Haruki 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.
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.
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.
I just got a buttload of manga delivered by a very friendly postal worker! These are the kinds of things that make my week. I mean, the manga alone would have been more than enough to make me smile for days, but add a friendly interaction with a nice postal worker and it’s rainbows everywhere!
The best part about this box full of pictures and words? I am reading them for work! (I love my job.) Some more directly for work than others. The most recent volume of Ooku (I am seriously behind in this series. Volume 6 came out in August and I am just now getting it in the post?) is the more indirect kind of reading for work, the keeping-up-with-the-world-of-manga kind of reading, while Ono Natsume’s Tsuratsura Waraji is the more direct kind, the interpreting-for-her-in-May-so-better-prepare kind. (TCAF finally made the announcement today!)
My brain is less excited by all this than I am, though. It keeps casting fearful glances at the ever-expanding shelf of books to be read, and muttering to itself about not enough hours in the day and maybe it doesn’t really need sleep after all.
My brain is pretty sure it can read a new book every day. And although I have confidence in it and know that it has the skills to make that happen, the fact is my brain and I have other things to do besides read all day, as much as both of us would enjoy that. Some of those things allow us to earn money so that we can buy more books for my brain to go up against. So the other things are important too.
Which means that my brain cannot duke it out with a book here every day. Or even every other day. We’ll start off with once a week and see how that goes. I might post other reading-related things up here during the week, but the basic brain versus book action will happen once a week, most likely on Friday since I’m sure that’s when you all will be looking for some tiny distraction to take you through until the glorious moment when you can finally be free of your soul-crushing means of monetary fulfillment for a whole two days. Consider it my brain’s gift to you.
Sleepless is a book that practically had my name on it. A chronic insomniac since childhood, I’ve watched more than one sunrise with salty tears of self-pity in my eyes. So I was intrigued by a book that promised insomnia so much worse than anything I’ve ever experienced. What better way to comfort myself on those long, long sleepless nights than to remind myself, à la Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? by that mad genius Dr. Seuss, that it could be worse, that I could have a rogue prion in my brain eating holes in it and keeping me awake until I finally die?
My brain versus all the books! What will be the victor?!
Actually, my brain already jumps out of my head, locks itself in a closet and whimpers softly at the thought that I will die before even reading the books on my to-be-read shelf, much less all the books on the planet. And I am not making things any easier by reading in more than one language. That just multiplies the number of books my brain will need to go up against. Fortunately, my Swedish has rusted almost to the point where I can’t read it so easily, so that takes at least a subset out of the running. But the Japanese publishing industry is insanely prolific and there are so many excellent French books, so that probably offsets any breather I might get from failing to read Swedish.
I think the books may have already won. Still! My brain does not admit defeat so easily. I will read the books in my methodical fashion, allowing my brain a chance to show off its amazing literacy. (And it really is amazing when you think about it.)