1Q84: Haruki Murakami (Part 3)

Let me distract you from the terrible news that just keeps coming out of Japan with the Murakami death slog! Three hundred pages! Well, it’s actually three hundred and twenty-one. I haven’t had time to write since I reached three hundred, but I’ve kept reading, so here we are.

And what are my impressions at this critical milestone? Did you guess “needs editing”? Because really, there is nothing else to guess. Yes, again, I found myself frustrated with the unending wordiness of the whole adventure. I am so tired of descriptions of people’s clothing in such minute detail. And I found myself getting angry at some points. It’s starting to feel like Murakami doesn’t trust his readers. Like he doesn’t believe we are intelligent or capable enough to fill in the blanks and create the fictive world he wants us to. He is constantly reminding the reader of things.

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Earthquake!

My brain will be writing about books soon enough, but at the moment, it is stricken with panic and sadness at the action in Japan. So while you are waiting to find out what my brain thinks of the printed page, perhaps you could think about offering a hand to the people on the ground? Friends are saying that they are still plagued with aftershocks in Tokyo, so I can’t even imagine what it’s like in Tohoku (the epicentre of this disaster). And if you’ve seen the extremely distressing videos of the tsunami, then you know that help is going to be seriously needed to clean up and get those people back on their feet. So you know, if you’ve got a few bucks, the Red Cross is already mobilizing.

(PS. Live updates and emergency info here.)

Kono Tabi wa: est em

Cover of Kono Tabi waAs expected, I could not resist the temptation of comics on my shelf waiting to be read. I’m still working on the Murakami, but I took a bit of a breather to read est em’s Kono Tabi wa. The title is a bit of word play with “kono tabi” meaning both “this trip” and “this occasion” or “this time”. I’m assuming it’s intentional since the title story in particular seems to play on the idea of the journey and a time in life. And the title is written in hiragana rather than kanji, which would limit the meaning to just one. Another translation problem for me to play around with in my head that is probably not as interesting for you as it is for me. So!

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1Q84: Haruki Murakami (Part 2)

In a lot of ways, I’m basically where I was a hundred pages ago. I still wish an editor had gone through and tightened this beast up. My eyes start rolling now every time a brand name or extensive clothing description appears on the page before me. It’s just so unnecessary. I’m still not in love with the alternating chapters. Nothing is bringing them together yet, and nothing will in this book judging by the table of contents for Book 1, which lists alternating Tengos and Aomames right until the end. So I will stop talking about how irritated it makes me and wait for when the two stories connect up to discuss it again.

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1Q84: Haruki Murakami (the first hundred pages)

1Q84 Book 1Haruki Murakami’s new book is actually three books (which anyone waiting for the English translation already knows), for a total of about 1600 pages of dense Japanese. These tomes have been intimidating me from my shelf of unread books since I got the third one a few months ago, until I finally worked up the nerve to crack the first one open last week. I figure that I’ll have forgotten most of my impressions of the beginning by the time I get to the end (I read slower in Japanese than in English, so this could take a while), so I thought I’d break it up into hundred-page chunks. Think of it as the slowest live-blogging event ever.

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Rinshi!! Ekoda-chan: Yukari Takinami

My friend M. introduced me to Yukari Takinami’s Rinshi!! Ekoda-chan. She’s never pushed anything on me so eagerly before. “Ekoda-chan is us!” she insisted. “She says all the things we want to!” Which is sort of a lot for a collection of yon-koma (four panel) strips to live up to.

Our hero’s name comes from the fact that she lives near Ekoda Station in Nerima-ku in Tokyo. Which is where I used to live, so that was a weird sort of coincidence. Nerima is definitely not the hippest ku in town. In fact, I’ve been told that it is the only ku where people still farm. And those people farm daikon. The Hello Kitty for Nerima is basically a daikon with a Hello Kitty face. Yes, I felt ripped off. Also, I’ve never seen anyone actually farming in Nerima, much less farming daikon.

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Gekiga Yose – Shibahama: Yoshihiro Tatsumi

Before I even say anything about the latest offering from Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Gekiga Yose: Shibahama, full disclosure: I think Tatsumi is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. And his wife is six kinds of adorable. So I may be a little predisposed to liking his work.

This new-ish book (released July 2009, but it’s been sitting on my shelf waiting patiently to be read) is a bit of a shake-up. I think in English, Tatsumi is known for stories that are a bit on the darker side, turning his focus on the downtrodden and underbelly of society in particular. But he’s actually really funny and a lot of the stuff he’s published in Japanese delights in plays on words, silly jokes and sight gags. So I wasn’t too surprised to learn that his latest publication is a collection of rakugo stories.

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