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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?
This week I could no longer keep myself from joining the Graphic Novel Challenge as an Intermediate, which means I need to read 3-10 comic books before January 1st. It was a logical step because I had just finished Mutts earlier in the week (short review to be added later on) and I was also really interested in Read All Over’s mini challenge about reading the graphic version of a classic.
So I picked up Dick Matena’s illustrated version of Gerard Reve’s De avonden (The Evenings) at the library; 4 volumes in total. So far I’ve only read part 1 — and I think that might be enough…
De avonden: een winterverhaal (The Evenings: a Winter Story) is a Dutch 1947 classic by Gerard Reve (1923-2006), one of The Grand Threesome of Dutch postwar authors. It’s his most famous work, that is known by all generations that lived during and since the forties. The novel describes the last 10 days of 1946 from the perspective of Frits Egters, an office clerq (not a job he’s proud of). It’s a gloomy depiction of a bourgeois existence — and it shocked many people at the time because of its bleakness. And it still does. Then again, the final paragraph of the The Evenings is considered the best prose of Dutch 20th century literature:
Hij zoog de borst vol adem en stapte in bed. ‘Het is gezien,’ mompelde hij, ‘het is niet onopgemerkt gebleven.’ Hij strekte zich uit en viel in een diepe slaap.
I’m afraid I don’t have any translational skills but I’ll give it a try:
He took a deep breath and got into bed. “It was seen,” he muttered, “it hasn’t gone unnoticed.” He stretched out and fell into a deep sleep.
In 2001 Dick Matena converted The Evenings into an unabridged illustrated story for a Dutch newspaper, Het Parool. The graphic novel which was published in 2003-2004. As you can see it’s done in (indian?) ink; in different tones of grey instead of black and white pictures full of contrast. Almost sepia, giving it an ancient feeling ;) But I have no idea if the style fits 1940′s comics; anyone can comment on that?
Anyway, it looks quite sombre, matching the story. The characters’ features aren’t very sharp either. As far as I’m concerned the artwork doesn’t add anything to the narrative; actually I think I’d rather read the original book. One thing I did like though was that Frits Egters is about the same age as my father was at the time; so clothes, haircut, etc. are quite familiar from photo’s ;) But I didn’t feel any connection with the story, nor the personae. Of course maybe I’m not supposed to ;) But it should be fun to read, not a chore.
Which brings me to the reason I picked up this classic… My 2007 personal reading challenge consisted of reading all books on the shortlist for the election of the Best Dutch Book (ever). I skipped The Evenings because I thought I had already read it many years ago. Now I’m not too sure anymore… It might be that I just saw the movie? reading the ‘picture book’ seemed a good alternative. But now that I’ve finished part 1, I don’t feel like spending any more precious reading time on the following 3 volumes. Sorry!
Even worse: Dick Matena is a well-known ilustrator and I considered reading his version of Willem Elsschot’s 1933 classic Kaas (Cheese). But now that I’ve concluded I don’t particularly like Matena’s style I think I’ll pass. But you never know… Last year I wouldn’t have believed that I would be reading so many (ahem) graphic novels by now!
Other Bookish things
But graphic novels weren’t the only bookish thing grabbing my attention this week. I’ve also written a wrap-up post for the 2009 Classics challenge — finally. The one for last year’s What’s in a Name Challenge is still on my to-do list and in only a few days I will need to add another because the 3rd Japanese Literature Challenge ends next Saturday!
Now I need to leave it at this because I really should begin writing my review for The Housekeeper and the Professor. Discussion at the Japanese Literature Book Group starts tomorrow! But you might want to know what book I’m currently reading: The Rapture by Liz Jensen. It is GREAT!
A novelty, for me at least: in 2010 I will be reading more than 3 comic books or graphic novels for certain! How do I know? Because I’ve joined the Graphic Novels Challenge as an Intermediate! 3-10 books must be doable, since I have just finished reading The Best of Mutts and Persepolis 1 & 2 are already waiting on the shelf; all three books I bought especially for the purpose of a varied diet in last October’s 24 hour read-a-thon. That’s when I read my first graphic novel btw: Neil Gaiman’s Coraline. It felt really good to crawl out of my usual book nook.
It’s a good opportunity to check out Art Spiegelman’s In The Shadow of No Towers, which I’ve been meaning to do ever since it was published. You all know Spiegelman from his famous autobiographical comics Maus I & II, right? I’ve mentioned him before in my post about Coraline.
Now I know I said I wouldn’t join any more reading challenges… Well, bad habits are hard to break :\ And don’t you think this is a different story? Besides, I’ve just finished wrapping up my 2009 Classics Challenge, so there’s room for something new! ;)
Not to mention this month’s irresistable mini-mission: the classics in graphics, for which you need to read 1 classic of literature that has been made into a graphic novel. Interesting, right?! So you’ll be glad to hear that you don’t even have to join the actual GN Challenge to participate in this mini-challenge that Teresa is hosting! What’s keeping you?
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; to 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
- 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
This is my final readathon pile! The third book from above (Model Gliding by Marcel Möring in Dutch: Modelvliegen) I will actually not read on paper: I have the audiobook waiting on my iPod. With thanks to Elsje las!
Listening to the advise of oldtimers I’ve decided to start with a short book to get a feeling of accomplishment: The Pianoman (also in Dutch: De Pianoman), by Bernlef. It’s the boekenweekgeschenk from 2008: ‘book week present’. Each year in March there’s a week devoted to books and reading. If you spend 20 euro’s on Dutch literature, you’ll get that year’s gift written by a famous author. This started as early as 1930! In the beginning the public had to guess who the author was by reading the novella.
Oh my, I suddenly discover I forgot to put one book in the photograph… The China Lover! Well, I might even never get to it anyway ;)
I wonder what this readathon will do to my daily post statistics… LOL The hard part of coming 24 hours will be not to spend too much time behind my computer blogging and following other readathonners! Beneath you can see my starting position. Good luck to all! :)
This is very exciting: on Wednesday the Monopoly 2.0 release game got started! My teammate myranya and I are called De boekenleggers, which can be translated into bookmarks – but it is a better name in Dutch because it is literally ‘the book layers’ (people laying books). Our first assignment is to leave a book at an IKEA shop… This is my 2nd time playing Bookcrossing monopoly and it was great fun last year!
Speaking of Bookcrossing: I received no less than two RABCK’s this week! (Weekly Geeks made us improve our weblogs, so I’m referring you to my new glossary for the explanation of RABCK ;) First came Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections from Marsala. It is #1 on the list of Best Fiction of the Millenium (so far)! Marsala read the book during the September readathon. And yesterday my surprise gift for joining in that same monthly readathon arrived! I had joined in preparation of the 24 hour Read-a-Thon of October 24th. I am really excited that I already got my pile of books done! Here’s what I will be reading during those 24 hours (although I probably won’t manage all of the books/hours):
- short stories: Nocturnes, by Kazuo Ishiguro
- De pianoman (‘The Piano Man‘), by Bernlef
- audiobook: Modelvliegen (‘Model Gliding‘), by Marcel Möring
- [my current book of that moment]
- Dromen van China (The China Lover), by Ian Buruma
- graphic novel: Coraline, by Neil Gaiman
- graphic novel: Persepolis & Persopolis 2, by Marjane Satrapi
- comic: The Best of Mutts, by Patrick McDonnell
There’s just one title I would like to add: Zijde (Silk), by Alessandro Baricco. So if anyone has got a copy available, in Dutch or English..?
Buying graphic novels for the upcoming read-a-thon was a first for me! I figured it would be great for variety. But the funny thing is I can hardly wait to start reading them now! I should keep myself from picking them up first thing on THE Day ;)
My mailbox really had to work overtime this week: I also received my three online Japanese book group reads yesterday!
- I Am a Cat (Wagahai wa Neko dearu 1905), by Natsume Sōseki — readalong, part 1 TBR before November 15th
- The Old Capital (Koto 1962), by Yasunari Kawabata — TBR before November 30th
- The Housekeeper and the Professor (Hakase no aishi ta sūshiki 2003), by Yoko Ogawa — TBR before January 30th 2010
Next week I hope to have finished John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath… I’ll see you then!