02/12/2016: Wow! I opened my email this morning to discover that the publisher had liked and tweeted about my post; their tweet was retweeted several02/12/2016: Wow! I opened my email this morning to discover that the publisher had liked and tweeted about my post; their tweet was retweeted several times. Nice, considering I'm just a reader not a reviewer!
First of all, I loved loved loved this book. It's part of this year's resolution to limit my reading of big publisher novels and read more smaller press offerings, and so far, I've been extremely lucky in my choices. Second, it's definitely not a novel that everyone will like; it certainly will appeal much more to readers who know a bit about Argentina's 20th-century history. Things will make much more sense, especially in terms of the Peronists, still active and still a big, ongoing part of the political scene today.
The novel begins when Ernesto Marroné, the "financial manager of the most powerful construction and real estate conglomerate in Argentina," returns home from an afternoon of playing golf and discovers a poster of Che Guevara hanging on his son's bedroom wall. As he "unknotted the laces of his Jack Nicklaus golf shoes," he realizes that it may be time to reveal his own "guerrilla past" to his son. After all, "there's no escaping the past" --
"No matter how far you run, sooner or later it catches up with you -- with all of us. Because far from being an exception, Marroné's story was emblematic of a whole generation -- a generation now striving to erase the traces of a shameful past with the same diligence it had once devoted to building a utopian future."
He makes up his mind to tell his story the next day; and that night he laid back, unable to sleep, watching "the film of his rebellious past from beginning to end..." The novel consists of Ernesto's look back -- it is all at once a wicked satire on politics and history, a look at the mythology of Eva Perón, and a story about one man's personal journey.
After I finished this book, a saying of Marx's popped into my head, something along the lines of history repeating itself first as tragedy then as farce, and there may be something to that here in this most excellent novel. I can't possibly describe everything here; it's a book a person must absolutely experience on his or her own. Aside from its silliness, it is a story with an incredible amount of depth, it's highly intelligent, and one I hated putting down for any reason. Most highly recommended.
Jacques Cazotte, as the story goes, predicted whom among his friends would be meeting Madame Guillotine as the horrors of the French Revolution unfoldJacques Cazotte, as the story goes, predicted whom among his friends would be meeting Madame Guillotine as the horrors of the French Revolution unfolded; sadly, his prescience didn't include himself.
Luckily, he's left behind this little gem of a book in which Beelzebub is summoned by a rank amateur (109 pages, 1772), and which although short, is a delight from beginning to end. The ending itself leaves much pause for thought and actually sent me back to the start for a second read. Within that 109 pages issues arise around self/other, gender identity, sexual desire, deception, reality vs. nonreality, all of which make their way through this tale; however, it's also a book that can be read totally just for fun, and one that I can definitely recommend.
You can read plot, etc. here; I must say I was completely captivated by this tale. ...more
I'm late to the Lafcadio Hearn party, having only read two stories in this collection before picking up this book -- "The Story of Mimi-Nashi-Hoichi" and "Yuki-Onna," which have long been personal favorites. There are seventeen actual "Kwaidan" in this book, and then a section by Hearn called "Insect Studies," three compositions that in their own right are definitely worth reading. Ranging from out-and-out creepy ghost stories to monks roaming the countryside where various monsters, demons and other creatures seem to abide, there is never a bad note struck throughout the entire collection.
At seventeen stories, I'm not about to go into each one, but my favorites in this volume are "The Story of Mimi-nashi Hoichi," "Yuki-Onna," "Rukoru-Kubi," and "The Dream of Akinosuke." All are intense, and all are simply excellent.
The stories are short but their length doesn't affect their potency; by virtue of being stories that have been handed down over several centuries, the reader also gets a look at ancient Japan from different angles, from the world of the samurai on down to that of the lowliest peasant. It is a world of constant upheaval in terms of the physical world and also vis a vis the traditional social order. One major exception is "Hi-Mawari," a story that takes place in Wales, obviously penned by Hearn himself. After the kaidan section is finished, the reader moves into Hearn's "Insect Studies," where he dwells on butterflies, mosquitoes and ants. While you might be tempted to skip them, don't. They're absolutely fascinating, drawing on traditional folklore, etc. from Japan and China.
I realize that not everyone is going to admire these stories like I do, but I love all things Japanese and this collection was simply superb. It might just be a good opening into all sorts of kaidan for a novice reader, and there are several works available in English that would make for great follow-up reading.
I absolutely loved this book and I can't recommend it highly enough. ...more
Obviously I haven't read this book yet, but I do have an extra copy, so if anyone would like it, and you're in the US, it's yours! Just be first to leObviously I haven't read this book yet, but I do have an extra copy, so if anyone would like it, and you're in the US, it's yours! Just be first to leave a comment and I'll gladly mail it to you. ...more