A book/library haul

It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to participate in the Japanese lit classes I used to enjoy, but I still follow their reading list to get ideas. Most recently, they read “Barn Burning” by Haruki Murakami, a short story in his collection The Elephant Vanishes. I was surprised to see my library had it on the shelves and showed up immediately to take advantage of this situation. I ended up binge-hauling some of his other short story collections, along with some Fitzgerald and the novel Convenience Store Woman (2016) by Sayaka Murata, who has crossed my radar several times. It should be noted that most of these books are small with a large font size and generous line spacing, otherwise I’d be out of my mind!

Also—a big thank-you to the anonymous contributor of Perrault’s Fairy Tales! The Gustave Dorรฉ illustrations are stunning! I hope to do a video on it soon. ๐Ÿ™‚

Now… do not take my Murakami-biased haul as an endorsement. My opinion remains undecided. Based on things I’ve heard and read about him so far (read: his portrayal of female characters and sexual content), I do not think I will be a fan. But I was intrigued by the two short stories I’ve read before (“Honey Pie” and “Drive My Car”), so I’m hoping to gain something from his short fiction and also his nonfiction, while probably avoiding the novels for now.

As for F Scott Fitzgerald, I’ve never read any of his short stories, not even Benjamin Buttons, so I’m curious to see what those are like.

Have you read any of these books? Is there any Japanese literature on your 2023 horizon?

Bellezza is hosting her annual Japanese Literature event in January and February. I have no business signing up for challenges, but I will link up my reviews of these books if I managed to finish any of them. ๐Ÿ˜‰

21 Comments

    1. Yes, his prose is wonderfully poetic!

      I was thinking last night about how I review books and the challenging of choosing criteria. I wonder what it is that actually draws me to Fitzgerald, when I could easily critique him for faults I find in other authors (and to be honest, I did DNF Tender Is the Night…though I may try it again in the future). Need to think about this some more…

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  1. I just picked up Men without Women by Haruki Murakami from the library. He’s one of my all time favorite authors. It’s equally sad and comical to see people try and reduce him to a “sexist” writer.

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      1. “The way I live my life, I donโ€™t really have anything to do with all the โ€œismsโ€ of the world. Iโ€™m not an anythingist. I just make an effort not to write anything into my stories that would hurt or show contempt for someone because theyโ€™re male or female. Or could that be an ism in itself? You could call it Murakami-ism if you like.” – Haruki Murakami

        I think the criticism is pretty unfounded. As he has said over and over, he doesn’t write very individualistic characters. He writes in very dreamy worlds where the unconscious bubbles up and some people can’t handle that.

        “Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable.”

        Cesar A. Cruz

        Just my two cents for whatever its worth. He has many views that are wildly different from my own but I’ve stuck with him for thousands of pages and have come across insights that I never would have dreamed on my own.

        (P.S. I know that you read a healthy variety and are open minded, I’m just talking about the critics who automatically write him off)

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  2. The best works of Fitzgerald is… his short stories!
    I’ve read two of his short story collections (Tales of the Jazz Age and The Flappers and Philosophers), and they are both awesome. There’s no story which I didn’t like, which is very rare. Of a collection, there’s usually at least one ‘meh’, but I didn’t find it in Fitzgerald’s.

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    1. Wow, that’s great to hear!
      I love comparing an author’s novels and short stories… some authors manage to ace both (Agatha Christie comes to mind) and others excel more at one or the other.

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    1. Hey, your comment showed up right away this time! ๐Ÿ™‚
      Yes, I was surprised, too. I haven’t watched the movie, but the concept sounds more like science fiction than a Jazz Age society drama! It should be fun to read.

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  3. The only Japanese literature I’ve read is “Kokoro”, and that was for a Japanese history course. An oversight, I suppose….almost all of my lit reading is western, except for a few scattered books in India, Persia, and the Arab world.

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    1. The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories is a very nice introduction, used in that class I linked to. Having historical context is essential for understanding, but it sounds like you’d have that already!

      As far as novelists, I hope you get to read Shusaku Endo someday. I never regretted anything I read by him. He gets compared to Graham Greene a lot since they were contemporaries, but short of having read Greene, I think of him more as a Dostoyevsky figure… deeply passionate (even distraught) about his country and his country’s culture, both social and spiritual. The Catholic angle is an unusual one for a Japanese author but is all the more valuable to Christian readers.

      That said, Japanese lit is like Russian lit… you start with one or two authors and pretty soon you’re entranced in a “whole new world”… maybe best saved for after Mount Doom! ๐Ÿ˜€

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  4. The only Japanese book I have (I think!) is ‘The Chronicles of the Travelling Cat’ by Hiro Arikawa. I’m hoping to read it this year.

    I’m in two minds about Murakami. I’ve heard very good things about him but I think I’ll wait until I stumble on some cheap versions.

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      1. Couldn’t resist it after reading the blurb. It definitely sounded like cat lover material. [grin] Although I am resisting (ATM) a new(ish) video game where I think you play the last cat on Earth. Not sure about its repeat playability though!

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  5. Very interesting. I loved “Convenience Store Woman”, and I suppose Murakami’s short stories should be good. I know “Barn Burning” only through a film that was based on it titled Burning (South Korea). I found it underwhelming and its mystery – non-existent, but probably the source material is better.

    After my disastrous reading of Haruki Murakami’s “IQ84”, I will never pick up another book by him. Even in his supposed best book “Norwegian Wood” all I see is the pretence and Salinger-like emotional manipulation of the reader. It seems I know everything he is doing while, as a reader, that secret art should be hidden and that maybe because he is obvious about it, dotting his fiction with references to other classics, or food or melancholy or coincidence. I feel like now I am too ol to like him, whereas if I were in my early twenties I would have fallen for his books.

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    1. Oh wow… yes, I’ve heard some things about IQ84 that sound like an instant turn-off. I just found your book review and will give it a read (the review, that is ๐Ÿ˜‰ ).

      I did enjoy the short story “Barn Burning,” but overall the Elephant Vanishes collection has been a bit uneven in terms of quality. As far as his writing style… its elegance is thrown off by his compulsive references to genitalia. It is very distracting and doesn’t seem to add much to the story or character development.

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      1. Oh, really? That is also what I found wrong in “IQ84”. It felt for me as though he always tried to capture his readers’ attention with something sexual. Yes, I get it that it will “captivate” some people in a way, but I find this a very lazy way to attain the goal of narrative pull and attention. That’s not hard-work or literary talent, that’s cheap sensationalising.

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