Japanese Literature Challenge 2 Wrap-Up

japlit2

In July I joined the 2nd Japanese Literature challenge. The challenge is to read 3 Japanese lit from 30 July 2008 to 30 January 2009. Thought it would be easy peasy, since I loved Japanese lits. But nooo, it wasn’t as easy as I thought. First, I wasn’t very happy with the 2 novels that I read. Second, I was probably not in the best mood for Japanese lits for some reason. I was learning Japanese extensively during the duration of the challenge, and hence spent my time more on books on learning the actual Japanese language than the translated novels.

Now the 2 novels that I read weren’t bad. But they’re just okay. Just less than expected/hyped. Click on the pics to read my reviews.

kitchen

For my study of Japanese language I read the following books, though I didn’t put any reviews and I’m not sure if they count for the challenge.

I’ll just put some brief comments. Kana de Manga features both katakana and hiragana. There’s a word associated to each kana, and it’s explained in English. The words were quite interesting, though the humour felt a bit forced sometimes. The illustrations were cute too.

Kanji de Manga 1 and 2 are part of the Kanji de Manga series, which for now has gone up to 6. The first Kanji de Manga contains all of the kanji characters you need to remember for JLPT 4. Kanji de Manga 2 and onward should cover JLPT 3 and above. The book has the way to write every kanji step by step, and there’s a short (a few panels) bilingual manga (comic) for each kanji, which shows us the situation of where the word can be used. I like this series. Apart from learning Kanji, you can get used to colloquial Japanese used in the manga.

Now that I’m back in Australia, I checked my local library to see if they have any Japanese lits and/or Japanese language learning books, only to be dissapointed that they don’t have much here. A quick search showed that there’s no Kawabata or Soseki’s books, and there’s definitely no Kanji de Manga series and the likes. Singapore library is definitely better in this respect. I’d have to find some other ways to feed my needs :(

Wrapping up, thank you Bellezza, for hosting the 2nd Japanese literature challenge. The prizes look awesome! I’ll be waiting for the next one and will definitely join again.

Theme

If you see my website theme changes every once in a while, please bear with me. My site keeps getting hacked and I mildly suspect the current theme, so I might just change the theme for a while to see if it works. But I’d need time to clean up the new theme.

Martel-Harper Challenge Wrap-Up

I joined Martel-Harper Challenge in October, which was hosted by Dewey, who passed away recently. Sadly, I was unable to complete the challenge. I had Persepolis and To Kill a Mockingbird on my list. I read Persepolis, but my copy of To Kill a Mockingbird was left somewhere at my parents’ shelf back in Indonesia, and I’m not gonna read another people’s copy for a title I already have.

Rebecca Reid picked up the quarterly challenge. Please visit her Martel-Harper challenge site if you’re interested to join. I’d love to read some of the books in the list, but for now I’m stepping back from a lot of challenges, so I’m not joining.

Best of luck Rebecca! Hope the challenge continues well!

If you’re lazy to click away, here is the list of the books. The list grows every 2 weeks. For more information about the the books that Yann Martel sends to Canadian Prime Minister Harper, visit What Is Stephen Harper Reading?

The ones I read are in blue. The ones I have in green. And the ones I’d like to read in red.

Current book
# Book Number 47: The Lesser Evil: Political Ethics in an Age of Terror, by Michael Ignatieff

Previously sent books
# Book Number 46: Blackbird Singing: Poems and Lyrics 1965-1999, by Paul McCartney
# Book Number 45: Fictions, by Jorge Luis Borges
# Book Number 44: The Good Earth, by Pearl S. Buck (read but unfinished)
# Book Number 43: The Uncommon Reader, by Alan Bennett
# Book Number 42: Gilgamesh, in an English version by Derrek Hines
# Book Number 41: Gilgamesh, in an English version by Stephen Mitchell
# Book Number 40: A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess
# Book Number 39: Mister Pip, by Lloyd Jones
# Book Number 38: Anthem, by Ayn Rand
# Book Number 37: A Modest Proposal, by Jonathan Swift
# Book Number 36: Everything That Rises Must Converge, by Flannery O’Connor
# Book Number 35: Under Milk Wood, by Dylan Thomas
# Book Number 34: The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
# Book Number 33: Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi
# Book Number 32: The Rez Sisters, by Tomson Highway
# Book Number 31: Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston
# Book Number 30: The Kreutzer Sonata, by Leo Tolstoy
# Book Number 29: Drown, by Junot Díaz
# Book Number 28: Read All About It!, by Laura Bush and Jenna Bush
# Book Number 27: To the Lighthouse, by Virginia Woolf
# Book Number 26: Birthday Letters, by Ted Hughes
# Book Number 25: The Dragonfly of Chicoutimi, by Larry Tremblay
# Book Number 24: Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett
# Book Number 23: Artists and Models, by Anaïs Nin
# Book Number 22: Meditations, by Marcus Aurellius
# Book Number 21: The Cellist of Sarajevo, by Steven Galloway
# Book Number 20: The Educated Imagination, by Northrop Frye
# Books Number 19: The Brothers Lionheart, by Astrid Lindgren; Imagine A Day, by Sarah L. Thomson and Rob Gonsalves; and The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, by Chris Van Allsburg
# Book Number 18: Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka
# Book Number 17: The Island Means Minago, by Milton Acorn
# Book Number 16: Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke
# Book Number 15: Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, by Jeanette Winterson
# Book Number 14: Le Petit Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
# Book Number 13: To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
# Book Number 12: Maus, by Art Spiegelman
# Book Number 11: The Watsons, by Jane Austen
# Book Number 10: Miss Julia, by August Strindberg
# Book Number 9: Chronicle of a Death Foretold, by Gabriel García Márquez
# Book Number 8: Short and Sweet: 101 very short poems, edited by Simon Armitage, published by Faber and Faber
# Book Number 7: Candide, by Voltaire
# Book Number 6: Bonjour Tristesse, by Françoise Sagan
# Book Number 5: The Bhagavad Gita
# Book Number 4: By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, by Elizabeth Smart
# Book Number 3: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, by Agatha Christie
# Book Number 2: Animal Farm, by George Orwell
# Book Number 1: The Death of Ivan Ilych, by Leo Tolstoy

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

It took me a damn long time to read this book. I started it some time in November last year, and I finished it 10 other books later. And I’m not sure if I even liked the book. It wasn’t painful to go through, but it was all kinda meaningless. I didn’t quite connect with the characters or the stories.

Kafka on the Shore is my fourth Murakami’s book (I’ve read Norwegian Wood, Sputnik Sweetheart, and The Wind-up Bird Chronicle). I was a fan of him (I probably still am), but I’m not a fan of this work. It’s quite surprising how this book is probably one of his most famous. Not to mention all the praises from many well-known reviewers and the awards.

The story switches between Kafka, the 15 year-old runaway and Nakata, the old somehow-mentally-slow man. One chapter for the youngster, one for the old man, and on it goes alternatively. I found this method quite distracting. I was impatient to turn my attention from one POV to another over and over, especially when things were in the heights for one and not so much for the other.

As with other Murakami’s books, there are some elements that almost seem to be his trademarks. Cats, obviously. Always some cats. With some classic music and talk about literature. And some happy-go-lucky girl with not so terrific background who seems to always fade away near middle to end of the book, never to be told again. Of course, the dreamy state and surrealism is always there.

Natsume Soseki’s works are frequently mentioned. I took note of the books, but I lost my note. At one time I had an idea to take note of the books mentioned in the book I currently read. I thought if any book is mentioned three times in three different books, it’s about time for me to just grab the book and read it. But then I found Moby Dick mentioned in 2 different books I read consecutively. I got worried. I really don’t want to be forced reading Moby Dick. (a glimpse of the reason) So I ditched the idea pretty soon.

Rating: 3
I’m torn between 3 and 3.5 rating, but I think I’d just give it a 3. I wasn’t exactly satisfied with the book. I didn’t find the whole Oedipus complex theme very attractive either. I’m hoping for a better Murakami next.

Original Title: 海辺のカフカ (Umibe no Kafuka)
Pages: 489
Publication year: 2002 (Japanese), 2005 (English)
Awards: 2006 World Fantasy Best Novel

First line
“So you’re all set for money, then?” the boy named Crow asks in his typical sluggish voice.

Last line
You are part of a brand-new world.

Quote

“If the words can’t create a prophetic tunnel connecting them to the reader, then the whole thing no longer functions as a poem.” ~ Oshima p254

Also reviewed by

Trish | Tanabata | Gautami | C.B. James | Nymeth | Bellezza | Charley | Arukiyomi

2008 Wrap-Up

Apologies for not posting for 2 months. I got married and I moved country. I struggled to even find the time to read.

There are a lot of things I need to update, but first thing first. 2008 wrap-up!

I read 39 books in 2008. Pretty good achievement in comparison with my previous records. I read 20 books in 2007.

From those 39 books, 21 books were published in year 2000 onward, 17 from 1900s, and 1 from 1800s.

27 authors were new to me. I particularly loved J.K. Rowling and the Harry Potter series (I read up to the 5th), and Marjane Satrapi and her Persepolis series. I would definitely read again books by Alexander McCall Smith, Junichiro Tanizaki, Khaled Hosseini, and Margaret Atwood. I was hugely dissappointed by Cormac McCarthy (the Road), Jodi Picoult, Banana Yoshimoto, and Gail Tsukiyama. Kazuo Ishiguro could slowly become one of my fave authors. Both biographies that I read were impressive (A Long Way Gone and I Choose to Live). I would also look into more graphic novels this year.

I made a fancy graph for my ratings:

08graph

I rated 4 stars out of 5 for 14 books. 4 stars means “as good as expected/hyped”. So that’s pretty good. I’m quite happy with what I read. I did find 3 books with rate 2.5. 2.5 means “didn’t like it but don’t have the heart to give any less”. And a couple of 5 stars, which means “can’t be any better even if you try” :).

I didn’t complete a few of the challenges. Apparently it’s very hard for me to follow a preset list in preset time. First, I like to pick books on a whim. Second, I just don’t read that fast. I just don’t. So in year 2009, I don’t think I’ll be joining any challenges. If I do, I’ll be picking the short easy challenges that don’t require to read books more than 2 with a time limit no longer than 3 months. That’ll give room for my other options. I’ll still try to keep up with my perpetual challenges though, but they don’t bother me much because I have no pressure in completing them.

The challenge that I’ve been wanting to join, but have not, is the Disney Literature Challenge by Sarah Miller. I LOVE to see her DLC posts, comparing the original book and the Disney-fied movie. It’s a perpetual challenge, so we can jump in anytime. Maybe I will, being a huge Disney fan that I am.

DLC

As a closure, I’d like to note that upon moving country, I threw away donated 18 books to Singapore’s Library Bookcrossing program and gave away probably about 10 books to various friends. I still brought dozens of books with me, some here with me in Australia, some at my parents’ other house in Indonesia. It was so hard to resist Singapore’s book sales that happen every few months, not to mention the super cheap secondhand book store. But I reckon it wouldn’t be the case here, since I’ve always found it harder to find cheap good books in Australia (or cheap good anything). We’ll see.

Well, cheers to a better year in 2009! I’m all hopeful and optimistic! :)

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