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This is the first, of hopefully many, guest posts by Mr Gnoe. As a listology addict he compiled a Black Swan Green Soundtrack for us!
In a book about a teenager situated after 1960, music has to play an important role. Music is a big part of youth culture and David Mitchell does a superb job of sketching the life of a young teenager in the eary 80s (I know, I’ve been there ;))
There is a lot of ‘boyish’ music, like Madness, Elvis Costello, Adam Ant and the Specials. Music a boy wouldn’t have to be embarrassed about to like in front of his friends. But secretly Jason likes some ‘softer’ songs as well, like ‘Heaven’ by Talking Heads and John Lennon’s #9 Dream (not coincidentally Mitchell’s second book is called number9dream).
Music plays a big part throughout the book, but Mitchell really goes wild in one of the last, hilarious chapters ‘Disco’ (or should I say one of the last stories, since every chapter reads like a story on its own). This reads completely natural because events occur while the music is playing and you can imagine the characters remembering exactly who did what during which song, years after. And if you know and love these songs, like Gnoe and me, it’s a feast to read :)
All the songs in the book together form a nice soundtrack. In the 80s I would’ve made a Black Swan Green compilation cassette but now it’s a playlist for my iPod. Here’s what’s on it!
Don’t You Want Me – Human League (1982)
The first chapter ‘January Man’ starts with the phone ringing in the office of Jason’s father. From his sister julia’s room ‘Don’t You Want Me’ is thumping out dead loud and kicks off the book.
The Man with the Child in His Eyes – Kate Bush (1978)
Songbird - Fleetwood Mac (1977)
Julia is playing these two melancholic songs in her room, telling us (the readers) she’s not as tough as she pretends to be and not as lucky as Jason thinks she is.
Virginia Plain – Roxy Music (1972)
Jason secretly plays Julia’s Roxy Music LP in her room (“Julia’d go ape!“). At first I thought I had spotted a goof, because Virginia Plain was Roxy Music’s debut single but was not included on their debut LP. Wikipedia tells me it was rereleased in 1977 to promote their Greatest Hits album, so this must be the LP in Julia’s collection.
Heaven - Talking Heads (1979)
Jason is seriously impressed by Julia’s boyfriend Ewan’s new car and his taste in music.
An incredible song filled the car from four hidden speakers. ‘”Heaven”,’ Ewan told me, breezy but proud. ‘Talking Heads. David Byrne’s a genius.’ I just nodded, still taking it all in.
Mr Blue Sky – Electric Light Orchestra (1977)
Feeling good, Jason lays down on his bed and listens to ‘Mr Blue Sky’ five or six times in a row.
Hungry Like The Wolf – Duran Duran (1982)
One Step Beyond – Madness (1979)
One In Ten – UB40 (1981)
Jason is away with his dad on a business trip. Going around town he hears music: Madness in a cafetaria, UB40 in the hotel at night.
Some girls share the earphones of a Sony Walkman and sing ‘Hungry Like A Wolf’. The Walkman was first produced in 1979 in Japan.
The Lion Sleeps Tonight – Tight fit (1982)
Some girls are singing ‘The Lion Sleeps Tonight’ in the back of the bus. This is originally a South African song, first recorded in 1939 but probably much older. The version you couldn’t not have heard in 1982 in England or in the Netherlands was the version of Tight Fit. It reached no.1 in both countries even though it was recorded with session singers and not the models playbacking the song Boney M-style.
Words (Between The Lines Of Age) – Neil Young 1972)
Jason watches Top Of The Pops and listens to a cassette tape Julia has made for him from Ewan’s LP’s. The first song is Words (Between The Lines Of Age). “Neil Young sings like a barn but his music’s brill.”
Oliver’s Army - Elvis Costello & The Attractions (1979)
Ghost Town – Specials (1981)
Waterloo – Abba (1974)
Get Off Of My Cloud - Flying Pickets (1982)
The Goose Fair is in town, and walking around the fairground Jason picks up music from different directions. He especially likes that ace song ‘Olive’s Salami’ by Elvis Costello. Another song he notices goes ‘Hey! (HEY!) You! (YOU!) Get Off Of My Cloud!’, coming from the Flying Teacups. It doesn’t say in the book wich version of the song is being played (the original is of course Rolling Stones, 1967) but I like to think it’s the a-capella version by Flying Pickets from 1982.
The grand finale of the book. Jason, who was not really a loser, but far from popular has suddenly earned the respect of his class mates (No spoiler – I won’t reveal here why). This happened just in time, because at the end of the year there’s the Black Swan Green Grand Christmas Village Hall Disco!
If you’re from my generation, this song will probably bring up some memories.
It’ll be my birthday next week so when Leeswammes announced she was hosting a literary giveaway blog hop, I figured that would be a nice opportunity to share a book of my all-time favourite author: David Mitchell. And which novel would be more appropriate for a forty-something birthday than Black Swan Green? You’re only turning 41 once. ;)
Do not set foot in my office. That’s dad’s rule. But the phone’d rung twenty-five times. Normal people give up after ten or eleven, unless it’s a matter of life and death. Don’t they? Dad’s got an answering machine like James Garner’s in The Rockford Files with big reels of tape. But he’s stopped leaving it switched on recently. Thirty rings, the phone got to. Julia couldn’t hear it up in her converted attic ’cause ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ by Human League was thumping out dead loud. Forty rings. Mum couldn’t hear ’cause the washing machine was on berserk cycle and she was hoovering the living room. Fifty rings. That’s just not normal. S’pose Dad’d been mangled by a juggernaut on the M5 and the police only had this office number ’cause all his other ID’d got incinerated? We could lose our final chance to see our charred father in the terminal ward.
[Black Swan Green, p.1]
Black Swan Green is Mitchell’s fourth novel and can be considered a semi-autobiographical ‘coming of age story’. The book’s thirteen chapters each represent one month—from January 1982 through January 1983—in the life of 13-year-old Worcestershire boy Jason Taylor.* The story is written from his perspective and contains teen speech and popular-culture references from early-1980s England.
Although the novel was published in 2006, the first chapter, January Man, appeared as a short story in Granta 2003 Best of Young British Writers. At a reading I attended Mitchell confessed he had not felt ready to write (t)his story, that is so close to home, before.
Needless to say that Black Swan Green is a nostalgic trip. Not everything is familiar to me as a Dutch person (like the Rockford Files from the first paragraph), but it’s a feast of recognition anyway. All the 1982 hits passing by are a party treat in itself! Mr Gnoe has been busying himself with tracking down the songs in this novel (as ‘children’ of the eighties we just love lists ;) Through this he found out that what seems like random stage setting at first actually gives the story depth. Jason assumes for example that his elder sister Julia is having ‘a ball’ now that she’s old enough to leave home. But from the songs Jason says she’s playing — we, who have been there and know the lyrics by heart ;) — understand Julia is having her own troubles.
I definitely need to reread this book! Now how about you? Would you like to get to know Jason Tyler? Don’t you want to discover which characters from Mitchell’s universe reappear in this story?? Here’s your chance! I have a brand new copy of Black Swan Green to give away. Just leave a comment and tell me what is your favourite 80′s song. But you can only participate if you’re 35+.
LOL Just kidding!!! Open to all ages of course — and worldwide. Make sure I know how to contact you! If I have no way of contacting you, you can’t win.
* Stay tuned for your very own Black Swan Green Disco Party! *
THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED. A WINNER WILL BE SELECTED SHORTLY.
This giveaway ends on February 23rd, 23:59 GMT+1 (=Amsterdam/Berlin time zone). A winner will be randomly selected at the end of the week.
Now go and have a look at all the other fabulous books that you can win!
(Note: the Literary Blog Hop has ended.)
- Leeswammes (Int)
- Teadevotee (Int)
- The Book Whisperer (Int)
- Uniflame Creates (Int)
- Bookworm with a View (Int)
- Stiletto Storytime (USA, CA)
- I Am A Reader, Not A Writer (Int)
- The Bookkeeper (Int)
- Chinoiseries (Int)
- Ephemeral Digest (Int)
- bibliosue (Int)
- ThirtyCreativeStudio (Int)
- Nishitas Rants and Raves (Int)
- Roof Beam Reader (Int)
- Actin Up with books (USA)
- Sarah Reads Too Much (USA)
- Book Journey (USA/Int)
- The Blue Bookcase (Int)
- Read, Write and Live (Int)
- Silver’s Reviews (USA)
- Teach with Picture Books (USA)
- Books in the City (Int)
- thebookbee (Int)
- The Scarlet Letter (USA)
- Seaside Book Nook (USA)
- Chocolate and Croissants (Int)
- write meg! (USA)
Yup, it’s that time of year again: here’s my 2010 books wrap-up!
I’ve made a photo of some (not all!), of the books I particularly liked!
Two of the books read this year were comics, five graphic novels, meaning 22 were either novels, novella’s or collections of short stories.
It took me a while to decide on my favourite read of the year. There were two candidates but I finally figured it out. So… let’s hear the drumroll!
Best Book of 2010
The Very Best Book I read in 2010 is The Wasted Vigil, by Nadeem Aslam. It’s absolutely gorgeous and I hate myself for not picking it up earlier, since I’ve had in on the shelf from the moment it came out in 2008. I had equally loved Maps for Lost Lovers when I read it so Aslam now deserves to be listed among my (few) favourite authors! That’s a spot right along David Mitchell, Barbara Gowdy and Haruki Murakami: novelists of whom I’ve read, or will read, each and every book. So I’m waiting for Aslam’s 1993 début to arrive in my mailbox: Season of the Rainbirds. Don’t you just love that title? ;)
Second Best Book of 2010
Close upon the heels of The wasted Vigil is (not surprisingly) The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, the latest novel by my all-time favourite David Mitchell. It was a real tiebreak but I figured I was probably a teeny weeny bit unfairly favoured to Mitchell just because I love his work so much and had been looking forward to his new book since Black Swan Green, in 2006. Then again, that might speak in favour of ‘Jacob de Zoet’ because novels eagerly anticipated often disappoint.
List of books I read in 2010
For those of you who are curious, or just plain addicted to lists (like me), here’s the complete pile of books I read in 2010. The ones that particularly stand out looking back on my reading adventures, I’ve given a bold title.
- Trespass, Valerie Martin (2007)
- The Best of Mutts, Patrick McDonnell (2004)
- The Housekeeper and the Professor (Hakase no aishi ta sūshiki 博士の愛した数式, translated by Stephen Snyder), Yoko Ogawa (2003/2008)
- De avonden (1) (The Evenings), Gerard Reve; Dick Matena (1947/2004)
- The Rapture, Liz Jensen (2009)
- In the Shadow of No Towers, Art Spiegelman (2004)
- Careless in Red, Elizabeth George (2008)
- I Am a Cat III (Wagahai wa neko de aru 吾輩は猫である, translated by Aiko Ito; Graeme Wilson), Natsume Sōseki (1907)
- Een stoomfluit midden in de nacht (Yonaka no kiteki ni tsuite / ‘A Steam Whistle in the Night‘, translated by Jaques van Westerhoven), Haruki Murakami (2003 (2006))
- Het Hoofdkussenboek van Sei Shōnagon (Makura no Sōshi 枕草子 / The Pillow Book, translated by Paul Heijman), Sei Shōnagon (1002/1986)
- Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (Mekurayanagi to, nemuru onna, translated by Philip Gabriel; Jay Rubin), Haruki Murakami (2005)
- Her Fearful Symmetry, Audrey Niffenegger (2009)
- The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, David Mitchell (2010)
- Silence (Chinmoku 沈黙 , translated by William Johnston (?)), Shusaku Endo (1966)
- The Sea, The Sea, Iris Murdoch (1978)
- Affinity, Sarah Waters (1999)
- The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
- The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger (1951)
- Persepolis (translated byMattias Ripa), Marjane Satrapi (2003)
- Persepolis 2 (translated by Blake Ferris), Marjane Satrapi (2004)
- Remainder, Tom McCarthy (2007)
- Mutts: Dog-eared, Patrick McDonnell (2004)
- Het volgende verhaal (The Following Story), Cees Nooteboom (1991)
- Isabelle Avondrood: Isabelle en het beest (Adèle et le bête, translated by René van de Weijer (?)), Jacques Tardi (1976)
- Isabelle Avondrood: Allemaal monsters! (Tous des monstres, translated by René van de Weijer), Jacques Tardi (1994)
- Soulless, Gail Carriger (2009)
- Het Gouden Paviljoen (Kinkakuji, translated by C. Ouwehand), Yukio Mishima (1966)
- The Wasted Vigil, Nadeem Aslam (2008)
- The Christmas Quilt, Thomas J. Davis (2000)
Which of these books have you read? Did you like them?
There are several classics in the list, including Japanese. Graphic novels and comics were a new adventure in 2010; although I tried my first during the October 2009 read-a-thon, I read many more this year — upgrading my level from Beginner to Intermediate in the Graphic Novel Challenge.
Other genres outside my usual reading nook: Apocalyptic (The Rapture), GLBT (Affinity), paranormal romance (urban fantasy) / ghost stories (Soulless, Her Fearful Symmetry).
All of these I particularly enjoyed!
Read in translation or the original language?
Century of publication
Except for a challenge wrap-up post, that’s about it for 2010. Book-wise I mean: I’ll need to work on my list of movies next! How are you doing evaluating last year?
Yay, I finished reading my first book! And although I really didn’t expect it (and got a little annoyed by the obviously erudite blah blah of the author at first), I absolutely loved it!
I’m talking about The Following Story by the Dutch author Cees Nooteboom, which I (dôh) read in my native language: Het volgende verhaal. I probably would have never read it if it hadn’t been recommended by my all-time favourite author David Mitchell. The story goes that while he was in Holland researching The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet on a writer’s fellowship, he picked up Nooteboom’s novella while he took cover in Waterstones’ bookstore during an awful downpour — and he couldn’t stop reading. Nooteboom is being acknowledged in ‘Jacob de Zoet’, so I guess they met afterwards.
I almost bought myself a second hand copy of The Following Story, but discovered — just in time! — that I already owned it! That’s what happens sometimes with the free publications of National Book Week… So I might have never picked up this book if it hadn’t been for Mitchell. Worse: it could have ended up in a Boekgrrls book swap unread! But just now I recommended it for the new Boekgrrls reading schedule… Let’s hope it’ll be picked!
I plan to write a short review after the readathon has ended. But one thing I can tell you already: this book has made me want to visit Lisbon! How appropriate, since the hour 8 mini-challenge on The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader is about Arm Chair Travelling!
Now I’m really curious to hear what tanabata of In Spring it is the Dawn thinks of The Following Story!
Also, I finally got around to making a donation so that those generous people providing prizes for the readathon are able to send it to the lucky winners. Let’s return some love to all those book bloggers behind the scenes of the 24 Hour Read-a-Thon!
Shake Your Pom-Pom Cheer: “Flip that cover, turn your page, we’re reading for the read-a-thon!“
Currently reading: Gotta decide!
Total of time read: 4 hrs 27 mins & I lost track of blogging / cheering / tweeting time ;)
Total amount of pages read: 93 pages
Books finished: 1 book (The Following Story in Dutch = Het volgende verhaal, by Cees Nooteboom)
Mini-challenges participated in: 5 (Since last update: Show me the books, Arm Chair Travelling, Shake Your Pom-Pom!)
I’m almost halfway The Following Story and really liking it. Right before I stopped for this 1st status update I stumbled unto something that inspired David Mitchell to use in his latest novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet! Tomorrow my favourite author is being interviewed about his book and research of Japan in the Sieboldhuis, but I won’t be attending because of the readathon :\
I haven’t read for all of the two and a half hours since the readathon started: I had to take a break to make cream cheese icing for my carrot cake — which is delicious by the way. I’ve found the perfect recipe! Slice anyone? :)
Mini Challenge: Back in the Day Childrens Books
Miss Wisabus mini-challenge ‘Back in the Day Childrens Books‘ asks after favourite books from when we were young. Ha! I’ve already posted about that a while ago! I absolutely loved The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford, a thrilling story for an animal addict lover like myself! :)
This year our first niece and nephew turned 10, just the age I had been waiting for! I gave this childhood treasure as a present to them both (which is only available second hand these days). One of them even called to tell us how great it was!
Currently reading: Het volgende verhaal (The Following Story) by Cees Nooteboom
Total of time read: 1 hrs 22 mins
Total amount of pages read: 42 pages
Books finished: 0 books
Mini-challenges participated in: 2 (Back in the Day Childrens Books, Indie Books)
These are the books I’ll be picking from next Saturday, when I’m participating in the fall 24 Hour Read-a-thon (starting at 14:00 local time).
As you may notice it is an a-typical pile in that they’re mainly Dutch titles! The bulk of my yearly reads is in English but I decided to make it easy for myself since I haven’t been reading much lately and I may be easily distracted the coming weekend as well. Juno, one of my kittehs, is very ill and last Sunday we didn’t even think she’d make it till readathon weekend. But this tough old gal is still fighting to get better! So instead of her keeping me company in my reading chair and bed (like previous RaTs), I might go sit with her on a pillow in a corner of the room. Less comfy, but darn well cosy and I’d be so much enjoying her presence! Of course if worse comes to worst I might drop out of the challenge to read for 24 hours. But let’s not think about that yet!
Now, which books are you looking at in that picture (clockwise)?
- Dromen van China (The China Lover), Ian Buruma
- Nocturnes, Kazuo Ishiguro (short stories)
- Het volgende verhaal (The Following Story), Cees Nooteboom (novella)
- Isabelle en het monster and Allemaal monsters! (Adèle and the Beast / Adèle et le bête & Monsters All! / Tous des monstres!) from the series Les Avontures Extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec, Jacques Tardi (graphic novels)
- Sneeuwlandschap / Snow Country (雪国, Yukiguni), Yasunari Kawabata
- Het hoofdkussenboek van Sei Shōnagon (The Pillow Book), Sei Shōnagon (short autobiographical entries)
- Modelvliegen (‘Model Flying‘), Marcel Möring (audiobook)
I feel like starting these books RIGHT NOW — all at the same time! LOL But I guess I’m most excited about The Following Story because it was recommended by David Mitchell and I will be buddy reading it with tanabata from In Spring it is the Dawn. That’ll be so much fun! It’s a story about Herman Mussert (a former teacher of Latin and Greek), who falls asleep in Amsterdam one evening only to wake up in a hotel room in Lisbon with the fear that he is dead.
I’m also looking forward to The China Lover, of which The Independent writes:
Reading Ian Buruma’s novel is like your first visit to a sushi shop with a knowledgeable friend. Everything is unfamiliar, some of it unpalatable, but your companion ensures you finish sated, delighted and feeling that bit more knowledgeable yourself. [..]
The story traces the real-life career of a Manchurian-born Japanese movie star, known variously as Ri Koran, Shirley Yamaguchi and Yoshiko Yamaguchi. Her three incarnations act before very different backdrops: the colonial experiment of “New Asia” in the 1930s and 1940s, the post-war MacArthur administration, culminating in the student protests of 1960; and the armed resistance of the Japanese Red Army in Palestine in the 1970s.
But Yamaguchi merely guest-stars in her own biopic, for each section is narrated by a different man: a China-loving mentor, a restless American expat, and a pornographer-turned-terrorist.
This year’s graphic novels are from Tardi’s series about Les Aventures extraordinaires d’Adèle Blanc-Sec. I’ll be rereading these because part of the adventures take place in Paris (France) and Mr Gnoe and I have been photographing the very same places when we were there a month ago. Our plan is to make a thematic Google map! Having graphic novels at hand for a change of palate is one of the great tips I got when I first joined the readathon. Although I was completely wrong in thinking that reading comics takes less time… It rather doubles it: reading the story and looking at the pictures!
Something special about this year’s readathon is that I actually know 2 other Dutch participants: Leeswammes and JannyAn. I hope this will make me feel less lonely in the dark hours of the night, when it’s still daytime at the other side of the globe. Although I do not plan to go completely without sleep, because I tend to get depressed if I do so ;) These grrls even live in the same state as I do (Utrecht province), so maybe next year we’ll be holding a pyjama party during the readathon?! ;)
May has almost ended and I have read just 1 book this month (next to the The Pillow Book read-along, that is). But it was FABULOUS! I’ve been reading the long expected new novel by David Mitchell: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet — I already told you a little about it in a Sunday Salon earlier this month and you can find a quote in my post about new bento goodies. I’m working on a review but it’s not the only blogpost that needs to be written and I don’t seem to have enough time on my hands. It’s #3 on my todo list: first I need to focus on a buddy-review of Murakami’s Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman with Elsje and next is somethingIcan’ttalkaboutyet ;)
Things I’m looking forward to this week
On Tuesday a new Japanese Literature Challenge is setting of! I’ve been looking forward to it very much since I finished the 3rd edition in January :) Er.. I am a bit embarrassed to admit I still haven’t written 2 of my reviews, nor a wrap-up post :\
I hope to finish Sei Shōnagon’s The Pillow Book during those 6 months of JLC4 (150 of 342 pages left) and I also plan to read the next 5 books:
- Silence by Shusaku Endo (Japanese Book Group Read for June 28th) – 306 pages
- The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki (JLit Read-along from July – September) – 530 pages of small print
- Snow Country by Yasunari Kawabata (a gift of velvet) – 142 pages
- Hear the Wind Sing by Haruki Murakami – 130 pages
- Pinball, 1973 by Haruki Murakami (acquired this week through a bookswap with tanabata from In Spring It Is The Dawn, one of my favourite weblogs) – 179 pages
This means I need to read a book a month (amounting to 1437 pages in total)… Gotta speed up!
ETA: the challenge will run from June 1st – January 30th 2011 so that gives me 2 months extra ;)
If you’d like to join the challenge as well (you actually only need to read one book by a Japanese author!) I can recommend Be With You (Takuji Ichikawa), one of my 2 favourite reads of 2009: The Old Capital (Yasunari Kawabata), The Housekeeper and the Professor (Yoko Ogawa) and any book by Haruki Murakami or Kazuo Ishiguro.
The other MAJOR EVENT I’m looking forward to is a trip to Teylers Museum in Haarlem next Saturday, where I’ll be listening to David Mitchell talking about his inspiration for Dr. Marinus in The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.
Of course I’ll also have my copy signed, together with our program guide of the opera Wake for which Mitchell wrote the libretto. I hope I won’t be tongue-tied this time… As a non-smoker I need to ask him not to draw a joint — he did that twice before when we got our books signed LOL.
The Pillow Book
Arrived at entry: 85/86
Entries read since last time: 25
Edition: 1986 Dutch translation of Ivan Morris’ Penguin edition: Het hoofdkussenboek van Sei Shōnagon (transl. from English by Paul Heijman)
I’m enjoying Sei Shōnagon’s book more than before. Although I’m really more of a plot-reader I like to learn about the culture & court life of 10th century Japan. I was surprised to find out that Shōnagon was not just writing her journal out of her own initiative but that ‘people’ were expecting her to write everything down and not leave anything out… (entry #67). Also, there are more ladies called Shōnagon among the courtesans: Gen Shōnagon and Shin Shōnagon. Does the name mean something special relating to court? Do the women get a new name (pseudonym) once they enter the Empress’s circle? I hope to find out someway! Maybe you can tell me?
She notices the ladybird on his thumb. ‘Tentô-mushi.’
In his eagerness to comprehend, he mishears: ‘O-ben-tô-mushi?’
‘O-ben-tô-mushi is “luncheon-box bug”.’ She smiles.‘This,’ she indicates the ladybird, ‘is O-ten-tô-mushi.’
‘Tentô-mushi,’ he says, and she nods with a schoolmistress’s approval.
[David Mitchell: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, p.121]
In my post about bento #101 I mentioned I’ll be celebrating my 3rd year as a bento-grrl next month, on June 16th to be precise. In the past years I haven’t really indulged in buying many (and more) bento boxes. I purchased four for myself in those early days — not counting Mr Gnoe’s box — and one of them broke on the way back from last year’s hanami picnic.
You could say I own a box a year ;) I’ve behaved so well all this time!
Well, up until now. I figured I deserved something new for my 3-year anniversary :) Here’s where the discount offer I had received from Bento & Co for participating in the 2010 Spring Bento Contest on JustBento came in handy… Of course I had a hard time choosing which box to buy — and ended up doubling my bento stock in one click. Many thanks Maki & Thomas! ;)
I also couldn’t resist the cute hashi (chopsticks) in kimono fabric matching my blossom bento. I feel happy now. And hope to have satisfied my lunchbox hunger for the next 3 years ;)
It has been pouring outside ever since I woke up, and what better way to start a Sunrainday than with a good book?
My current read is David Mitchell’s newest: The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. I love it! It seems strangely familiar, but that might be because I have read about the isolated Dutch trading post on the artificial island of Deshima (Dejima) at the Nagasaki shore before. Or is it the sound of Mitchell’s voice that I came to know so well in his previous books?
David Mitchell is an acclaimed novelist, but there are still a few critics saying he’s not that special. One of the opinions held is that he doesn’t have a voice of his own. Well, I disagree! A sentence like:
The snow is scabby and ruckled underfoot. [p.254]
.. I immediately recognize as Mitchell’s! Of course I’ve heard him read in public twice, so I can hear his actual voice pronouncing the words — carefully, so as not to provoke his stammer ;)
And then there’s his choice of characters. Dare we anticipate meeting an acquaintance from one of his other stories? I cannot (and should not) say. Yes, I love ‘his master’s universe’ ;)
It’s may 2nd: one third of 2010 has already passed — can you believe it? I started the year wonderfully with several great books in row: Tresspass (Valerie Martin), The Best of Mutts (Patrick McDonnell), The Housekeeper and the Professor (Yoko Ogawa), The Rapture (Liz Jensen), In the Shadow of No Towers (Art Spiegelman) and Careless in Red (Elizabeth George).
In between I read the graphic version of ‘The Evenings‘ (Gerard Reve) which I found boring. That may have been an omen for the reading slump I fell in afterwards: I’ve spent ages in the last part of I Am a Cat (a classic by Natsume Sōseki; will I ever feel up to writing a review?) and couldn’t really get into pace with Sei Shōnagon’s The Pillow Book. Thankfully all is looking well again since mid-March: I’ve enjoyed reading Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman immensely (Haruki Murakami), as Her Fearful Symmetry (Audrey Niffenegger; review pending), and now David Mitchell. Even when I’m not reading my mind still roams 18th century Japan. I guess my 2010 book list will turn out to be really good!
If it will be as successful a year relating to my challenges… An update post will have to wait till another time — there’s not much to tell anyway ;)
How’s your reading year so far?
The Pillow Book
Arrived at entry: 66/70
Entries read since last time: 25
Edition: 1986 Dutch translation of Ivan Morris’ Penguin edition (transl. from English by Paul Heijman)
I know I’m not doing a great job at this readalong of Sei Shōnagon’s The Pillow Book. Mostly I do manage to keep up with the required entries (that actually sounds more as a chore than it is), but I cannot seem to find the time to post about it, or comment on tanabata’s weekly thoughts. I’m not even jotting down the quotes I want to keep in my notebook; so my copy is looking quite colourful with all the sticky notes sticking out. And this week I got behind schedule again — for which Mitchell is to blame! :) A grrl can’t have a better excuse than that though ;)
Mitchell uses the ancient Japanese calendar in some of the chapters of The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. That’s where appendix 1 of my translation Het hoofdkussenboek van Sei Shōnagon comes in handy :) I couldn’t be bothered much with the explanation of the complex system at first, but Mitchell changed that completely! Hooray for reading synchronisity ;) I can’t handle two books at the same time too well, but things like this are definitely an advantage :)
I began this Easter Sunday reading in bed. Cuddling up to Mr Gnoe with cats & coffee; can’t get any cosier than that :) Yeah well, the dwarf hamster prefers to stay in her cage ;)
I’m still enjoying Murakami’s Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman. Only a hundred pages to go until the end of the book. So far my favourite stories are The Ice Man and The Seventh Man. The latter I read at least a week ago, but yesterday I feared the ocean I saw in Nowhere Boy because of it… :\
You might remember I was already reading ‘Blind Willow’ during my previous Sunday Salon 3 weeks ago. I don’t seem to get much reading done these days; I’m also slowly progressing in Sei Shōnagon’s The Pillow Book (see below). Still, there’s no need to worry, because there’s a new 24 hour read-a-thon coming up next week! I had great fun in October, even though I got so over-excited I really couldn’t get much reading done… LOL Why don’t you join us this time?
Things I’ll do differently:
- I’ll start a few hours early because 2pm is not a good time to begin the read-a-thon.
- Compensation for my early start will be taken Saturday night: I’m going to see butoh dancer Takateru Kudo perform Go-Zarashi.
- I will not put my laptop directly beside my reading chair…
- I will check in every two hours on the dot so I can do some cheering, join in mini challenges and get the community feeling, but won’t get too distracted. Maximum pc time allowed: 15-20 minutes.
- Mini-challenge entries will be short (at first; I might make ‘em more fancy after the read-a-thon has ended).
- Maybe I’ll even let Mr Gnoe guard my new iPhone because it’s such a distracting device ;) LOL
- I’m not buying any books especially for the read-a-thon; there’s enough on my shelves to choose from.
- I have no need for excessive snacks & sweets… Really I don’t. Cross my heart and hope to die.
Although I’m free to pick anything of my liking of the shelves, I actually have a small pile of books set aside already. Last time I really benefited by the advice of some ‘old-timers’ to have a selection of different genres at hand. So my book stack contains novels and short stories, fiction next to non-fiction in both English and Dutch, plus comics and a graphic novel. I even have some audio books available for when my eyes get too tired :)
- Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, Haruki Murakami; or, if finished:
- a choice of the following short stories: De arm (One Arm) by Yasunari Kawabata, The January Man by David Mitchell, Helen and Julia by Sarah Waters
- Het hoofdkussenboek van Sei Shōnagon (The Pillow Book), Sei Shōnagon; just the journal entries to keep up with my read-along
- Her Fearful Symmetry, Audrey Niffenegger
- Dromen van China (The China Lover), Ian Buruma
- Geketende democratie: Japan achter de schermen (‘Democracy in Chains: Behind the Scenes of Japan‘), correspondent Hans van der Lugt: a belated birthday present — that’s what happens when you flee the country at the actual day: gifts pouring in for a while afterwards ;)
- Mutts: Dog-eared, Patrick McDonnell
- Waltz with Bashir: A Lebanon War Story, Ari Folman & David Polonsky
So, how do like my ‘short’ list? :) And do you have any good advice for the read-a-thon?
This week’s bookish posts on Graasland:
- My First Favourite Book about The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford
- ‘A Steam Whistle in the Middle of the Night‘ a selection of Haruki Murakami’s short stories that haven’t been translated to English yet (Hello Japan’s Murakami March entry).
The Pillow Book
Arrived at entry: 41/41
Entries read since last time: 10
It’s been a while since I last read in Sei Shōnagon’s Pillow Book and not much comes to mind when I try to think of something to say about it. I guess it’s not making much of an impression :( Maybe the pace is too slow for me (not really getting a feel for the narrator), or or it might have to do with my recent discovery of preferring plot-driven books. I will admit I’m looking at 7 post-its sticking out of my volume: quotes that I should copy into my own journal but that I haven’t gotten round to. Once I’ve done so, maybe I’ll have more to say.
Unfortunately I had to cancel my visit to the Sketches from the Pillow Book theater play in Amsterdam. But blogging-buddy-to-be Marion went and wrote a short post about it. Feels a bit like I’ve been there anyway ;)
Now, back to my leisurely Easter Sunday. I’m going to read some more, have a nice dinner of cannelloni and mandarin tiramisu dessert (recipe will follow later), and will finish watching the first season of Damages. What are you doing today?