told why they like him so much but maybe we can figure it out. One of the cousins decides to read Balzac to the little seamstress. She falls in love with his stories and they shape her life in ways no one can predict in advance. A lot of exciting things happen in Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress. We get a good feel for life in rural China. We feel like what it is like to go from the life of a son of the most famous dentist in China to hauling manure in the country side as part of a re-edification program from which you have little change of graduation. Unless you are a saint you will really enjoy the revenge enacted on a village headman. Their attempt to make the little seamstress a more refined girl friend back fires on them in a big way. There is a lot to be learned and thought about in this book. We take for granted our ability to read what we want. It made me think again how great the 19th century masters are, to see that they are not just books you have to read in school or because someone says they are good for you. There are also a number of exciting scenes in the book. You always want to know what will happen next. You really feel like you are in rural China.

Dr Ruth Weiss, the central character of A Start in Life, has no suitors at her door, has never done any physical work in her life and for sure has never had an outdoor romantic encounter. She does have beautiful red hair and we are somehow thankful for that. Her life and her appearance is all shades of beige with maybe a tan suede jacket for the cold.
She fits right into the world of libraries and lecture halls. The book is written with great stylistic economy. Sometimes it seems Dr Weiss is a minor character in a 19th century novel. Dr Weiss has her loves and tragedies but she always has Balzac to retreat into. My guess is that as Dr Weiss ages she won't make any big changes in her life but she will always have her Balzac and her increasing refinement will increase her loneliness. As the little seamstress ages she will do things we can never imagine and she cannot either. I do not think she will do a lot more reading in her life, she will be busy and she has already done the reading that will set the course of her life. "She said she had learnt one thing from Balzac: that a woman's beauty is a treasure beyond price."

I endorse Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress without reservation. It is a fun easy to read book and the production value of the paperback edition are high.

A Start in Life is an book of exquisite economy. It is what one might call academic fiction.

Dai Sijie has two other books translated into English. He was himself in a re-edification program and resides in France.
Both of his other books deal with reading life issues and I hope to read them by year end 2010.

Anita Brookner has written twenty four novels, one a year since she started writing twenty four years ago at age fifty.
It seems most are about somewhat lonely reflective a bit bookish people. I will read more of them also.

Maybe I need to read some more Balzac also!

Mel u
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Sunday, August 23, 2009

"Real World" by Natsuo Kirino -Reading the Teenage Mind Sunday Salon

Real World
by Natsuo Kirino(2003, trans 2008, 208 pages) already been reviewed twice for
The Japanese Challenge III .

Emily focuses very well on the character development in Real World

Swati deals with how the book displays for us the developmental issues of teenagers

This is my third Japanese novel for the Challenge and in fact my third Japanese novel. The novel
centers around four teen age girls and male teenager neighbor of one of the girls. The boy has just beaten his mother to death. (This is not a spoiler as it is on the back cover of the book.) The action of the book centers around the girls involvement with the boy, who is called "Worm". The girls relationship to the adult world they live in but are not yet a part of is dealt with very skillfully.

I could not help but react to this book in a very personal way. I have three daughters, 11, 13 and 15 and at times my wife and I are quite bewildered by them, just as they are often frustrated by what they see as our purely capricious dictates. As Natsuo Kirino brings us into the minds of the girls in the book I could not help but wonder "hum is that what my girls are thinking during those long silences?". My wife and I often talk about how the girls are in a very different world than the one we live in. My daughters find it hard to believe that there was no internet when I went to college and no cell phone when my wife did. To them it is another version of the story of how in the old days people had to walk ten miles to get to school in a blizzard. In one ear and out the other.

There is a good bit of exciting action in Real World. We go on a terrifying cab ride, we watch a romance develop that will curl the hair of anybody who has teenage daughters , we see how important cell phones are to teens. We get a deep look into the minds of five very individual teenagers and a look at life in a Tokyo High School. The big city is an unspoken character.

There is also some material related to Reading Life issues developed. One of the girls got her nick name from the Magna Oishinbo, about a girl whose mother died when she was a teen, just like the character's did. A sentence out of a book can somehow become a mantra for our lives. The Most intellectual of the girls has at least heard of two 19th century masters of angst, "Sprinkle in some Dostoyesky or Nietsche or whatever" as she advises the young male teenage matricide to write his story. This same character, Terauchi, shows us in a letter that she has thought a lot about who novelists create their works: "I finally understand the reason novelists write books: before they die they want someone to understand them". This is not a question someone unacquainted with The Reading Life would ask themselves.

Some times it seems there is no real world, only the world we construct out of our stories. Some times our stories overlap and sometimes they dont. Only at the very last page of the book do we see the story of one of the girls begin to cross over into the adult world.

I enjoyed Real World very much. I have her longer novel Out and look forward to reading it soon. I endorse this book for sure for any one who has teenage daughters or for that matter for any one who is or ever was a teenager!.

My goal now is to read novels by at least ten different Japanese novels by the time the challenge is over.
I have greatly enjoyed all the posts resulting from the challenge.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

"Age of Innocence" by Edith Wharton-Reading as Deliberate High Culture Sunday Salon

My first reaction to a book as wonderfully written as The Age of Innocence is simply to let the words flow over me, to bask in the beauty of the language and to allow my sensibility to be controlled by beauty of the work. Some of the sentences in the book are so well crafted I reread them several times just for the sheer pleasure of doing so.

I think here the form of these sentences is part of the meaning. Age of Innocence tells us a lot about how one can live within the beauty of the written word, with no concern for its meaning. The lead male persona in the book,
Newland Archer, has a deep relationship with the books he reads and does retreat into them.

There are several themes one can mine in this book (and mind). It tells us a lot about the relationship of men and women, America to Europe, old culture to new, parents to children, passion to practicality. In accord with the theme of my blog, I will post a bit about what it tells us about the reading life of the characters of the book, how they use books to create culture, to see refuge, to create bonds and exclude others.

In the High Society of New York State late 19th century it was important to read the right books

"In an unclouded harmony of tastes and interests they cultivated ferns in Wardian cases, made macarame lace and wool embroidery on linen, collected American revolutionary glazed ware...they liked novels about people in society, whose motives and habits were more comprehensible, spoke severely of Dickens, who had never drawn a gentleman"

This displays the use of reading to reaffirm our beliefs, to read the books proper to our station in life.

Books can also be used as part of a mentoring relationship.

"the shy interest in books she was beginning to develop under his guidance".

Books are also physical property. One of the great pleasures of the Reading Centered Life for many of us is to get new books. Every week there are dozens or more blog posts about new books one has gotten in the mail.
Imagine how this feeling was magnified when the books had to cross the ocean on long voyages.

"That evening he unpacked his books from London. The box was full of things he had been waiting for impatiently.
a new volume of Herbert Spencer, another collection of Guy de Mauspassant's incomparable tales, and a novel called
Middlemarch ...he had declined three dinner invitations in favor of this feast: he turned the pages with the
sensuous joy of the book lover".

Every one seriously into The Reading Life can relate to how social obligations become a burden that gets in the way of our real life, our reading time.

"he built up within himself a kind of sancturary...little by little it became the scene of his real life, of his only rational activities, thither he brought the books he read, the ideas and feelings which nourished him...Outside of it he moved with a growing sense of unreality and insufficiency".

Newland Archer's books becomes more real to him them than what the world thinks is his life. Who among us that has done time in the corporate world or academia has not ended a long meeting lost in thought among the books we love, with no idea at the end what the meeting was about. (But we have learned to fake it.)

There is a lot more about the reading life, about how history books create what we think is history out of the mass of events that take place, and much more in Age of Innocence. To me personally, the deepest meaning is in the beauty of the words. Listen for a moment to this sentence and think about why Edith Wharton used the word
retailing" rather than retelling like very one else would:

"The queer cosmopolitian women, deep in complicated love-affairs which they appeared to feel the need of retailing to every one they meet, and the magnificent young officers and elderly dyed wits who were the objects of their confidences..."

Life recasts it self as a story, not as a newspaper article. The Europe created in the mind of Newland Archer (a first name worthy of Pynchon) is also a literary construct out of the books he cherishes.

I am embarked on two long term reading projects-the novels of Henry James and those of Edith Wharton. It will take me several years to complete this project. I hope in time, maybe after my one year blog anniversary in July 2010 to host a James/Wharton challenge. (I guess that would attract a rowdy crowd!!)

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Sunday, August 16, 2009

"Goodbye Tsugumi" by Banana Yoshimoto- Sunday Salon

I am simply crazy about my second book for Dolce Bellezza's Japanese Literature Challenge. Goodbye Tsugumi by
Banana Yoshimoto (1989, translated by Michael Freeman 2002, 186 pages) started a little slow for me but by the time this story was nearing its ending I was wishing it was 1000 pages long so I would not be cut off from the world Banana Yoshimoto created with such economy. I was drawn very deeply into the lives of the lead characters, two female teenage cousins whose lives center around a small town inn outside of Tokyo. The title character Tsugumi is 18, her cousin and narrator of the story Maria is 19 and Yoko the sister of Tsugumi is 20. The parents of Tsugumi own the Inn. Marie's is the only child of a single mother.

Tsugumi has a serious illness and a personality that grates on most people at first. At first I did not like her but
by the time of her action scene that I am sure will amaze all readers I was cheering so much for her. Goodbye Tsugumi contains a lot of themes. It is a story of sibling and family conflict. It is a coming of age story of the two cousins. It is a love story. It is a tale of a revenge so sweet you will howl with delight even as you are shocked by what happens. The novel gives you an intimate look at life in a small town Japanese Inn trying to compete with hotels run by giant corporations. It is a story of the pull of the big city and the shadow it casts.

There are some wonderful descriptive phrases of nature throughout the book.

"I get the feeling that in towns near the sea the rain falls in a more lonely fashion than in other places"

"It's a marvelous thing, the ocean. For some reason when two people sit together next to it, they stop caring whether they talk or stay silent".

Here is an observation that to me echoed my first book for the Japanese Challenge After Dark by Haruki Murakami:
"Night time turns people into friends in next to no time"

Both Maria and Tsugumi read a lot. Maria tells us "She was always reading books about all kind of things, she knew a lot".

We are shown how books read long ago can create bonds.

" ''You remember that book Heidi we read when we were kids. I feel kinda like that friend of hers with the bad leg.'
Tsugumi chuckled sheepishly."

It is not labored over in the novel, nothing is, but we can see Maria and her cousin both read a very lot. They read to learn, to pass the time and because they enjoy it. They are raised in a tradition that respects the written word. this reading echos in Maria's observations on nature and in the characters reading of each other.

I really enjoyed Goodbye Tsugumi and I flat out loved the last twenty pages. I hope a lot of others will read this book so I can see their reactions. Banana Yoshimoto has five other works translated into English and I will read them all. My next book for the Japanese Challenge will be Real World by Natsuko Kirino.

Mel u
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Thursday, August 13, 2009

"Dewey:The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World" by Vicki Myron with Bret Witter

Books can be the building blocks of bonds of family and community. We book bloggers know this for sure.
Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World by a 25 year library professional Vicki Myron tells us a lot about how libraries can create communities.

My family and I have all been cat lovers from way back. My brother was just with my family for a visit and he bought and read straight through-unusual for him-while he was here Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World, a N Y times best seller from 2008. The story begins with an act of cruelty when a small cat is left in the middle of an Iowa winter in a book drop outside the Spencer Iowa library. Dewey ends up being adopted as the library cat and spends nineteen years bringing joy to the patrons of the library and has a very special relationship with the library director and her daughter. He achieves world fame being on the cover of cat magazines, on local and nationwide American news shows and is even featured in a Japanese documentary.

Vicki Merton is a true cat lover and any body who loves cats will relate at once to her story about Dewey. The book also deals with her personal and professional issues and tells us a lot about life in a small town library. I live in a city of millions with few real public libraries. This does not affect me so much but I know it prevents many people from becoming life time readers.

Books can also lead us to a shared laugh. My family shares our home with two cats. Charles is an eighteen year old Siamese and very royal in his bearings and attitude. About a year ago one of my daughters found a very small kitten in our parking lot and now Karlie is also in residence. My wife laughed when I showed her this quote "Dewey only eats Fancy Feast" as both Charles and Karlie, who was rescued from a life of eating out of the garbage, only eat Fancy Feast and Science Diet now.

Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World is a fun heart warming book that I think most cat lovers will enjoy. It also has something to tell us about The Reading Life.

Mel u
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Monday, August 10, 2009

Reflections on my first month as a book blogger-Sunday Salon

I began my blog, The Reading Life on July 7, 2009.

 About a year ago I began to follow an ever increasing number of book blogs. I have been a near compulsive reader since I was about seven. For many years I read mostly classics along with biographies, history, poetry with a special interest in the 18th Century. I wanted to start my own book blog but I wanted to find a focus for it. A few months ago I read a book I really loved, "The Elegance of the Hedgehog", by Muriel Barberry. One of the blogs I admire Incurable Logophilia by Verbivores had an excellent review of the book. I was moved to write a couple of long comments on its treatment of the life of the very reading centered characters in the book. I then had the idea for a blog focused around the literary portrayal of the reading centered life. From my blogs, with the aid of Amazon reviews, I began to find 21th century writers I loved.

I soon learned a book blog can sort of take on a life of its own. I am beginning to focus on 21th century treatments of the reading life . I have joined a number of book challenges to expand my reading range. Since starting the blog I have already found four new to me writers I really love: A S Byatt, Muriel Barberry, Penelope Fitzgerald and Markus Zusak. Most of their books deal very centrally with
the reading life. I will read all of their novels. I have found thanks to other bloggers first novelists I like and whose work I will follow. I still read the classics. I am embarked on somes long term reading projects now, all the novels of Henry James and Edith Wharton. I have gotten good reading ideas from visitors to my blog.

I love being a book blogger and will I hope be one the rest of my life. I am very thankful to all who have stopped by my blog.

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Sunday, August 9, 2009

"After Dark" By Haruki Murakami-Reading the Tokyo Night

I just completed my first book for The Japanese Challenge “After Dark” by
Haruki Murakami. This was also in fact my first Japanese novel ever.
“After Dark” starts in a Denny’s, a comfortable familiar place in the night world of Tokyo. The characters in the story are at once beautifully individuated with just a few brush strokes.
“She reads with great concentration. Her eyes rarely move from the pages of her book….She just keeps reading her book, lighting an occasional cigarette, mechanically tipping back her coffee cup, and hoping the time moves faster”.

As the book proceeds we are drawn further into the Tokyo night world. We meet a number of interesting people along the way. Like Dickens and Balzac before him Marukami brings to light aspects of the city that fall below the radar of those safely out of the margins.

“The garbage trucks have not yet collected all of the garbage. This a giant city, after all, and it produces a prodigious amount of garbage”.

A central character in the novel, Mari, uses her books to hide, to make her self invisible. She lives partially in the shadow of her sister’s beauty. Mari is a reader as hider. The Tokyo night world also helps her hide. She and we learn to read the night and the city from writers like Murakami.
I like “After Dark” a lot. It was a good first Japanese novel for me as it is not hard to read at all and it is not that long

Mel u
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Friday, August 7, 2009

"Getting the Girl" by Markus Zusak- A start of a reading life?

Getting the Girl is the second of Markus Zusak's four books. The Book Thief and I Am the Messenger deal directly with reading life issues. I love both of these books. Getting the Girl is more a young adult book than his subsequent works. It is very worth reading to see how rapidly Zusak is developing as a writer and it is a good tale of teen age angst and sibling issues between brothers.

There is no mention of reading and books directly in Getting the Girl. To me it is clear that the lead character
Cameron has the potential to develop into a serious reader. Throughout the book at the end of every chapter are notes in a hand written style font that show the thoughts of Cameron.

But sometimes I stand on the rooftop of my existence, arms stretched out, begging for more.
That's when the stories show up for me.
They find me all the time.
They're made of footsteps not only to the girl, but to me. They are made of hunger and desire and trying to live decent. They only trouble is, I don't know which of those stories come first.
Maybe they all just merge into one.
We'll see, I guess.
I'll let you know when I decide.

To me Cameron will grow into Ed in I am the Messenger and  Ed's reading life forefather, Ishmael. He will use his books to rise above the world and to   sink below ordinary life.

I will read Markus's Zusak's first book Fighting Ruben Wolfe before the year is over. It is sometimes interesting to read an author's work in reverse order as it makes you very conscious of his or her development

Mel u
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Sunday, August 2, 2009

July 2009 Reading Review

July 2009 was an excellent reading month for me. I completed 11 books. I discovered two new to be writers that I love, A J Byatt and Markus Zusak. I will, I hope, read all of their books.

These are the books I read in July 2009 with some comments. I will review a few of them in terms of their treatment of The Reading Life.

1. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak--I have already made a few observations on this book. It it a great book.
it is sad to see a lot of book stores have it in the Young Adult section only.

2. The Book Seller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad-This is an interesting book about contemporary Afgan family life.
It is worth reading if this topic interests you. I did switch into speed reading mode half way through.

3. The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova. I have already reviewed this book. I am glad I read it and will read her
next book but I would not reread this work. It is a first novel and I like to read first novels.

4. I Am Messenger by Markus Zusak. I have already reviewed this really fun book. So far he has published
four novels. I have read two of them and will a third in August. He is young and a lot of people, myself
included, hope to read twenty more books by Markus Zusak.

5. Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. I should have read this a long time ago. Among many things this world
treasure tells the story of a great reading life cut tragically short.

6. The Long Recessional: The Imperial Life of Rudyard Kipling by David Gilmore. You can learn a lot about
Kipling's life and about the politics of the period from this book. You will not, however, get much of an idea
how he developed into a writer worth reading. Kipling is not on the reading list in many schools or universities.
I would not recommend this book to someone seeking an excellent literary biography because this book'
is not one.

7. Number the Stars by Lois Lowry-1990 Newberry winner by author of The Giver. A delightful book for those
eight on up. I have posted more on it earlier.

8. A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare. I really like the Folger Library paperbacks of
the plays. This was my first read of this work.

9. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. A beautifully written book with a great deal to tell us about
the reading life. I will try to talk about this latter. Some of the sentences are so wonderful I read
them three or four times.

10. Three Tales by Gustav Flaubert. If you are looking for a second Flaubert then read these three stories,
each about 30 pages long. Each is a unique masterpiece. These stories show the artistic
mastery of Flaubert. I would also recommend highly Flaubert: A Biography by Frederick Brown. To me
his book is a model of a literary biography that shows how Flaubert became a great writer and reader.
Flaubert was well traveled, had friends in high and low places, and did some things that may surprise you.

11. The Biographer's Tale by A S Byatt. This was my first of her novels and I was very happy to see she  has written lots of other books. It seems she is a core early 21th century Reading Life novelist.

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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Japanese Reading Challenge III-a great opportunity to learn for me

Dolce Bellezza's Japanese Literature Challenge is a great challenge-the 2009 Japanese Reading Challenge

here are the rules of the challenge:

This year, all you have to do is read one work of Japanese origin. It can be literature of course, but don’t feel confined to that. You may choose to read poetry, biographies, short stories or even manga. If you are willing to read one such piece, you’ve met the challenge. If you read more, all the better.
I have set the time frame between July 30, 2009 and January 30, 2010."
Some challenges have the potential to consume to much of our often limited reading time.

This challenge is a great opportunity for people like me who have very little or in my case no previous experience with the Japanese novel.
I will read in August “After Dark” by Haruki Murakami. If I like this, I will read “The Wind Up Bird Chronicles”. I know I will get lots of good reading suggestions from posts from challenge participants.
My knowledge of Japanese History comes largely from The History Channel. Speaking of which there is currently on the History Channel a very good two hour show on Chiune Sugihara, the Japanese Diplomat who risked his own life in WWII to provide visas for Jews to escape the Nazis.
I decided I would add to the Japanese Reading challenge “Emperor of Japan: Meiji and his World-1852-1912. This is a serious work of great learning by Donald Keene, a leading translator and authority on pre 20th century Japanese Literature.
I will read one Japanese novel a month until the challenge ends. I will post on what I read as it relates to the reading life.

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