1Q84: Haruki Murakami (Book Two)

Finish line in sight! Or at least, the end of the book I am currently reading (Book Three) will actually be the end of the book. What a delight. Having recently finished Book Two of this entirely too long novel, I have some thoughts. Perhaps you will enjoy reading them. Perhaps not. Either way, spoilers ahoy!

The thing I realized/decided approaching the end of Book Two was no matter how this monstrosity ends, I will not be reading another Murakami book. I was entirely disappointed with his previous offering After Dark, but I have loved too much of his work for too long to just abandon him on the basis of one book. “It’s just a blip,” I thought. “His next work will be better,” I thought. But the fact is this book is not better. Or rather, it is better (I really didn’t like After Dark), but it is not better enough. There are just so many things about 1Q84 that I really dislike, that really bother me, and the book is not enough to bring me back into the fold. (more…)

Zo o Mita Otoko: Osamu Kanno

Hats off to The Beguiling for putting this little number into my hands, something they picked up on a recent trip to Japan because it looked interesting. The only condition was that I figure out who it was by. Which was a tiny bit of a Google challenge since strangely, there was no phonetic spelling of the author’s name on the copyright page, standard Japanese publishing practice.

So Osamu Kanno! Turns out he was one of the Garo crowd in the ‘70s. Not much of a surprise after reading the book. The first sentence (after three pages of wordless art) grabbed me and pinned me down: “I don’t know whether the man who first saw an elephant was overwhelmed by its immense size, or if he was worried for his family.” And the book itself is immense and overwhelming. And ambitious. (more…)

Saraiya Goyou/House of Five Leaves: Natsume Ono

Bilingualling it up! Nothing like a good comparative read. Ten pages in English, ten pages in Japanese, flip back and forth between the two to see how the translator did what, compare that to the English that floated up in your head as you were reading, think about how you would do things differently. I admit it, I am a total translation nerd. I love puzzling over words like this, and as I learned up close and crazy at a translation workshop last summer, every translator will translate the same sentence in a different way. (more…)

Weetzie Bat: Francesca Lia Block

Francesca Lia Block’s debut novel Weetzie Bat is, for me, inextricably linked to Duthie Books in downtown Vancouver. Which is no longer there and when I heard that it had closed, an image of teenage me jumped into my brain, hiding in the corner of the kids’ book section, devouring Weetzie Bat because I didn’t have the five dollars to actually buy the book (and it wasn’t at the library). And it is only eighty-eight pages long. I’m a fast reader. I can read eighty-eight pages before a bookstore clerk stumbles upon me and tells me to quit loitering.  (more…)

1Q84: End of Book 1 (Mini-update)

High fives to me! Book 1 is done! It ends in an anti-climatic feeling cliffhanger that seems so Murakami to me. Lots of questions for Books 2 and 3 to answer. And yes, the moon issue comes up again before the end of Book 1, so you know that’s going to be a key translation point.

Overall, my initial impression stands: needs editing. The constant repetition of details eased up towards the end of the book, like maybe Murakami started trusting that his readers had functioning memories, but it was still over the top. I read a one-line review of Book 1 online somewhere: “Book 2 is better than Book 1.” (more…)

1Q84: The Problem with the Moon

I’m just about done the first book, but a sticky translation issue has caught my eye and I can’t stop wondering how Jay Rubin will resolve it. I think I’ll end up reading the English translation of this monster just to see how he handles this one issue. Because to me, it is so sneakily difficult and no matter how much I noodle around with it, I can’t come up with anything that allows the same ambiguity as the original Japanese.

This issue includes some minor-ish spoilers (characters, ambiguous plot), so if you’re like me and prefer to know as little as possible about a book you want to read before you read it, you should skip out on this trip with my brain now. There are many other idle entertainments on these intertubes that will keep you just as busy. (more…)

Saint Oniisan en français

French speakers, get thee to the bookstore!

Maybe this means these books will show up in English one day? Although French publishers have always taken more chances with Japanese translations, so maybe it just means that they’re more daring yet again. In any case, the little message from the artist Nakamura for her new French audience is really charming.