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Chinese Literature Challenge buttonToday I’m on a hike in National Park De Hoge Veluwe with my fellow Wandelgrrls. Chinoiseries is among them and she put the screws to me with her Literary Blog Hop Giveaway rules… I’ve thought about joining the Chinese Literature Challenge she’s hosting ever since it started early February and now she finally got me to! So here’s a quick post about my –ahem– ‘list’.

Level of participation: Merchant (read 1-3 books from Chinese authors or about China).

  1. Dromen van China (The China Lover), Ian Buruma

I may add a second and third title in the future but I’m wary of creating ‘reading stress’ ;) Because I also joined the 5th Japanese Literature Challenge that started this month!

Japanese Literature Challenge #5 logoThat’s not really much of a challenge because I’ll be reading several books by Japanese authors anyway. Currently on my night-stand: The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe. I haven’t read anything by him before and I’m impressed so far: a Story with a capital S. It’s the June read for the Japanese Book Group on In Spring it is the Dawn and I also plan on reading along Thousand Cranes, Kokoro and 1q84 (I-III). Then there’s my readalong of The Elephant Vanishes with Elsjelas coming up. Counting my recent review of All She Was Worth (Miyuki Miyabe) that makes… 6 books. And there are plenty more on my shelf that I’m dying to read! Of course the difficult part in my case is never the reading, but reviewing.

1st Literary Giveaway Blog Hop ButtonIn case you haven’t noticed yet: there’s another Literary Giveaway Blog Hop going on at Leeswammes’, from June 25th-29th. There are over 70 participants! Although I joined the first hop around my birthday in February, I decided to let this one pass since it’s a busy weekend. Would have been fun to do another giveaway though, ’cause this time it’s Mr Gnoe’s B-day! ;)

Other bookish news

Cover Zeitoun (Dave Eggers) 9789048806577I started and finished reading Dave Eggers’ Zeitoun this week, nonfiction about a family living in New Orleans during Katrina — the June read for the Boekgrrls book group. I’m probably not going to review it on Graasland. You can always check out my notes on Goodreads! The one thing that I must add is that it was translated to Dutch by one of the Wandel-/Boekgrrls and she did a GREAT job! Kudos MaaikeB!

Sunday Salon logoThe Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, blogging about bookish things of the past week, visiting each others weblogs, and oh — reading books of course ;)

Books I got for my birthday

Birthday Book Loot

Again, I am being a real lookgrrl this weekend. Yesterday some grrls came over to watch the 1967 movie In Cold Blood, which we read together in November (I posted my review of Capote’s book last month). I’m actually writing this Sunday Salon post on Friday, so I have no idea yet what I thought of it ;) And when my bookish things of the week go online, I’ll be making last minute preparations for a Dexter 3 marathon. Yay!

Btw I recently heard that the 2nd series and further are no real adaptations, so you can read the Dexter novels in addition to the serial. That would be fun! I guess I’ll wait until I’ve seen them all though, just to be on the safe side.

A week ago I finally finished the third volume of Natsume Sōseki’s I Am a Cat. I decided I would read on instead of composing a Sunday Salon post. Good idea, eh?

I’m not sure if I’ll write a real review this time because I feel I’ve spent enough time on it already. I’ve learnt a great lesson though: I prefer to read plot driven books! So what am I doing reading The Pillow Book? Erm… not sure ;) I think it will be my last one for a long, long time! Now I’m quite confident that I really shouldn’t read Moby Dick. I’ll just follow my instincts ;) In recent years I’ve bargained with Max Havelaar or The Coffee Auctions of the Dutch Trading Company, dragged myself along The Ingenious Hidalgo Don Quixote of La Mancha — and it has been enough. Gee, that I had to become 40 to acknowledge such a thing ;)

Next to The Pillow Book I am also reading Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman: a compilation of short stories by Haruki Murakami. I’m buddy reading with Else, who has started a while back so it’s good to have started catching up. I’m just a few pages in but it already seems to be another great book! :)

The Pillow Book

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Ha! Not only have I finally started reading The Pillow Book (Het Hoofdkussenboek van Sei Shōnagon), I’m also completely caught up!

What do I think about it so far? I like it, but it is very patchy. Of course I expected that since it’s not just a diary but a journal containing Shōnagon’s musings and descriptions of (court) life in Heian Japan. And I appreciate reading about the beautiful clothes (although it is starting to be much of the same), seasonal traditions and festivals, but… Shōnagon and I are not befriended. I don’t like the way she seems to look down on people, even laughs at them — especially women. Could it be a competitive atmosphere between women around the Emperor and Empress? I’m in a bit of a hurry so I haven’t thought this through very well.

The Pillow Book is quit poetic and the footnotes and appendix give some interesting, sometimes necessary, explanatory information. But I do not look them all up because that would interrupt my reading too much.

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, where they blog about bookish things of the past week, visit each others weblogs, oh — and read ;)

Some of you may have noticed, others may not.. Again there was no Sunday Salon on Graasland yesterday. But I’ve got a great excuse: I was at an Emma marathon viewing with some Loekgrrls: we watched all four episodes of the 2009 BBC television series in a row.

I’ve read the 1815 Victorian Romantic novel a few years ago. Being a real Boekgrrl I couldn’t resist: it is Jane Austen‘s most famous book. According to Wikipedia it seems to be pre-Victorian though… I will try to find out why at another time. I’m writing this post during my lunch break ;)
[Edited to add: thanks to Claire and Anna I now completely understand why it was stupid to call Emma a Victorian novel! (see comments)]

Even though it seemed a bit burlesque at times, I did like the tv-serial with Romola Garai as our ‘heroine’. At first I wondered where I had seen her before, but thankfully one of the grrls checked the Internet Movie Database on her iPhone. [Note to self: need iPhone badly] Of course: the actress also played Briony in the movie adaptation of one of my all-time favourites, Ian McEwan’s Atonement!

The pace was quite slow — as expected, so it didn’t bother me. Strangely enough at other times I got the feeling it could have been a musical as well… I guess it was the way they moved, combined with the affected style of acting. Don’t worry, they didn’t sing, and hardly danced ;) And Sir Michael Gambon was, of course, adorable as the over-anxious Mr Woodhouse, Emma’s father.

Here’s a photo set on Flickr about filming Emma.

But you might want to hear about my actual reading… Progress in I Am a Cat is slow but steady: I now have less than a 100 pages to go. Once I’ve finished I will really start The Pillow Book, next to Haruki Murakami’s Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman; which I am looking forward to even though I am not too fond of short stories.

The Pillow Book

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Like last week (when I ran into a ‘caolybag’ book relating to The Pillow Book) I had a chance discovery of something cool: a one-off theatre play of The Pillow Book on March 21st in Amsterdam. Honest, I wasn’t looking for anything pillowbooky! Serendipity rules :)

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, where they blog about bookish things of the past week, visit each others weblogs, oh — and read ;)

The book
I’m still reading part 3 of I Am a Cat by Natsume Sōseki, a Japanese classic from 1907.

The tea
I’m drinking some Chung Hao Jasmine in original Japanese tea cups made from Arita porcelain. This Chinese tea is also a classic.

The comfit
With my book and tea I’m relishing the #1 award winning Dutch bonbon of 2009: ‘bullet’, by Visser Chocolates. It’s a luxurious cherry flavour, with a soft mochi-like filling at bottom.

Thursday Tea buttonDo they go together?
The protagonist of my book is (obviously) a cat and I don’t see it drinking tea, but its master Sneaze could definitely be enjoying this classic beverage during the many languishing hours in his study or on the veranda. In the early 1900’s Chinese tea had been an imported product in Japan for many centuries.

The cat is a sweet tooth and likes mochi… so the candy is perfect too! And look at those gorgeous colours: all gold, green and burgundy red in the glow of a soft winter sun!

Thursday Tea is a fun meme for tea loving readers, hosted by Birdbrain(ed) Book Blog.

The Year of the TigerToday is a special day: Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year. Yay, The Year of The Tiger has started! This afternoon I went to a Chinese festival and released Paper Tiger (Papieren tijger) by Olivier Rolin for our Bookcrossing Monopoly Game. And I hopped by our city’s red light district for a Valentine’s release called Solely Lust (Louter lust): erotic stories for women. Both have been caught already!

In the past week I finally managed to post my review of In Cold Blood by Truman Capote. And I wrote a (belated) Weekly Geeks post revealing a fun fact about author David Mitchell.

Cover The RomanticNow, this Valentine’s Day Sunday Salon provides me with a good opportunity to talk about Weekly Geeks 2010-6: ‘Romancing the Tome’. Have you heard of The Romantic, a book by Barbara Gowdy (one of my favourite authors)? You should have! It got longlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2003, and was in the running for several other awards. I haven’t been able to write a coherent review of this book about a zillion kinds of love; I had too many feelings to make any sense of them. So I’m going to give you the synopsis from Waterstones:

How do you love someone who sits, smiling, at the edge of oblivion? Award-winning Canadian writer Barbara Gowdy unravels a romance, and the idea of romance, in this spry, witty, agile novel full of all the species of love. Louise Kirk falls in love. She’s 10, lives in a cosy, unremarkable suburban home, but, remarkably, has lost a mother already. Or, rather, her chic, sharp mother has disappeared. So, Louise, lonely and steeped in complicated yearnings, decides to fall in love. Furiously. First, she falls in love with her magnificent new neighbour, the operatic and exotic Mrs Richter. Then, within the year, she falls for Mrs Richter’s brilliant son Abel. Distracting him from his attentive study of everything around him — the constellations, the moths, the music — proves quite a struggle. But before long Abel finds he loves Louise ‘too much’. A dozen years later, Abel is gone and Louise is devastated. This is the unravelling story of their romance! In The Romantic, Barbara Gowdy tracks and identifies all the species of love. Each of her characters is iridescent, but Louise Kirk, who flies to love again and again like a moth at a lamp, is a creature from whom no reader will easily tear their gaze.

I am not a person to reread books — so many books, so little time! But I have been wanting to start over in The Romantic ever since I finished it (and that was in 2004). Yes, that’s how much I loved it. Well, I’d better finish my current book first — I seem to be STUCK in it! :-o That’s the 3rd part of I Am a Cat by Natsume Sōseki. And the bookgroup discussion starts tomorrow! I guess I’ve left it for too long. But I don’t want to put the novel aside; I should be able to finish the last part of this classic! Although it seems to be keeping me from reading at all…

The Pillow Book read-along

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My Name Is Sei Shonagon (book)Oooops, I still haven’t started reading yet! It’s because of my problems with I Am a Cat. I hope I’ll have some better news for you next week! Anyway, I did buy another book to read once The Pillow Book read-along has ended. A bit premature, I knoooow LOL, but I couldn’t leave this discarded library book for someone else to find, could I?

It’s My Name Is Sei Shonagon in Dutch (Mijn naam is Sei Shonagon), by Jan Blensdorf. You can find a review on Curled Up With a Good Book.

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, where they blog about bookish things of the past week, visit each others weblogs, oh — and read ;)

When this post goes ‘on air’ I’ll be lounging in a velvet chair on the final day of the International Film Festival Rotterdam, enjoying 5 movies that were favourites of the festival audience. Oh goody ;)

Of course I’ll be tagging a book along for possible interludes: I Am a Cat by Natsume Sōseki. I’ve started reading the last part (3rd volume) for the Japanese Literature Read-along, which ends February 15th. But that’s not the only read-along I’m participating in at the moment — sort of. This week we’ve begun reading the classic The Pillowbook by Sei Shōnagon. It’s in a leisurely pace of only 10 diary items a week. I’ve received a Dutch translation of the Ivan Morris Penguin edition, Het Hoofdkussenboek van Sei Shōnagon, which seems to be a little abridged. So at times I’ll be reading even less entries… But for now I haven’t even managed my first 10 yet — oops! Well, it’s on my nighstand, together with the Kitagawa Utamaro bookmark I used with The Housekeeper and the Professor — doesn’t that count for something? ;)

Velvet of vvb32reads has started a while ago and decided on editing her post about The Pillowbook on a regular basis. Tanabata from In Spring it is the Dawn will write an update post each Friday. So, how am I going to tackle it? I think I’ll be using my weekly Sunday Salon as a dumping ground for my thoughts on the book! The read-along project will take us until somewhere in autumn, so don’t say I haven’t warned ya ;)

I missed out on last week’s Sunday Salon because I had the flu :( Good thing I had my Hello Japan! music sessions scheduled! Otherwise it would have been even quieter on Graasland.

These are the bookish things I didn’t tell you about yet:

  • I posted a review for The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa, including a small giveaway that was won by Amanda from The Zen Leaf.
  • I finished reading The Rapture by Liz Jensen. W O W what a great read! I was wondering if it could be called a Dystopian novel, but NO. And now I’m not sure if I should disclose what genre it does belong to. I hope to write a post about it soon but to be honest: it is not on top of my list because I had promissed myself to limit myself to challenge book reviews…
  • Also finished reading the last ‘Lynley mystery’ (so far): Careless in Red, by Elizabeth George. I had it on my shelf for exactly a situation like this — being ill. I’ve read all the books in the series in succession. Remember I was disappointed last year when I thought I had another one in my hands but it wasn’t? And now there really is no comfort read standby anymore! :(
  • Of course there are enough other books at hand; and Mr Mailman even brought us some more: Waltz with Bashir graphic novel (the ‘animentary’ was one my two best movies of 2009), Silence by Shusaku Endo (May’s read for the Japanese Literature Book Group), and The Makioka Sisters by Junichirō Tanizaki (JapLit Read-along from July to September). In February-March the bookgroup is reading Dance Dance Dance by Murakami, preceded by A Wild Sheep Chase — which I both recently read so I’ll be buddyreading Murakami’s Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman with Elsjelas instead. His The Wind-up Bird Chronicle is the current read-along and since that was the book that triggered my interest in this author (and Japanese literature?), I can take a break from all the herding ;)
  • A comic book I read is In The Shadow of No Towers by ‘Mr Maus‘, Art Spiegelman. And I wrote a blogpost about my experience with a Dutch classic as a graphic novel: De Avonden. Oh, that was my Sunday Salon of two weeks back ;)

The Pillowbook

Now, about The Pillowbook. It’s a book of observations, musings, poetry etc. recorded by Sei Shōnagon, a Heian court lady to Empress Teishi, during the years 990 – early 1000’s. It is called a pillow book because precious personal possessions like this were stowed away in a cavity of the woodblock (?) that was traditionally used as a pillow. I have tried to find a picture of such a headrest but failed. I’ll keep looking! Or if anyone could oblige??

My experience with the I Am a Cat read-along has taught me to leave the introduction till last, so I don’t know much (more) about the book yet in advance. And I’m a bit reluctant to start because somehow (somewhere) I’ve gotten the idea that it might be dull. Something to find out eh? ;) I’m curious to know whether it will remind me of Genji Monogatari (The Tale of Genji) by Murasaki Shikibu, which is from approx. the same time — or if it’s completely different. I actually only read part of ‘Genji’ and have thought back to it when I read other Japanese books, like Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore.

Sorry, lots of text today for you, little images. For me it’ll be the other way ’round!

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, where they blog about bookish things of the past week, visit each others weblogs, oh — and read ;)

The 2009 Classics Challenge ended on October 31st.
2009 that is. Hence the title :\
And only today I got to write a short wrap-up post in which I have some good news, and some bad news to share…

Let’s start POSITIVE. I finished reading my 5 classics for the Entree Level of the challenge in time! I did tweak the list of my admittance post a bit (substituting titles), but that’s allowed. So below you’ll find the books that made it to the finish line.

The cover pics are links to the posts about the books here on Graasland. Well… that’s how it’s supposed to be anyway. Because the BAD news is that I still haven’t reviewed all of them! Baaaaaad Gnoe. I hope to make it up by stating a short (ha!) opinion right here, followed by a quick recap of the other reviews. And you never know; once the fuses are blown (is that the correct phrase?), when the pressure is off — I might actually get to writing a full-scale evaluation of Brideshead Revisited and Revolutionary Road ;)

Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
I saw the 1981 tv-series of Brideshead Revisited twice, so I couldn’t help seeing — and hearing! — Jeremy Irons in my head whenever Charles Ryder entered the story. (Likewise with the Sebastian Flyte character, although I didn’t know that the actor was called Anthony Andrews. It’s just Sebastian.) I loved the book and I got to understand the story better than I did before. Everything seemed to go SO much quicker than on the telly! I seemed to have forgotten big parts, like all that happened after Sebastian went abroad… But what I enjoyed most is that I understood why the novel is called Brideshead Revisited. I had never noticed it before and I think it’s grand. Maybe it was left out of the television series? Gosh, now I need to watch it a third time! ;)

After reading Brideshead Revisited with my online bookgroup, the Boekgrrls, some of the women came over to watch the 2008 adaptation on dvd. Of course we had a fun night, but I didn’t like the film at all. It was way too explicit about the homo-erotic motive that was so subtly hidden in the book. Maybe Waugh would have liked that if he had lived in our era. But for me it took the edge of the story. Also, I hated that ‘they’ had tried to find clones of the original actors — Matthew Goode even sounded like Jeremy Irons. Well, of course with a voice like Sir Irons (really, when is he going to be knighted?), such a thing is not really possible, but they obviously tried. Shame.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
To Kill a Mockingbird was a quick and entertaining read ad I’m glad to have read it. The story immediately grabbed me and I liked the atmosphere of doom, suggesting that ’something was going to happen’.
Revolutionary Road, Richard Yates
Revolutionary Road got under my skin, but in a different way than Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (see below). After I had picked it up I immediately got immersed in the story. But it’s quite depressing… The feeling of doom hardly left me during the day, even when I was not reading! It’s obvious from page 1 that something bad is going to happen. And still, the end came as a painful surprise.

The story revolves around image. “The important thing, always, was to remember who you were.” Frank and April Wheeler think they’re special, even though they live in the suburbs, like their peers, and Frank has a job in an advertising agency that is not much of a challenge. It is shockingly recognizable: don’t we all think we’re different? I kept seeing Jon Hamm = Don Draper in Mad Men, as Frank Wheeler btw. But that might have something to do with the cover picture ;)

Again, I watched the movie adaptation afterwards. Unlike Brideshead Revisited I really liked it — although I’m not sure if I’d have appreciated it as much if I hadn’t read the book.

I Am a Cat (vol.1), Natsume Soseki
After reading volume 1 of I Am a Cat I wasn’t sure yet what to think of it. I’m not much of a person for satire and I preferred the parts concentrating on the cat over sections digressing on humans. Reading the 2nd volume helped me form a clearer opinion — but only the 1st tome counts for the Classics Challenge ;) The fun thing was that while reading I Am a Cat I came across several parallelisms with graphics I read at the same time; Coraline and Mutts. That must mean typical cat tricks are pictured lifelike!
The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck
The Grapes of Wrath ended as my favourite read of 2009. I had been holding off this classic for a long time, not knowing what to expect, and even for about a 100 pages into the book I had my doubts. But after a while it really got under my skin — and I still can’t get it out of there. Heart rendering. A Must Read for anyone.

You know what? I believe reviews are not even required for the Classics challenge! Phew, three things to cross off my to-do list in one go. I am so relieved! I might even join the new Classics challenge in February/March… Or I may not ;) Let’s see what the future brings.

I really, really, really am such a lucky grrl. First I received my present from dolce bellezza for admitting quotes from I Am a Cat in the Japanese Literature Challenge November giveaway.

I love these colourful  maki-e stickers with gold so much that when I entered the ‘competition’, I vowed that I would go buy that longed for iPhone should I win… And I’m one to keep my promise! Don’t you think my mobile will look great with those gorgeous koi fish? Accessorize, Personalize! Better start making plans for a shopping trip ;)

The lucky cat phone charm is called Maneki Neko, which can be translated in ‘beckoning cat’. It is asking you to come in, because you’re welcome! It is believed to bring good luck. This cat has his left paw raised — some say to bring customers in, while having a raised right paw brings wealth and good fortune. Well, I’m lucky anyway! ;)

Because, as I wrote in yesterday’s Sunday Salon, I also received a whole box of goodies from vvb32 reads. Look at it!

December giveaway from velvet

Didn’t I get spoiled? The first thing to notice is Snow Country, by Kawabata Yasunari. I guess velvet noticed I fell in love with the author last year, while reading The Old Capitol in the Japanese Literature Bookgroup. I still need to review it, but I claimed it to be my 2nd best read of 2009! The other two books don’t trigger any memories, except that I know velvet read Gail Carriger’s Soulless, and loved it. I quote:

this is a fabulously fun Victorian romp involving supernatural creatures and others

I’ve decided against rereading her review because I prefer to know as little as possible about books before I begin — as I’ve said before ;) The Christmas Quilt by Thomas J. Davies hasn’t popped up anywhere on my radar yet, but it seems a cosy read for this year’s Holiday season. Let’s just hope there aren’t any zombies in it — can’t get comfy with guests like that, can I? :\ Then again… Why would I need brain flavour zombie mints when not expecting any living deads ?! :-o Boy, they must have bad breath… You think I could scare them away with the Christmas Cracker in the right-hand corner? Because I’m saving that until December as well! It has a cute wooden ‘Nutcracker’ toy on it.

Still, the box is not empty yet. There’s some stuff to get myself organized in the new year: a cool sushi bar calendar (stickers) and a monster heart pencil. I hope velvet doesn’t mean to suggest I need to stop blogging and start writing a personal diary? :P Nooooo, it’s probably to take notes while buddy reading Sei Shonagon’s The Pillowbook with her!

I’m open to suggestions on how to use the calendar stickers btw… The wrapper hints to putting them on my personal computer, but somehow that doesn’t seem such a good idea to me.

Superior Scribbler Award Happy 101 Blog Award

And then I got some more awards. You know by now I don’t pass these along, but I do APPRECIATE THEM very much! So many thanks to velvet for the Superior Scribe Award and to Sherimiya for the Happy 101 Blog Award! They both make me really happy :) But the one I like ‘bestest’ was passed on to me by the ever faithful velvet: the Zombie Chicken Award. (Yesh, velvet likes her zombies ;)

The blogger who receives this award believes in the Tao of the zombie chicken – excellence, grace and persistence in all situations, even in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. These amazing bloggers regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words.

I rest my case. Let’s scatter those mints for the chicks and any other zombies Maneki Neko brings in. Then I can wallow in my wealth :)

For today’s Sunday Salon I would like to share some thoughts about part 2 of Natsume Sōseki’s classic novel I Am a Cat, published in 1906. You’ll find other bookish news at the end of this post.

There comes a day when, unexpectedly, the first cool wind of autumn blows through the gaps torn in the sleeves of one’s kimono, making one feel a sniffling cold is surely on its way.

Although I enjoyed reading part 1, I am more enthusiastic about volume 2. The author seems to have gotten better at gripping attention from his readers and the chapters are better balanced.

In the beginning I got quickly immersed in the story and was pretty fascinated. Only towards the end I became a bit disinterested again; when the cat started a lot of ‘name-dropping’. Especially characters from Japanese culture, supposedly to give the story depth: “since Genzaemon warmed the room for laypriest Saimyoji,” “you just try to come down from a pine tree like a wolf on the fold in the headlong Yoshitsune style,” or “as pointless as Yoritomo’s gift of a solid silver cat to the unworldly Saigyo” (etc.).

Obviously the book was written for a Japanese audience; Juno hugging I Am a Cat againto me, being a Westerner, these references only have a superficial meaning. Worse is that I didn’t feel encouraged to google any of them — just because there were too many. Of course ‘Neko’, nor Natsume, wouldn’t have minded: both have not much regard for Westerners anyway — even ridiculing us, together with the way their fellow Japanese copied foreigners after bakumatsu (the ending of Japan’s isolationist foreign policy).

And why, while they’re about it, don’t they and their families stroll around Ueno Park in no more than that nakedness they so affect to love? It can’t be done, they say? But of course it can. The only reason they hesitate is not, I bet, because it can’t be done, but simply because Europeans don’t do it. The proof of my point is in their dusk behaviour. There they are, swaggering down to the Imperial Hotel, all dolled-up in those crazy evening dresses. What origin and history do such cockeyed costumes have? Nothing indigenous. Our bird-brained ladies flaunt themselves in goose-skinned flesh and feathers solely because that is the mode in Europe. Europeans are powerful, so it matters not how ridiculous or daft their goings on, everyone must imitate their daftest designs. [p.244]

Of course it occurred to me that the name-dropping I found tedious could be meant as satire — in real life I am bored accordingly by people who do so as I was now in I Am a Cat ;) And thankfully my patience was rewarded. After the tiresome bit came a lively scene in a sentō, a Japanese public bath house, that was much fun.

Of course, I can’t be sure that it actually is a bath, but I make the wild surmise that it can’t be anything else.

So, while I posited in my review of book 1 that I was only interested in the cat(s) of the story (finding the narrative about people regularly boring), I now really liked to read about human activities. How different!

When I wrote about my first graphic novel Coraline I spoke about ‘reading synchronisity’ with I Am a Cat. Whatdoyaknow? It happened again! Relating to part 1 as well as 2. Together with Coraline I bought The Best of Mutts for the 24 Hour Readaton and I only started reading it recently. Remember the scene about Neko getting his mouth stuck with mochi in I Am a Cat 1? Meet Earl & Mooch at Halloween!

Then I saw this gag where Mooch’s equilibrium is ruined by Earl.

It reminded me of another enjoyable story, in part 2 of I Am a Cat where our feline protagonist is exercising on the garden fence.

I was just about halfway home on my fourth time around when three crows, gliding down from the next-door roof, settled on the fence-top, side-by-side, some six short feet ahead of me. Cheeky bastards! Quite apart from the fact that they’re interrupting my exercise, such low-born, ill-bred, rain-guttersnipes have no right whatsoever to come tresspassing, indeed seemingly to start squatting, on my fence-property. So I told them, in terms of hissing clarity, to get lost. The nearest crow, turning its head toward me, appears to be grinning like a half-wit. The next one unconcernedly studies my master’s garden. And the third continues wiping his filthy beak on a projecting splinter of the fence bamboo. He had all too evidently just finished eating something rather nasty. I stood there balanced on the fence, giving them a civilized three minutes grace to shove off. I’ve heard that these birds are commonly called Crowmagnons, and they certainly look as daft and primitively barbarous as their uncouth nickname would suggest. Despite my coureous waiting, they neither greeted me nor flew away. Becoming at last impatient, I began slowly to advance; whereupon the nearest Crowmagnon tentatively stirred his wings. I thought he was at last backing off in face of my power, but all he did was to shift his posture so as to present his arse, rather than his head, toward me. Outright insolence! [..] I do not greatly care for the idea of being stuck here while a trey of brainless birds waits for whatever impulse will lift them into air. For one thing, there’s my poor tired feet. Those feathered lightweights are used to standing around in such precarious places so that, if my fence-top happens to please them, they might perch here forever. I, on the other hand, am already exhausted. This is my fourth time around today, and this particular exercise is anyway no less tricky than tightrope-walking. [..] I had just decided to hop down when the arse-presenting savage offered me a rudery. ‘Arseholes,’ he observed. His immediate neighbor repeated this coarse remark, while the last one of the trio took the trouble to say it twice. I simply could not overlook behavior so offensive. [..] I began slowly to advance. The crows, oblivious to my action, seem to be talking among themselves. They are exasperating! If only the fence were wider by five or six inches, I’d really give them hell. But as things are, however vehemently vexed I may feel, I can only tiptoe slowly forward to avenge my honor. Eventually, I reached a point a bare half-foot away from the nearest bird and was urging myself onward to one last final effort when, all together and as though by prearrangement, the three brutes suddenly flapped their wings and lumbered to hang a couple of feet above me in the air. The down-draught gusted into my face. Unsportingly surprised, I lost my balance and fell off sideways into the garden.
Kicking myself for permitting such a shameful mishap to occur, I looked up from the ground to find all three marauders safely landed back again where they had perched before. Their three sharp beaks in parallel alignment, they peer down superciliously into my angry eyes.
[p.235-237]

I must say that I noticed some inconsistency in the cat’s views about tresspassing, like in the quote above or in the scene about Rickshaw Blacky that I transcribed in my earlier post. In volume 2, there’s a whole paragraph about the impossibility of tresspassing in Neko’s philosophy. It comes down to this (p.120):

What right, then, do human beings hold to decide that things not of their own creation nevertheless belong to them?
[..] there can be no possible justification for them prohibiting others from innocent passage in and out of so-called property.

But of course cats will always reason in their own advantage ;) I wonder what surprises volume 3 will bring. It needs to be read in the new year (!), before January 15th. For now, as promised, I present to you Kahimi Karie’s version of I Am a Kitten.

Since I Am a Cat is a Japanese Classic I’ve also admitted it to Bellezza’s Japanese Literature Challenge.

Other Bookish things

Currently reading

  • The Best of Mutts, Patrick McDonnell
  • Zijde (Silk), Alessandro Baricco
  • The Gargoyle, Andrew Davidson

In the mail

  • The Rapture, Liz Jensen (I loved The Ninth Life of Louis Drax)
  • The Savage Detectives, Roberto Bolaño (recommended by Kazuo Ishiguro)
  • Crime School, Carol O’Connell

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, where they blog about bookish things of the past week, visit each others weblogs, oh — and read ;)

A week of plenty. I received two acclaimed books (& other great goodies) from my Secret Santa Valentina in the Book Blogger Holiday Swap. And I started looking ahead to 2010 by making some reading plans, joining the Women Unbound reading challenge and What’s in a Name #3.

In the meantime I’m slowly progressing in volume 2 of I Am a Cat by Natsume Sōseki, for the Japanese Literature Read-along (deadline next Tuesday). That might sound as if it’s a heavy task but I’m actually enjoying part two even more than the first. JLit Host tanabata created a ‘wave’ to talk about Japanese literature, which got me to finally check out Google Wave… Well, I haven’t really figured it all out yet ;) I guess I need to look for a GW for Dummies book ;)

But I shouldn’t spend any more money on readables right now because The Book Depository was mean kind enough to have a 10% holiday discount — and to tweet about it. Of course I couldn’t resist :\ So I’m awaiting four (!) new books that I’ll have to find reading time for :) You’ll hear about them once they’ve arrived!

The Sunday Salon is a virtual gathering of booklovers on the web, where they blog about bookish things of the past week, visit each others weblogs, oh — and read ;)

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