Here’s to the Year of The Tiger

What happens if you’re Chinese raised Catholic in a Muslim country?

In my case, we either have family gathering on Christmas, Chinese New Year, or Lebaran. (oh, and New Year)

I’m going back to Indonesia for Chinese New Year so I’ll be offline for 2 weeks. I’ll see you all in March!

Image from Sydney CNY

Gong xi fat chai, xin nien kuai le!

Invitation for The Good Earth

pearl s buck

A new venture has begun. A new book group has been formed. My partners in crime are David of Absorbed in Words, Michelle of su[shu], and Claire of kiss of cloud. We are going to pick a book every quarter on Asian literature–books set in Asia or by Asians. Hence the name: The Asian Book Group.

I’m hosting the first book of this year’s quarter: The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck, winner of 1932 Pulitzer Prize.

Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973) is American writer who spent the majority of her life in China. In 1938, she became the first American woman to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, “for her rich and truly epic descriptions of peasant life in China and for her biographical masterpieces.”

We’d love to open the invitation to you who are interested to read it too. We’re going to post our thoughts some time in late March, say, between 25-31 March 2010. No official sign up. Just a good old fun “read together”. Hope to see you then :)

The Asian Book Group

Mailbox Monday – 3 Months Acquisition

You can relax, because I didn’t acquire that many books in 3 months :)

Let's Call the Whole Thing OffThe Housekeeper and the ProfessorFun Home

Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off: Love Quarrels from Anton Chekhov to ZZ Packer, Selected by Kasia Boddy, Ali Smith, and Sarah Wood — from Basement Books for $9.95. Isn’t the cover the cutest?! I first saw it at Paperback Reader, and Claire later reminded me again about it, so I was so happy to see it with slashed price!

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa — from Basement Books for $4.95! Another amazing finding! I can’t believe they sold the new ones for $4.95 ea when the RRP in Australia is about $25.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel — mooched from This book is not available at my libraries, so I’m so happy to be able to mooch it!

I got the next 3 books from last year! I feel bad that I have not acknowledged them!

A Reliable WifeAlfred NobelI Am a Cat

A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick — won from Dewey’s 24 hour read-a-thon. No, not the October one. The April one! Kathrin had been very nice to send it all the way from Germany. But it was sea-mail, so it took about 4 months to arrive to Australia. It was an interesting wait :)

Alfred Nobel: The Man Behind the Peace Prize by Kathy by Jo Wargin and Zachary Pullen — won from Dawn @ 5 Minutes for Books, it is a hardcover large picture book. It would be nice to learn about Alfred Nobel from a picture book!

I Am a Cat by Soseki Natsume — bought from, which I have started reading for tanabata’s read-along, but it lays dormant after the first part (out of three).

Apart from these, I went to Sydney Japanese Foundation last Tuesday to find that they withdrew some book from the library and gave them away for free! I weeded through the pile pretty quickly and went back to the office with 2 bags of books. Oops! A lot of them I had never heard before and many are short stories collection. But who knows, I might be able to find some gems. I left the books at the office and will only bring them back home slowly, so more details will be on my next Mailbox Monday post (whenever that is).

Bone: Treasure Hunters and Crown of Horns (Last 2 Volumes)

Bone: Treasure HuntersBone: Crown of Horns

Like all good adventure story, Bone is ended with a great battle between good and evil ala The Lord of the Rings (not that I’ve read or watched LOTR). Bone series has been such a fun journey and I’m sad that it has ended, though the ending is pretty open to possibility of a sequel. But really, Jeff Smith has spent almost 10 years to complete Bone, so let’s give the guy a break.

To recap, I wrote some sort of reviews for almost every single volume, except no 2: (Well, if not full review, it’d be an exclamation “Hey, another great volume!”)

  1. Bone Vol 1: Out from Boneville
  2. Bone Vol 2: The Great Cow Race
  3. Bone Vol 3: Eyes of the Storm
  4. Bone Vol 4: The Dragonslayer
  5. Bone Vol 5: Rock Jaw Master of the Eastern Border
  6. Bone Vol 6: Old Man’s Cave
  7. Bone Vol 7: Ghost Circles
  8. Bone Vol 8: Treasure Hunters
  9. Bone Vol 9: Crown of Horns

If I can encourage you to read one post, it’d be the first one! I wrote a rather lengthy post when I first read Bone in late 2008, in which I compared the Bone brothers with Mickey, Donald, and Goofy (I’m so surprised nobody else has!), the comparison between graphic novels and comics, and Bone the game.

It’s hard to give rating for individual volumes at this late stage of a series, but as a whole I would give it:

Took half a star off, just because some parts of storyline left me confused near the end. But the humour and characters are great, the drawings are always amazing. It’s a fantastic series and very well worth reading!

I guess this means goodbye to Bone for now… *sob*

Graphic Novels 2010 (book #2, 3)

Also reviewed by
Beth Fish Reads: Treasure Hunters | Crown of Horns (I’m so impressed that Beth managed to properly review each volume!)
Things Mean A Lot | nothing of importance (the entire series)

Short Saturday: Borges and Nabokov

In Short Saturday I will journal my journey to find 5-star quality short stories, whose virtual trophy right now is held by Truman Capote and Haruki Murakami. Unlike my book reviews, I will talk more about my thoughts and what I learn, why I choose the story and how I come upon it. Unlike books, I’m willing to take more risk for shorts, because they are.. well.. short, so I won’t waste too much time if I don’t like them. Expect to see a lot of trash and hopefully, some gems. As it is now, I am not a fan of short stories. Dare I say, yet? But hey, like people say, it’s all about the journey, not destination.

podcastcoverFICTIONMark David has recommended The New Yorker Fiction Podcasts to me for a while. In fact he has written a post on it last month. But only last week after he shouted at strongly encouraged me to try one when I talked about Borges’s The Library of Babel,  did I manage to listen to two of them.

In each episode, a contemporary writer reads a short work by a classic writer. There’s a bit of talk and discussion before and after the reading of the story. I loved the discussion parts of the podcasts, but I’m not sure if I got much out of the two stories being read. I’ve mentioned before how I’m a poor listener, and it doesn’t help when the story is not very listen-able. (We have word for readable! How about listenable?)

Without further ado, the two I picked were:

The Gospel According to Mark by Jorge Luis Borges, read by Paul Theroux

I’m not sure if I got it. I repeated the ending about 5 times and each time it made me go “huh?”. But I continued on and luckily Paul explained more about what’s going on in the story. Originally published in 1970, it is about a young man who visits a friend’s holiday house in Argentina. He meets a family of illiterate workers to whom he reads some books, but the only one they’re interested in the most is an old Bible. He reads the gospel of Mark which contains the crucifixion of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness He granted to the world. When he was found to lay with the daughter of the family, well…

Paul Theroux actually read to Borges when he was alive (and blind). And that’s awesome because Paul is a fantastic reader. I’d never heard of him before this. Apparently he has written many novels and travelogues. After quick wiki-ing, I found that he won James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1981 for The Mosquito Coast (join win with Salman Rushdie’s Midnight Children) and Whitbread Prize for Best Novel  in 1978 for Picture Palace. Have you read any of his books before?

My Russian Education by Vladimir Nabokov, read by Orhan Pamuk

I feel kinda bad to say this, but most of the words read by Pamuk went over my head, because I had problem with his accent. Therefore I’m unable to rate this in any way. But I’m sure I will (re)read the story in text format in the future, because it’s Nabokov’s autobiography, though published as fiction. The story is based on how his father was shot dead. It was originally published in 1948 by the New Yorker and it is one chapter out of 12 that was later published in 1951 as a book titled Speak, Memory (My Russian Education is Chapter 9 in the book).

I loved to listen to how Pamuk loved Nabokov. I always love the whole writers speaking very highly of other writers. It’s very adorable. I read Lolita by Nabokov in 2008 and I really admired how Nabokov used English language. Sure, I didn’t understand a lot of the passages, but that’s beside the point… because I admired the ones that I did understand! :)

Did you read any short story this week?

Japanese Season Has Ended, For Now

Japanese Literature Challenge 3

Can you believe we have gone through the third round of Japanese Literature Challenge, and it has again, ended?

I did a lot better this time around than last year. Funny. Last round I intended to read a lot and ended up reading much less. This round I intended to read one or two, and ended up reading 4 books by Japanese authors and 3 books by non-Japanese, which is uum.. 5-6 books more than planned.

Books of Japanese origin:

  1. Snakes and Earrings by Hitomi Kanehara (finished 08/09, 3 stars)
  2. Strangers by Taichi Yamada (finished 09/09, 2.5 stars)
  3. I Am a Cat (Vol 1) by Soseki Natsume (finished 12/09, 4 stars)
  4. Oishinbo: Ramen & Gyoza by Tetsu Kariya and Akira Hanasaki (finished 01/10, 4.5 stars)

Books about/set in Japan by non-Japanese authors:

  1. Squeamish about Sushi by Betty Reynolds (finished 08/09, 4.5 stars)
  2. Kabuki: The Metamorphosis by David Mack (finished 08/09, 4 stars)
  3. Clueless in Tokyo by Betty Reynolds (finished 10/09, 4.5 stars)

The first three books of Japanese origin were on my original list, so really, I can’t be happier with the result.

I love Japanese Literature Challenge. Not only because of the challenge itself, but also because I seem to meet a different bunch of people that I wouldn’t normally meet anywhere else in the blogosphere. Do you think so too or is it just me?

Thanks again Bellezza, for such a wonderful challenge and for being such a wonderful host. I look forward to sharing more Japanese works in the future with you! And of course, with all of you.

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