Thursday, June 26, 2014

An Intro to Magical Realism - Piano stories by Felisberto Hernández

Piano stories by Felisberto Hernández ; with a preface by Francine Prose and an introduction by Italo Calvino ; translated from the Spanish by Luis Harss. 

Wonderful, magical, confusing, mysterious, thought provoking: everything I love in a story collection.

After I finished one of the stories (The Two Stories)I spent a half hour contemplating on the meaning of a short paragraph:

                         "In spite of everything, I seem to be getting
                           better all the time at writing about what happens
                           to me. Too bad I'm also doing worse."

The author was a pianist and draws on that experience in several of the stories. My First Concert was lively and fun.

The Stray Horse and The Green Heart explore memories and how they evolve. There is a story about a doll fetish, one about a strange injection for advertising copy, another about a flooded house. Some are dark, some are humorous, and some are darkly humorous (or humorously dark).

Magical realism at it's beginning. Several authors acknowledge their debt to Hernández and the preface by Francine Prose and the introduction by Italo Calvino are worth reading.

This edition is translated by Luis Harss.  The copy I read is from a public library. I think i need to buy this.

Picked this off the library shelf at the same time as Autobiography of a Corpse by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky. Serendipitous magic.

  Spanish Lit Month

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Letter G

Just a little meme - List your favorite book, author, song, film, and object beginning with a particular letter assigned by the Stuck in a Book blog. I was given G. This was random, it has nothing to do with my surname initial.


One of my all time favorite historical novels, this was published in 1972. "This unforgettable story of undying love combines mysticism, suspense, mystery, and romance into a web of good and evil that stretches from 16th-century England to the present day." (from Goodreads description)

Author: Gardner, John. There are several authors with this name, I mean the American (John Champlin Gardner Jr; 1933-1982). I've read most of his books.
Some of his works:
Grendel (illustrated by Emil Antonucci), 1971
The Sunlight Dialogues, 1972
Jason and Medeia, 1973
Nickel Mountain: A Pastoral Novel, 1973
October Light, 1976.
Freddy's Book, 1980
The Art of Living and Other Stories, 1981 

Song: First one that came to my mind was Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Elton John 1976) It's on YouTube 

Film: Galaxy Quest (1999) A science fiction parody which I enjoyed because I saw it with a couple of good friends at a time when I needed a good laugh. Also there was a scene shot at Goblin Valley State Park (Utah) which I had just visited.  Here is one of the "goblins" Google Goblin Valley and look at the images and you will see why this made a perfect setting for a sci-fi film. These natural formations are huge and amazing.

Object: Greek figurine; Cycladic

This museum reproduction purchased on the island of Paros on an island hopping trip in 1997.

Photograph about 1/2 actual size. She's nowhere near as big as the goblin above, but she's mine and she fits nicely on a with some of my books about Greece. I shelve my books somewhat geographically; mixing fiction, travel, history according to locale. Each shelf has some object that goes with the books.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Drifting Life

A Drifting Life (Gekiga Hyoryu Complete)
by Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Adrian Tomine (Design)
Translated by Taro Nettleton
Drawn & Quarterly Publications 

I thought for the Japanese Lit Challenge I would read some manga fiction, but when I started shelf browsing what caught my eye?  An autobiography.

Yoshihiro Tatsumi is considered one of the masters of manga . Since I am really unfamiliar with manga (and  other graphic formats)  I thought reading A Drifting Life might shed some light on the form and its history. 

I was right.  The first thing I learned is that it has been around a lot longer than I realized.  It was already popular in Japan when Tatsumi began drawing in the post World War II era. He started, as many Manga artists did as a teenager.  Some of the most interesting parts of the book concern life in post war, American occupied Japan:

Tatsumi refers to himself  as "Hiroshi" throughout the book but it is definitely autobiographical. He traces his life from middle school when he and his brother create manga panels to submit to various magazine contests through his failures and successes with a confusing array of publications and publishers.  He is constantly trying to create a new form of manga while coping with the necessity of earning a living from his art. Success can be overwhelming:

"Hiroshi" starts out in Kobe and eventually moves to Tokyo and makes several moves between the two. In his search for inspiration he is influenced by current Japanese popular culture and also by many foreign influences, particularly film:

There are also some touching and amusing scenes involving coming of age: his relationships with his family, his artistic collaborators and  rivals, his bosses, and his girlfriends.

The helpful appendix further explains some of the difficult to translate text (particularly signage).

All in all it is an interesting introduction to manga history as told through the pen of one of its leading artists. For my purposes it was a perfect way to explore this facet of Japanese Literature.  The presentation (like this review) was a bit choppy, but perhaps that is the nature of the medium. I'll explore it some more to find out.

The copy I read was from a local community college library.
 Japanese Literature Challenge 8

Japanese Literature Challenge 8

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Japanese Literature Challenge 8

I've selected a few things for the challenge.

These three are my own copies, the first a recent used bookstore find. The two books of short stories are wins from Tony's January in Japan. (Thank you, thank you.)
I've been saving them for this challenge. 

The Journey; Osaragi, Jirō; Ivan Morris (translator)
Blue Bamboo: Tales; Dazai, Osamu; Ralph McCarthy (Translator)
Still Life and Other Stories; Shono, Junzo; Wayne P. Lammers (Translator)

A Drifting Life; Tatsumi, Yoshihiro; Adrian Tomine (editor);  Taro Nettleton (translator)
This one is a humongous (800+ pages) biography in graphic format. I found it on the bookshelf at the community college library where I have a weekly meeting. I am intrigued. I'll start with this since it is a library book. Due in ten days but classes aren't in session so renewal shouldn't be a problem if I don't finish.
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage; Murakami, Haruki;  Philip Gabriel (Translator), Jay Rubin (Translator)
I was pleased to find that my public library already has this book on order, which means I was able to place a hold for when it comes in. I think I got in quickly enough to be at the top of the Queue.