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Where has ’22 gone to so fast? Regular media are looking back on past events and deaths; social media are being flooded with New Year’s resolutions for 2023. And me? I’m just looking forward to another Japanese Literature Challenge hosted by Dolce Bellezza. That’s what I like about this time of year!

The challenge runs from January through February. Will you join us?

Here’s what I have planned…

  • Read De Zwemmers (The Swimmers) by Julie Otsuka.
  • Read Tokyo Vice by Jake Adelstein (providing I can get my hands on an affordable copy).
  • Make a dish from the Vegan Japan Easy cookbook.
  • Continue to listen to Jake Adlestein’s interesting investigative podcast The Evaporated: Gone with the Gods about the “fascinating and bizarre world of Japan’s jouhatsu” (missing persons).

By the way: this is the first post on this blog that I made in the WordPress Gutenberg editor! #learning


Jap Literature Challenge 13 logo
2019 was an all-time low in reading Japanese Literature for me. I managed only one book originating in Japan: The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa.
I hate and love this story at the same time.
And I might not even have read it if it wasn’t for Dolce Bellezza’s annual Japanese Literature Challenge! So I’m very happy to join in again this January 1st.

In a nice coincidence dear Mr Gnoe gifted me Hiromi Kawakami’s The Ten Loves of Mr Nishino last night on New Year’s Eve. That will be up first for the challenge; I already picked a bookmark to go with it :-D
The Ten Loves of Mr Nishino

Aiming high this 13th Japanese Literature Challenge

If everything goes the way I want I will be reading six pieces of Japanese literature for the JLit challenge, running from January through March. I committed to join the monthly reads of the Japanese Literature group bookclub on Goodreads AND their casual buddy read of The Aosawa Murders (Riku Onda), after publication in February. The Ten Loves of Mr Nishino was this group’s read for December so I’m tagging a little behind. But that’s okay since I have already read January’s choice.

Goodreads’ Japanese Literature group Bookclub reads for January – May 2020

  • January: The Woman in the Dunes by by Kobo Abe — a masterpiece unlike any other book so please try it if you haven’t yet! I read it in 2011.
  • February: Go by Kabuki Kaneshiro
  • March: The Lake by Yasunari Kawabata — maybe my favourite Japanese author!
  • April: The Emissary a.k.a. The Last Children of Tokyo by Yoko Tawada
  • May: Shipwrecks by Akira Yoshimura

On top of that I mean to read along with #JapaneseLitChallenge13 participants in March, tackling Junichiro Tanizaki’s The Makioka Sisters . I have the 576 page chunkster on my shelf since I failed a previous collective reading.

All in all a busy schedule this first quarter of 2020! I should be able to manage however, since I surpassed last year’s goal of reading 20 books with two. That’s almost two books a month. The new target I set for 2020 is 25. Participating in Susy’s 24-in-28 Readathon on Goodreads the weekend of January 18-19 will probably help me get off to a good start.

I can do this!

Looking forward to it all!

Do you like Japanese Literature as much as I do? Do you have any reading resolutions for the new year? I’d love to hear it!

On my last trip to Terschelling island I met a travelling cat. A handsome black fellow having its own raised bench on the passenger’s side of a grey van. Food and water in their slots on the dashboard. The car being parked, the cat was playing the cool dude, resting its elbow on the open window. Or so it seemed ;-)

I had to think back to this regularly while reading The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa — the first book I picked and finished for this year’s Japanese Literature Challenge 12. A picture of the cat I met would be perfect here but alas, I have none.

The Travelling Cat Chronicles coverThe Travelling Cat Chronicles is a novella about a stray cat called Nana () being taken in by Satoru. They become companions in life, and on the road in Satoru’s grey van.

When I finished the book -a month ago already- I threw it across the roomI HATE IT! I shouted — at the same time telling the hubs to quickly go read it… I guess the story more upsets me really than evoke rage. It is way too close to my heart, and I can’t take it.

So, kudos for Arikawa’s way with words. When another of her works is translated I will be sure to pick it up. But I may never read The Travelling Cat Chronicles again. It’s a thumbs up I don’t dare recommend. All I can say is: if you plan on gifting this book, be sure to include hankies.

Back to the Japanese Literature Challenge. Unfortunately not much will come of my plans to read a J-Lit for each of the three months. It ends March 31st and though I gave Haruki Murakami’s De moord op Commendatore (Killing Commendatory) first part; een idea verschijnt a shot, the story didn’t grab me at this moment — even inducing another reading slump. I’m giving up now but still declaring JLC#12 a success. I wanted to read Japanese Literature again, and did.

And so I can choose something new from Mt. TBR… it’s going to be John Irving: Last Night In Twisted River!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

Bout of Books

This week I’m playing BoBRaT again: participating in the Bout of Books readathon. Unofficially, because I was too late to sign up. But I so desperately need some pressure to tackle the books on my Mt TBR that I’m just ignoring that fact. Don’t need to win any prizes anyway, as long as I’ll achieve my goal. Which is..?

Readathon Goal

I want to read every day this week for at least 30 minutes, preferably in one sitting. It can be anything: from the pile of magazine clippings and leaflets that’s been bugging me to one of the three books I should be reading right now…

Cover Kleuroze Tsukuru TazakiJLT8 button (2014)De kleurloze Tsukuru Tazaki en zijn pelgrimsjaren / The Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. I’ve joined the August 12th – September 12th readalong of Master Murakami’s most recent book, which is part of Dolce Bellezza’s Japanese Literature Challenge #8

Cover RayuelaRayuela: een hinkelspel / Hopscotch by Julio Cortázar. This notorious Latin American literary experiment of 500+ pages was picked by my IRL bookgroup to be read before September 7th. Oomph.

Cover Op de vleugels van de draakOp de vleugels van de draak (‘On the dragon’s wings’) was chosen as one of two books to be read in August by the Boekgrrls, a Dutch mailing list and on-line book group. And though reading along is always voluntary, I was the one to nominate Lieve Joris’ newest nonfiction. So I can’t drop out now, can I?!

It’s not that I don’t WANT to read these books, I just can’t get myself to do it :( Can you help?

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 ;)

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? logoSince I didn’t get to write my Sunday Salon post yesterday due to Sinterklaas baking (apple pie with almond paste), cooking (Bisschopswijn, similar to mulled wine) & other festivities (cheese fondue), I decided to join in again with Book Journey’s It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? meme. You can read more about Saint Nicholas in the Virtual Advent Tour blogposts of Leeswammes and Iris on Books by the way. And join their giveaways!

Today I’m halfway The (Temple of the) Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima, a Japanese Literature Book Group read. The discussion post is already up, if you’d care to take a look. I’ve put part of the book title in brackets because in Dutch the novel is just called Het Gouden Paviljoen, without the temple-part. The translator, C. Ouwehand, argues that the Japanese name Kinkakuji is used for both the temple of the Golden Pavilion and the entire building.

Currently reading: The Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji) by Yukio MishimaNow you know how I like to use an appropriate bookmark when I’m reading? This time I have the perfect one! It shows a picture of the Golden Pavilion and is part of a series of 6 Kyoto temples. It was a prize in last year’s Hello Japan! challenge about Kyoto temples.

So far the novel seems like a ‘tidal’ read: pulling me in and pushing me away. The story about a stuttering (or does he have a stammer?), troubled youngster training to be a buddhist priest at Kinkaku-ji, keeps you at a distance as the protagonist is not really someone to relate to. Still, several times I found that I was thinking about the story and its characters when I was nowhere near the book. As if it has taken possession of me. So I definitely want to read on and finish it, no matter how long this will take me.

But I do want to hurry up a little. There are several other books on my agenda for this month!

Two weeks ago I held a poll about what book to read next. Nadeem Aslam’s novel The Wasted Vigil is a clear winner and I’d really love to pick it up soon and buddy read it with my friend MaaikeB. She’s already started!

Also, my Dutch online book group the Boekgrrls is reading Caos calmo this month, for which author Sandro Veronesi won the prestigious Strega Prize. Next weekend I’ll be able to borrow a copy from Mr Gnoe’s aunty C.

And last but not least I have something put aside especially for the holidays: The Christmas Quilt, by Thomas J. Davies, which I won earlier this year in Velvet’s giveaway. I’m determined to beat my reading slump and get at least some of these books done this month!

Other bookish things

Signed book: Leugens en lotgenotenI received a surprise book from Ailantus publishers. When I got the parcel I thought for a minute I had won their contest for a signed translation of David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: De onverhoorde gebeden van Jacob de Zoet. Of course we have our own signed English copy, but we’d like to own a Dutch translation as well because of the link with Holland.

Alas, it wasn’t exactly what I hoped for. BUT. It is a very appropriate gift! Leugens en lotgenoten (‘Lies and Fellow Sufferers‘), signed by Jan Willem Smeets, is about two brothers that have been detained in WWII Japanese prison camps as children. That has my interest because so was my dad! One of the boys in the book goes back to Indonesia as an adult; something I would like to do someday too: visit my father’s birth land.

And then there’s a new What’s in a Name challenge (#4) about to start! I finished reading all entries for #3 but I still need to write up a wrap-up post reviewing most of them. Will get to that — I hope. Next year’s categories are:

    What's in a Name Challenge #4 button (2011) 

  1. A book with a number in the title (Pinball 1973 or 1Q84 or The 19th Wife or 2666)
  2. A book with jewelry or a gem in the title (The Moonstone)
  3. A book with a size in the title (Vernon God Little)
  4. A book with travel or movement in the title (I’ll Steal You Away or The Elephant Vanishes or…)
  5. A book with evil in the title (Savage Detectives or Crime School or Lies and Fellow Sufferers or PROBABLY Poelie de Verschrikkelijke (‘Poelie the Terrible‘))
  6. A book with a life stage in the title (Bento Box in the Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America)

As you can see I have some titles from Mt TBR lined up already, but I definitely need to go have a look at my shelf and compose a complete list and admission post. Mr Gnoe and I are having a discussion about ‘savage’: he would not label that as something evil… What do you think?

So much to do & read — good thing we’ll be having a few days of at the end of this month!

Gnoe goes ExtraVeganza!


Currently grazing

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Gnoe herding...