Out of Sheer Rage: Geoff Dyer

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My love of D.H. Lawrence has been documented in these pages before. It is a weirdly powerful love similar to my love for filmmaker Hal Hartley, formed in my youth and thus completely impervious to all criticism or attempts at understanding. Just catching a glimpse of the weary spine of one of the copies of Women in Love on my shelf is enough to make me sigh dreamily. (The spine of the many versions of Trust I have had also make me swoon similarly.) 

And it is a love that grows and changes as I get older and see new things in the tattered pages of Lawrence’s many works, or when someone shows me new things to think about in relation to Lawrence. My aunt wrote her Master’s thesis on Lawrence, and sent me scrambling back to re-read everything he wrote in a new light. I have Anaïs Nin’s study of Lawrence waiting for the moment when I can devour it while, of course, re-reading everything Lawrence ever wrote. So it was a surprise to me to discover a book on Lawrence that I hadn’t read by an author whose work I really enjoy, Geoff Dyer. Once I learned of this slim volume, I naturally ordered it from my local independent bookseller (get out and support them, friends!) and eagerly awaited its arrival. And like nearly all books that I can hardly wait to get in my hot little hands, this one got set on the shelf since I was in the middle of reading something else. Oh, shelf of unread books! You defeat me! Continue reading

Terra e (Books 1/2): Keiko Takemiya

 

Terra e

Now that I am finally free of the most pressing of my terrible deadlines, I have been doing so much more of what my brain loves the most: reading! Japanese, English, French, I even ventured over to the German and Swedish books on my shelves just to taste the joy of so many words (although my German and Swedish have rotted to seriously embarrassing levels. Especially embarrassing considering the fact that I am German…). I’ve been digging deep into the shelf of unread books, finding things I don’t even remember buying. Like this Japanese bunko book Eien no Tochu, which the bad cover tells me is a “realistic depiction of the uncertain heart of a woman”. Why is this on my shelf?

I also found things I do remember buying, thankfully. Like the first two books of Terra e. And I didn’t find other things I’m certain I bought. Like the third book of Terra e. Where did it go? Did it get lost in my recent move? Do I just think I bought it when I bought the first two, but I actually didn’t? Why is this happening? Whatever the reason, it is happening: I do not have the last book of Keiko Takemiya’s bizarre venture into scifi. So I don’t know how the story ends. I will buy the last book when I am again in Japan, but until then, the story will exist inside me, unfinished but also not really needing to be finished. It is that kind of story. 

And so my brain tackles books one and two for your reading pleasure! It’s no secret that my brain and I loooooooved Kaze to Ki no Uta, Takemiya’s epic tale of young lovers destroyed by the world around them, so I was eager to dig into another of her classic works (and this one’s been translated into English by those troopers over at Vertical!). But Terra is a whole different beast from Kaze, if only because they were drawn for two completely different audiences. Kaze was straight up shojo, with all the hearts and flowers that entails, while Terra was published in a shonen magazine and so attempts to hide its author’s shojo roots with varying degrees of success.  Continue reading

Aurorarama: Jean-Christophe Valtat

 

Aurorarama

Dang, I am translating so many books! Ironically, this is the reason I have not been reading so many books these days. By the time I am done banging out page after page of comic after novel, my fingers are tingling, my wrists are aching, and all my good intentions to devote myself to this blog and sit down to further hammer out words for these pages have long flown out the window and down to the street below to get a beer at the pub on the corner. In case you were wondering, here are some of the paying projects that have taken precedence over my ramblings about books here.  And one project that I am very excited about that I still can’t say anything about. Oh, NDA! How you thwart my intentions to be open and honest!

But I think I may just have everything under control as long as nothing unexpected happens. Which it won’t, of course. My life will smoothly run along the course I have plotted out for it. Should be fine. So my brain can finally get back to what’s important: snarking about things in books that bug it. Or maybe that will just be today’s book. Normally, we try not to be too snarky because even when something has its problems, they do not outshine the merits of the book. Like back when I read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore.The just-so-ness of so much of it really bugged me, but the story captivated me and made my plane ride one hundred percent better. But Aurorarama, as intriguing a tale it may tell in a fairly fascinating and well-built world, made me want to pluck my eyeballs from my head, so egregious were its crimes.  Continue reading

Bokura no Hentai 4/5: Fumiko Fumi

 

Bokura no Hentai

The questioning gender/sexuality train picks up where it left off in the earlier volumes, but with a new cover design. I am all aboard the train, but less on board with the new covers. Which might seem petty, but I have stated my “judge a book by its cover” policy on more than one occasion. The kissing designs of the first three books were both enticing in a provocative way, especially with the obis proclaiming that what looked like girls kissing were actually boys dressed like girls, and revealing of the characters and their relationships. 

The slight smile on Paro’s face as he kisses a wide-eyed Marika, the total embarrassed sincerity of both Marika and Yui as Yui goes in for the kiss, the self-awareness of Paro and the slight defiance of Yui as they move to kiss each other, these covers almost perfectly capture who they are in relation to each other. Each kiss is set in a colour that really shows the reader the level and kind of emotion connecting the two kissers. And it’s satisfying to go back to these covers having read the books and see the hints of the story in them. 

But the new covers belong to the blandest of shojo school romance stories. I like the inclusion of the female characters on the backs since they do play larger roles in these volumes, and picking up on the color themes of the first volumes also brings these covers closer to the first three, but overall, they just feel less daring and interesting. I’d even like them more if they were just stark white backgrounds, the way the first three are jet black. But these polka dots seem like such a cop out and the poses way too standard school romance.  Continue reading

Granta Japan: Yuka Igarashi (ed.)

 

Granta Japan

Even if I wasn’t the target audience for this Japan-centered edition of the British lit magazine Granta, being a Japanese translator and a lover of Japanese literature, I would still have picked up this issue, if only because of the great cover. I am such a sucker for great covers. And Granta often has great covers, which often make me pick them up at the bookstore, so hat tip to their art department. Nice work, gang!

Although I had assumed, looking at the cover in the bookstore (high fives to local indie Book City for generally being awesome!), that it featured a hunk of some mineral photographed so as to be reminiscent of Fuji, the only thing you ever need to signal that we are talking about Japan now (a symbol used to hilarious effect in the new Godzilla, but that is not a discussion for right now. Corner me at a bar one of these days and I will tell you these thoughts I have), this fake Fuji is actually part of a series of photographs called Primal Mountain by Yuji Hamada featured in the magazine. Spurred by the deluge of unreliable information they were getting in Japan in the days after the earthquake disaster of 2011, Hamada began photographing these fake mountains of tin foil up against the very real Tokyo sky.  Continue reading

TCAFtermath

 

Never Forgets

So as usual, working at TCAF means I don’t really get to see TCAF. Of course, it also means that I get to hang out with a bunch of really great people for a few days and call that my job, but still. The comics nerd in me longs to sit and listen as creators talk about queering comics and sports versus comics, and then run around the exhibition space and buy everything awesome there (so, basically everything). Going to any programming which I am not actually a part of, though, is basically a pipe dream. Because when I am not doing the interpreting thing on panels with Japanese guests, I am doing media with Japanese guests or taking Japanese guests to lunch or [random activity] with Japanese guests (all of which I enjoy. This is not a complaint).

Fortunately, I am pretty quick and TCAF kindly hands out a map of where all the exhibitors are, so I can run around in the ten or so minutes I end up having to myself and snap up all the stuff that I know I totally want. And sometimes I end up walking by something I didn’t know I wanted on the way and I grab that too. This Run-and-Grab (patent pending) I’ve developed over the TCAF years has yielded good results in previous years, and this year was no different. 

Last year, I wanted to check out Yumi Sakugawa’s table because I love her work, but because I had a mere five minutes when everyone was tearing down, I gave up on that idea. So this year, I was especially determined to find her and buy some of her amazing comics. Which I did! Two of them!  Continue reading

Brain Battles Authors

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TCAF is upon us! That magical time of year when artists from all over the world descend on Toronto to make our lives better with new books! So no time for battling books this week; my brain and I are too busy battling authors! Including Japanese guests Moyoco Anno, est em, and Akira Himekawa! All the fun is here! So come say hi and if you can’t make it all the way to Canada for your comics fun, then check out this interview I did with est em over at the Comics Journal. But be warned: It is very long!