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.

It is time for another WWW Wednesday update as it is a Wednesday. 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:

  1. What are you currently reading?
  2. What have you finished reading?
  3. What will you read next?

What are you currently reading?

After a month of indulging myself with works of Japanese literature, I am now traveling across Asia. For at least a month, I will be experiencing the diverse culture of the continent through the works of Asian writers. Kicking off this journey is Tan Twan Eng’s The Garden of Evening Mists. This is my first novel by the Malaysian writer who was first brought to my attention through a social media friend. Because of my high anticipation for the book, I included it in my 2022 Top 22 Reading List. In a way, the novel is a transition from Japan to Asia. A work of historical fiction, the novel explored the legacy of the Second World War, mainly how Japan’s alliance with the Axis powers has shaped the region’s history. At the heart of the story is Teoh Yun Ling, who was also the novel’s primary narrator. In the contemporary, she is a successful lawyer, having recently retired as a Supreme Court Judge. The crux of the novel, however, is an event that has transpired in the past that, from what I can surmise, has the power to rock the boat, so to speak. I have just started the novel but a lot has already been unraveled. I can’t wait to see how it pans out.

What have you finished reading?

I think it was in 2020 or perhaps 2019 when Sayaka Murata rose to global fame. Her works, particularly Convenience Store Woman was ubiquitous. Every online bookseller I know has sold at least one copy of the book. When I go to the bookstore, the book was prominently displayed. At first, I was apprehensive about exploring Murata’s prose. I guess I am more of the old-school type of reader; haha, no wonder I am more into backlist reading rather than new books. Anyway, I eventually relented. My curiosity was too strong that I can’t help but dip my fingers into her wor. However, it was a different work that I started my foray into Murata’s works. Earthlings was certainly a different kind of literary animal. While I appreciated the message, I was creeped out by the graphic images that Murata has planted into my mind. It was an interesting experience. Eccentric.

But here I am again, back to where I was supposed to start. Convenience Store Woman has several layers. First, it is an exploration of an individual’s role in society and how it is molded by society as a whole through the story of the main character and primary narrator, Keiko Furukura. The second layer explores gender norms in contemporary Japan, which is actually applicable on a global scale. Another layer subtly studied how capitalism has influenced our lives. I did like the book although it was quite short. It had the same messages as Earthlings but it was less graphic, less provocative. Moreover, it is a very thought-provoking story, and rightfully so. Before becoming a writer, Murata worked as a convenience store woman.

I culminated my adventure into Japanese literature with a name unfamiliar to me until I encountered him through an online bookseller. Sans any iota on who he was or what the book was about, I acquired the book simply because I knew that it was a work of Japanese literature. You see, I wanted to explore my horizons beyond the mainstream Japanese writers, e.g. Yasunari Kawabata, Yukio Mishima, Haruki Murakami, Jun’ichirō Tanizaki, Kenzaburō Ōe, and their ilk. With this in mind, I obtained a copy of Naoya Shiga’s A Dark Night’s Passing. From the looks of it, the story is rather ominous. Shiga, I have learned was a prolific short story writer who thrived in pre-World War II Japan. However, he has published only one full-length novel, 暗夜行路 (An’ya kōro) which was published in serialized form between 1921 and 1937. It was first published in English in 1976.

At the heart of the story is Tokitō Kensaku who was born into an affluent family. However, his mother died when he was still six years old. His father, on the other hand, refused to have to do anything with him. Kensaku’s only connection with his father is his older brother, Nobuyuki. With no one else to raise him, he lived with his paternal grandfather and his mistress Oei. When his grandfather passed away, Kensaku received a hefty legacy. The crux of the story, however, is a long-buried family secret. This secret will play a huge role in Kensaku’s reckoning with himself and his family. It was a good book. Shiga wrote an absorbing story even though the main character was barely likable.

After completing The Garden of Evening Mists, I will be resuming my journey across Asia with Han Kang’s The White Book. This will be my third book by the International Booker Prize-winning South Korean writer. This book, I surmise, will provide a different dimension of Kang’s prose and storytelling. She already made me experience her brand of magical realism in The Vegetarian, and her astuteness in historical fiction in Human Acts. Both books also examined human conditions deeply. This will also be prevalent in her meditative book, The White Book. From South Korea, my journey will take me to India with another International Booker Prize-winning writer. In this year’s competition, Geetanjali Shree’s Tomb of Sand went up against a highly-stacked field which included Nobel Laureate in Literature Olga Tokrczuk’s The Books of Jacob. Actually, it was one of the books that immediately grabbed my attention when the longlist was released. Its length piqued my interest. And surprise, surprise. Tomb of Sand won the 2022 International Booker Prize. My copy of the book will be arriving soon and I am more than excited to experience what Shree has in store.

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!