liv: Bookshelf labelled: Caution. Hungry bookworm (bookies)
[personal profile] liv
Recently read: A wild sheep chase by Haruki Murakami, trans Alfred Birnbaum. (c) Haruki Murakami 1982, pub Vintage 2003, ISBN 978-0-099-44877-8. This was a present from [ profile] ghoti, since it's a book she likes and it contains cute ears and I have very little exposure to Japanese lit. I found the book very mind-expanding and different from most of what I normally read, which is exactly what I was hoping for.

I don't want to spend too long wracking my brains over which genre A wild sheep chase fits into, because it's just not like the typical Anglo publishing categories. It's probably most like magical realism, in that the central story about the sheep possessing people appears to be taken entirely seriously, even though it doesn't appear to fit into the otherwise mundane, mimetic setting. I was interested in gradually learning more about the history of this slightly fantastical sheep, but equally interested in getting to know the protagonist along the way, even though he's not a particularly sympathetic POV character.

I found the book extremely vivid in its depictions of banal scenes from everyday life and very ordinary human relationships, against the bizarre background of the eponymous sheep chase. The final section where the protag tracks the sheep down to a remote villa is very evocative, a really good ghost story or psychological horror (though nothing at all gory or monstrous occurs). There's a lot of pages devoted to the protagonist's relationships with women, a lover remembered from his youth, his recently ex wife, and his current girlfriend with the beautiful ears. The relationships are again beautifully observed, but the women themselves don't seem completely real, they exist to evoke feelings in the protag and then disappear. Male characters are also seen through the first person narrator's eyes, but the book contains a lot more information about their lives and experiences outside their interaction with him. I enjoyed the glimpses of the narrator's relationship with Rat and J.

I found the book not exactly depressing, but melancholy, perhaps? Very beautiful writing, but in quite a bleak way.

Currently reading: A time of gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor, as recommended to me by [personal profile] rushthatspeaks. Basically it's an account of how the author got kicked out of school and decided to walk across Europe to Constantinople, in 1933. I don't normally read travelogues, but I agree with the intro by Jan Morris, that Fermor is just an outstandingly good writer, and his descriptions are evocative enough to be exciting even though nothing really happens except that he walks around and visits places. He has the kind of assumption typical of a certain class of white English young men, that everybody will basically like him and want to help him out. He's also genuinely interested in the people he meets working on this assumption. In some ways the narrative style is reminding me of my uncle who at a similar sort of age drove a van to Australia.

I've nearly finished the section where he crosses Germany, noting the presence of the newly ascendant Nazi party but not dwelling on that to the exclusion of talking about the history and culture of the country and telling anecdotes about the various German people he meets on the way. The moment where he describes crossing the border from the Netherlands and seeing swastikas everywhere is a brilliant piece of writing, a paragraph of description of some Dutch St Vincent de Paul nuns, and then:
The officials at the Dutch frontier handed back my passport, duly stamped, and soon I was crossing the last furlongs of No Man's Land, with the German frontier post growing nearer through the turning snow. Black, white and red were painted in spirals round the road barrier and soon I could make out the scarlet flag charged with its white disc and its black swastika.

Up next: Not sure. I'm still looking out for A book with a color in the title for my very old Bringing up Burns challenge, or I may well read Novik's Uprooted.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-08-17 11:54 am (UTC)
wychwood: chess queen against a runestone (Default)
From: [personal profile] wychwood
I'm assuming you've already read The Color Purple, but if you haven't, I totally recommend it for your colour book!

(no subject)

Date: 2016-08-17 06:34 pm (UTC)
wychwood: chess queen against a runestone (Default)
From: [personal profile] wychwood
That's totally fair; I've only read it once myself. But if you hadn't read it, I do think it's worth the pain the once!

Other ideas...

LM Montgomery's The Blue Castle is adorable and I find it super comforting to read; turn-of-the-century small-town Canada. It's also public domain.

Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars is one of my favourite pieces of science fiction; if you haven't read it, I'm not sure whether you would love it, but you might enjoy it? I definitely think it's worth a try.

Jo Graham's Black Ships is a very nice version of the Aeneid with a really cool female protagonist.

CLR James' The Black Jacobins is outdated (1938!) but super interesting and still one of the key books about the slave revolt that led to the founding of Haiti.

Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword I feel like you must have read, but if you haven't you definitely should! It's a classic teen-girl wish-fulfilment fantasy, but really well done.

Greg Rucka and Steve Lieber's graphic novel Whiteout, about a US Marshal trying to solve a crime in Antarctica, is a really good story, although I'm told that the Antarctic stuff is mostly wrong!

Margo Lanagan is definitely worth reading in any context, but her short story collection Black Juice is amazing, and I think probably be something you would enjoy (Red Spikes, Yellowcake, and White Time would also qualify, but I liked Black Juice best).

Richard Morgan's Black Man is science fiction, pretty amped up and violent, like most of his writing, but I thought it was saying some interesting things about race. And his plots are usually fairly compelling.

Sherman Alexie's Reservation Blues is as good as Alexie always is. He's really funny, in a dark kind of way, filled with rage at the unfairness of how Native Americans are treated without overlooking their actual characters and flaws.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-08-19 11:14 am (UTC)
wychwood: man reading a book and about to walk off a cliff (gen - the student)
From: [personal profile] wychwood
Haha, I went through my booklog spreadsheet and looked for colour titles - ten years of reading turned up a surprising number, even after I winnowed things that I wouldn't actually recommend!

I read Lavinia and was really sad because I didn't actually like it very much. I really wanted to! And I love Le Guin! It just didn't do anything for me.

I hope you read and enjoy at least some of these, anyway :) I will look forward to future reviews.

(no subject)

Date: 2016-08-17 01:58 pm (UTC)
naath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] naath
Books I have read with colours:

Gentleman Jole and the Red Queen; Bujold (the latest Vorkosigan novel)
A Red-Rose Chain; McGuire (the latest October Daye novel)
Red Plenty: Inside the Fifties' Soviet Dream; Spufford (historical fiction)
Priestess of the White; Cannavan (YA fantasy, book 1 of 3)
[three of the Temeraire books (Novik) have substances that might be colours - Jade, Ivory, Gold - in the titles]
The Red Queen; Gregory (historical fiction) also the White Queen and the White Princess
I shall wear Midnight; PTerry (midnight might be read as a dark blue/black here, but might be more literal; one of the Tiffany Aching books)
Black Trillium; MZB (I don't recall this being any good)
Red Seas Under Red Skies; Lynch (book 2 of N, in quite a good series)
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit; Kerr (this is just really really upsetting)

Er, as you can see I have a preference for long series... this might not make the best recommendation for a quick read!


Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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