I'm giving 4 stars not because the collection is full of stunners (though there are a few) but because almost every story here is enjoyable and surpri...moreI'm giving 4 stars not because the collection is full of stunners (though there are a few) but because almost every story here is enjoyable and surprising. An anthology I got from the library (yay, my library!) and one which I wouldn't mind owning.(less)
I'm glad to have read this. It's a novel I admire more than love, however. The language and textures make it a rich read, but the lack of a compelling...moreI'm glad to have read this. It's a novel I admire more than love, however. The language and textures make it a rich read, but the lack of a compelling narrative--story, that is--keep me from falling in love. And man, those New Englanders...what a tough breed.(less)
Irreverent, insightful, at times beautiful as well as just plain fun, I Am a Japanese Writer is a novel about writing a novel, the contemporary publishing scene, the poet Basho, Montreal, race, identity, cultural politics, and well…life.
Written in 2008, I am A Japanese Writer was translated from the French by David Homel and recently released in the U.S. At this point I want to tell you that Laferriere was born in Port au Prince in 1953 and makes his home in Montreal, but I have the novelist’s voice in my ear: “I don’t understand all the attention paid to a writer’s origins. Because for me, Mishima was my neighbor. Very naturally, I repatriated the writers I read at the time. All of them: Flaubert, Goethe, Whitman. Shakespeare, Lope de Vega, Cervantes, Kipling, Geothe, Whitman, Shakespeare, Lope de Vega, Cervantes, Kipling, Seghor, Cesaire, Roumain, Amado, Diderot—they all lived in my village. Otherwise, what were they doing in my room? Years later, when I became a writer and people asked me, ‘Are you a Haitian writer, a Caribbean writer or a French language writer?’ I answered without hesitation. I take on my reader’s nationality. Which means that when that when a Japanese person reads me, I immediately become a Japanese writer” (14).
The novel, just under 200 pages and written in short titled chapters, starts off at a lightning pace…it’s dazzling to read a novelist with a voice as fresh Laferriere’s, and David Homel deserves kudos for capturing it in English. We follow Laferriere--the writer’s alter ego, that is—as he traverses Montreal—on subway or by foot, with Basho as his companion, being treated all the while to his rich interior monologue. Given Laferriere’s resistance to pigeon-holing, it’s easy to see how the title is decided upon, and then once given and accepted—welcomed—by his publisher, he’s off, and the reader along with him, in search of a novel. First up: finding a Japanese character, or group of characters (a hip young group is decided on), and then, “a novel needs a death” which is soon provided by an unexpected suicide…One of the richest aspects of the novel is the interest the Japanese Consulate takes in this (not yet) novel with the arresting title. The sleuthing that ensues is richly comic, and well, worthy of a Japanese novelist. In this era of Murakami (this week sees the release of the American edition of his opus 1Q84 and suddenly Murakami profiles and reviews are everywhere), and to a much lesser extent, writers like Banana Yoshimoto and Natsuo Kirino, it’s understandable why Japanese is settled on, in the same way, thanks to Stieg Larsson, one might say, “I am a Swedish Crime Novelist” if one were writing mysteries. In fact, Murakami is given a nod in the novel, but it is Mishima and more so, Basho, whose sensibility guide it: “My intention is to live like Basho this time. Underneath a banana tree. But the winter is too harsh”(139). Indeed within the oddness of Laferreire’s quest and world, there are moments of poetry, beauty and tranquility. This is not a novel where quirkiness and zaniness rule for sake of it; rather, the novel offers a multiplicity of tones, textures, characters and scenarios. But it is the sensibility of the novelist—now like Basho, now like Murakami, always most essentially Laferriere--that prevails.(less)
It's lovely that we have another novel by Janet Frame. Apparently, she deemed it too personal to publish in her lifetime. Her evocation of the central...moreIt's lovely that we have another novel by Janet Frame. Apparently, she deemed it too personal to publish in her lifetime. Her evocation of the central character, Grace Cleave: her thoughts, anxiety, memories of childhood in New Zealand as she visits a couple and their children in Northern England...well she's brilliant at capturing consciousness as well as self-consciousness. Rich, so rich. Beautifully written.
I should quote a passage or two, but don't have the book at hand-- (less)
Genazino came highly recommended to me by a German friend; as far as I know this is the only book of his yet translated to English. The novel is voice...moreGenazino came highly recommended to me by a German friend; as far as I know this is the only book of his yet translated to English. The novel is voice-driven; the voice quirky and full of the narrator's observations, musings. I didn't fall in love with it (or him), but it grew on me so that by the end it had achieved an unexpected effect, as in fact his life shows movement in terms of his relationships and work. There was (for me) an unexpected sweetness to it by the end.
The translation is fine but I wondered what it might be like to read it in the original German; with such voice-driven work, I'd expect there is more originality in style than is shown in translation.(less)
This is the sort of book I love...one that you come across somewhere (in this case, a castle library in Italy) and feel sure that it was hiding there...moreThis is the sort of book I love...one that you come across somewhere (in this case, a castle library in Italy) and feel sure that it was hiding there all this time, waiting for you to find it. The author is Hungarian, and the novel was originally published in 1937; its English translation appeared in 2000. 'Journey by Moonlight' is unlike any novel I've read: the atmosphere is both dreamy & descriptive, rich in history and detail. The characters are interesting, and the dialogue is excellent. It's insightful, among other things, about love and relationships, life and death. Mihaly is passive and moody and abandons his wife on their honeymoon on the train in Umbria. Over time he reconnects with members of his close circle of friends from his schooldays in Budapest, now scattered and having taken up very different lives in Umbria and Rome. The novel also follows Mihaly's wife and her point of view in sections (she takes up a new life in Paris, rather than returning to Budapest), and there is a very funny letter from her first husband to Mihaly early on in the novel. I forgot to mention that the novel is quite funny (dryly so) in places. A rich novel, one that is idiosyncratic and mysterious, unclassifiable: the best sort.(less)
Galgut's novel seems reminiscent of early Coetzee and perhaps Camus as well. He's a prose-poet novelist; the novel is short with brief chapters and of...moreGalgut's novel seems reminiscent of early Coetzee and perhaps Camus as well. He's a prose-poet novelist; the novel is short with brief chapters and often unconventional in its use of sentence structure and punctuation. The novel is above all atmospheric: the landscape is bleak and barren, the So African township hardly peopled. A murder has been committed and an identity assumed, but Galgut is not one to analyze character motivation or psychology. Instead characters are elemental, almost animal-like in this harsh landscape. Dialogue is almost nonexistent. "The Quarry" is both the description of a place in the novel and its main character, a brilliant title. I've only just finished reading this novel, but I have the feeling it will long stay with me: the mark of a good writer.(less)
Rarely do I find an anthology of stories as consistently enjoyable as this one. The fiction varies in genre and style, some of it quite innovative, so...moreRarely do I find an anthology of stories as consistently enjoyable as this one. The fiction varies in genre and style, some of it quite innovative, some of it excerpted from longer work. I don't have the book with me to cite, but I remember stories by Philip K. Dick, Samuel R Delany, Kelly Link, Shirley Jackson (I loved hers!, not one I'd read anywhere else) among others. Recommended for those who like stories that are eerie and inventive, resonant and memorable.(less)
This has got to be one of the most impressive short stories ever written, up there with the very best. Written in the late 1800's, it is surprisingly...moreThis has got to be one of the most impressive short stories ever written, up there with the very best. Written in the late 1800's, it is surprisingly modern in its form & content. When I was an undergraduate, Charlotte Perkins Gilman was an undiscovered writer, but thankfully she's been very much discovered now: I've read her nonfiction ('Women and Economics'--very forward-thinking re: communal kitchens and daycare) and her utopian novel, 'Herland.' She also has some other terrific short stories, "If I Were a Man," for example and a mystery novel. None is as famous as "The Yellow Wallpaper," however. What's great about this story is that I've found it reprinted in horror anthologies, women's fiction anthologies, college readers, texts on madness...It's a masterful example of an unreliable narrator and a woman's descent into madness. A wife is prescribed bed rest for what appears to be postpartum depression, is confined to a room w/ sickly yellow overly ornate wallpaper...and goes mad from inactivity, lack of meaningful stimulation. Don't want to spoil it by saying any more, if you haven't already read this great short story.(less)