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?
July is nearly done! But before officially closing the month, I am hoping to complete as many works of Japanese literature as I can. One of the books I have lined up for this reading journey is Sayaka Murata’s Convenience Store Woman. The book first caught my attention back in 2021. It was ubiquitous! Anywhere I go, I keep on encountering it. I also have been reading a couple of positive reviews of the book. I guess I jumped on the bandwagon and obtained a copy of the book for myself. It was, however, a different book by Murata that I read first: Earthlings. It was an interesting experience, totally out of this world. It pushed my imagination to the limits but it also made me rethink my foray into her works. I am hoping that Convenience Store Woman, which I am about to start, will undo the unfavorable impression that Earthlings gave me.
What have you finished reading?
For the second week in a row, I was able to complete three books. The first of this three-book journey was Kōbō Abe’s Kangaroo Notebook. This is my second novel by the esteemed Japanese writer, after The Woman in the Dunes. It was a book I was apprehensive to read at first but eventually relented because I keep on reading positive reviews of the book; I thought it was a work of science fiction. Well, it was but it made me appreciate a different dimension of Japanese literature I rarely ventured to. Now that I was a little acquainted with Abe’s prose, I felt it was time to read more. With this in mind, I lined up Kangaroo Notebook to be part of my July 2022 Japanese Literature reading journey. Everything I expected The Woman in the Dunes to be was encapsulated in Kangaroo Notebook. The novel followed the story of an unnamed man who, one day, felt inching on his leg. He dismissed it but the following day, he noticed that daikon radish started sprouting from his shins. This alone was enough to creep me out; having anything foreign sprout or thrive on my body immediately freaks me out. But I still pushed through. The book was a quick read after all. However, I found the book chaotic and the plot was all over the place. It was all surreal with shades of existentialism, a theme extensively explored in The Woman in the Dunes.
From one work with shades of science fiction to one that is a product of science fiction, the next work of Japanese literature I read was Yasutaka Tsutsui’s Paprika. If this rings a bell of familiarity, especially to anime fans, it is because it was adapted into an anime film of the same title released in 2006. While I have not watched the movie yet, it was the primary factor in my obtaining a copy of the book. The book was originally published between January 1991 to June 1993 as a four-part series. It was also adapted into manga and it was only in 2009 when the book was translated into English. At the heart of the novel is psychotherapist Atsuko Chiba. Along with Dr. Kōsaku Tokita, they were nominated for the Nobel Prize because of their invention, the DC Mini, a -miniaturized version of the existing dream analysis device the Institute they were working for still used. However, Chiba, under the disguise of Paprika, has been illicitly using the device to infiltrate the dreams of their patients and treat them. Nightmares started to converge with reality when greed, lust, and envy all got involved. The book had a very promising and interesting premise. However, it was undermined by its blatant misogyny and homophobia.
During the first half of the month, I read Nobel Laureate in Literature Kenzaburō Ōe’s A Quiet Life thinking it was a different title for his highly personal novel, A Personal Matter; translated novels often have more than one title, depending on the translator. But alas, I was mistaken as they were actually two different novels. To redress the situation – A Personal Matter is also part of my 2022 Top 22 Reading List – I decided to read it as part of my July reading journey, making Ōe the third writer who I have read at least two works this year; the other two are Agatha Christie and Mieko Kawakami. Anyway, A Personal Matter first caught my attention while writing a brief biography of Ōe for a review of one of his works I previously read. I learned that A Personal Matter had biographical elements and that it focused on the period following the birth of his first son, a disabled child. It was for this reason alone that I wanted to read the book, which is quite slender. The book provided me with an intimate peek into the mind of the Nobel Laureate, from his doubts to his frustrations to his proclivity for single-mindedness. Even if I didn’t know it was semi-autobiographical, I can spot the same because of the intimacy of the language.
What will you read next?
Before July ends, I hope to start reading Morio Kita’s The House of Nire. Kita was an unfamiliar name; I barely had any iota of who Kita was nor have I encountered any of his works until the time I came across The House of Nire through an online bookseller. I bought the book anyway simply because I knew it was a work of Japanese literature. After a month of immersing in the works of Japanese literature, I will be traveling across Asia, starting with Han Kang’s The White Book. This will be my third book by the Korean writer. From what I have been reading about the book, I can sense that it will give me a new perspective on her prose. This is a meditative book, a rumination on grief with the color white as a coping mechanism. That is at least what I get from the blurbs. From South Korea, I will be traveling to a place closer to home, Malaysia, through Tan Twan Eng’s The Garden of Evening Mists. This will my first novel by Eng who was recommended by a friend. This is right up my alley as it is a work of historical fiction.
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!