Happy Wednesday everyone! I hope that you are all doing well and are all healthy despite the risks that surround us. Things are starting to go back to normal although one should still throw caution in the air; the virus remains a threat. I hope that the pandemic will end soon. I am also praying that 2022 will be a year of hope, healing, and recovery for everyone. I hope that it will be a great year.
As it is a Wednesday, it is time for another WWW Wednesday update. WWW Wednesday is a bookish meme originally hosted by SAM@TAKING ON A WORLD OF WORDS. The mechanics for WWW Wednesday are quite simple, you just have to answer three questions:
- What are you currently reading?
- What have you finished reading?
- What will you read next?
What are you currently reading?
I was initially apprehensive about reading Kōbō Abe’s works, especially his first book I encountered, The Woman in the Dunes. I eventually overcame this apprehension and what unfolded was a story that kept me riveted. Over a year later, I am now about to embark on a new reading journey with the same writer. I am just about to start reading Kangaroo Notebook, hence, I don’t have much to share for now. Any impressions I have of the book will be shared in this week’s First Impression Friday update. That is if I don’t complete it before the said update; the book is quite slender.
What have you finished reading?
In the past week, I was able to complete three books, starting with my third novel by Mieko Kawakami, All the Lovers in the Night. Kawakami first piqued my interest when her award-winning work, Natsu Monogatari (夏物語, 2019), was translated into English in 2020 as Breasts and Eggs; the book was ubiquitous and it wasn’t long before I caught wind of it. I liked the book, thus, leading me to read more of her works. Earlier this year, I read her International Booker Prize-shortlisted novel, Heaven. With All the Lovers in the Night, Kawakami is just the second writer who I’ve read multiple works this year; the first one was Agatha Christie. Anyway, All the Lovers in the Night is a combination of Breasts and Eggs and Heaven. It charted the story of Fuyuko Irie, a freelance editor in her early thirties. Like Breasts and Eggs’ Natsu, I found Fuyuko a little passive, and her actions are often dictated by those around her. Moreover, one of the main themes of the novel revolved around female liberation, both in mind and body, a subject extensively explored in Breasts and Eggs. Meanwhile, it reverberated with philosophical intersections reminiscent of Heaven. It was, as always, an interesting reading experience. Kawakami’s ability to make the readers inhabit her character’s mind is top-notch.
From my third novel by Mieko Kawakami, my next book, Quicksand, was also my third book by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki; my first two were Some Prefer Nettles and The Makioka Sisters. He is definitely one of the most influential and popular names in Japanese literature, particularly in the mid-20th century. He was even nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature. In Quicksand, Tanizaki explored a subject that I have rarely encountered in Japanese literature. I think the only book that explored homosexuality in modern Japan is Banana Yoshimoto’s Kitchen. Seti in pre-war Osaka, Quicksand was narrated by Sonoko Kakiuchi, an affluent young woman married to Kotaro. While attending art class, Kakiuchi encountered Mitsuko, a fellow young woman of incomparable beauty. It didn’t take long for Kakiuchi to be enthralled by her beauty and they soon forged a close relationship. The growing rumor of their lesbian relationship was instrumental in stopping Mitsuko’s arranged marriage. However, things are not what they seem to be. Things started to unravel. Is Mitsuko the innocent young woman she projected herself to be? How will the prejudices of a conservative society affect their relationship? As always, Tanizaki It was an interesting glimpse into the complexities of pre-war Japanese society.
From two familiar writers, my next read was written by a writer whose oeuvre I have not explored previously. It was through an online bookseller that I first encountered Masuji Ibuse and his novel, Black Rain. It was an ominous title but I decided to take a chance on the book and check what it has in store. A quick research about the book yielded “Second World War.” I actually finished the book earlier today. Sure enough, the novel transported me to the Second World War, to what can be called “Ground Zero” of the now unpopular atomic bomb, the city of Hiroshima. It was told mainly from the perspective of Shizuma Shigematsu whose journal related in intricate details the devastation the atomic bomb caused Hiroshima in the days immediately following the “black rain” that fell from the sky one unsuspecting August day. It was a harrowing experience as Ibuse made the readers witness the cataclysm with their very eyes. Everywhere are dead bodies. Houses were leveled. The portrait was a bleak one, resonating with a deep message about the consequences of war. It is a great leveler. War does not recognize the rich from the poor, the young from the old, the politicians from the ordinary citizens. Everyone is on the same plane. Beyond its bleakness, the novel reverberated with a hopeful message. Flora flourishing after the attack is a contrast to the devastation around them.
What will you read next?
With a couple of days left before we welcome a new month (wah!), I am lining up my last three (hopefully) reads for the month. First off, I am looking at reading Yasutaka Tsutsui’s Paprika, a book I acquired earlier this year. I knew of an anime movie of the same title which was the reason why I obtained a copy of the book in the first place. I haven’t watched the movie but I am excited to read the book; I know there are some elements of science fiction in the story. After Paprika, I am going to read Nobel Laureate in Literature Kenzaburō Ōe’s A Personal Matter. This will be my second by Ōe this month I thought that A Quiet Life and A Personal Matter were the same books just published with different titles, hence, I read the former even though I have listed the latter as part of my 2022 Top 22 Reading List. I wanted to read more of the writer’s interiors through his deeply personal novel. Lastly, I am hoping to close the reading month with an unfamiliar name in Morio Kita and his comedic novel, The House of Nire. Like Black Rain, it was a random purchase; I barely had any iota on who Kita was nor have I encountered any of his works until that time. Anyway, I am looking forward to the book as I have learned that it is a parody of Thomas Mann. I surmised that it is Magic Mountain that is being parodied.
That’s it for this week’s WWW Wednesday. I hope you are all doing great. Happy reading and always stay safe! Happy Wednesday again!