Mel of The Reading Life has read and reviewed The Old She Wolf and The Little Girl by Akiyuki Nosaka.
Juliana of the [blank] garden has read and reviewed The Territory of Light by Yuko Tsushima.
I am loving The Pillow Book by Sei Shonagon here.
I am finding this book utterly charming in its slow and quiet simplicity. The author was a gentlewoman in the court of Empress Teishi, in what is now Kyoto, Japan. She writes of daily life within the Imperial Palace, describing in great detail the clothing, the visitors, and the little games that are played with one another.
I have just finished a portion where a tremendous amount of snow has fallen which is formed into a snow mountain, and then guesses are made as to when it will melt. Sei feels deeply about her guess which at first seemed too far into the future, so much so that she asks the gardener to keep children from playing on the mountain to keep it preserved as long as possible. Much to her dismay, when she is ready to send a small jar of the remaining snow to Her Majesty, accompanied by a little poem, it is gone. But, it did not melt as Sei supposed; instead, Her Majesty had it removed in order to disprove Sei’s guess. This is the kind of delightful thing that once could have inhabited our daily lives; perhaps in the lives of us as children, when a mound of snow seemed so important, or perhaps in the lives we lived before technology consumed us.
It is wonderful to read poems that are written in response to requests, poems written as letters. The beauty of a piece of white paper is exquisite, even if it only encloses a piece of seaweed sent in response to a note.
The seaweed’s meaning, not understood by the man to whom she sent it, was revealed in a poem she later wrote on the edge of a piece of paper:
“The silent seaweed
said that you must never tell
the secret dwelling place
of the diving fisher girl
concealed in these hidden depths.”
As a journal keeper myself, I find no detail in Sei’s writing too small. I am immersed in Sei’s world, in her thoughts, in the simple life she lives within the gardens and walls of the palace in which she works. She is content, and her contentment brings me much the same feeling.
I have read The Traveling Cat Chronicles, by Hiro Arikawa, a must-read for any cat lover, I think.
Nadia has read Goodbye, Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto.
Mel outlined his plans for month 2 of the Japanese Literature Challenge here.
Now I must start in earnest The Pillow Book for our read-along. Reading Killers of The Flower Moon by David Grann has been a tedious and torturous endeavor which I am only completing for book club obligations. (Have you ever noticed that after truly great literature, everything else pales in comparison? Even a true story involving my country’s history about the Osage Indians and the FBI.)
However, The Pillow Book is proving to be a delightful book. It is a change from the fast pace of the 21st century, it is journal writing of the finest detail, and it makes me think. Consider these lines:
Infuriating things: A guest who arrives when you have something urgent to do, and stays talking for ages…A hair has got stuck on to your inkstone and you find yourself grinding it in with your inkstick…Someone suddenly falls ill, and an exorcist is sent for. They don’t find him in the usual place, and a tedious amount of time is spent waiting while they go around in search of him…A baby who cries when you’re trying to hear something…A dog that discovers a clandestine lover as he comes creeping in, and barks…
(Feel free to join us, this February, in the read-along of this Japanese classic novel.)
Ally of Snow Feathers has read and reviewed Confessions by Kanae Minato.
Mel has read and reviewed The Tale of The House of Physics by Yoko Ogawa.
Nadia has read and reviewed The Lady Killer by Masako Togawa.
Somali Bookaholic has read and reviewed The End of The Moment We Had by Toshiki Okada
Tony has read three more Japanese works which can be found here:
As for me, I am simply glad to have caught the flight from Ft. Meyers to O’Hare during the polar vortex. The flight before ours was cancelled, as was the flight after, but we were delivered safely to our destination.
I am halfway through The Traveling Cat Chronicles, a book I was certain would make me cry and then Terri confirmed it. As soon as I finish that (tomorrow), I will pick up The Pillow Book with Frances, Caroline, Deb, and Juliana. Do join us if you choose, as we take the month of February to read this Japanese classic.
Tony has already read five Japanese books, as he likes to begin January with Japanese Literature. (An idea I find most appealing as well.) Find reviews to The End of The Moment We Had by Toshiki Okada, Unbinding The Pillow Book by Gergana Ivanova, Farewell, My Orange by Iwaki Kei, To The Spring Equinox and Beyond by Natsume Soseki, and Toddler-Hunting and Other Stories by Taeko Kōno.
Gretchen of Gladsome Lights gives us a picture of tea, Japanese stories, and reading plans here.
Robin has reviewed the classic Japanese film, Ikiru.
Finally, Frances and I have decided to run the read-along of The Pillow Book quite loosely. We will read it as our schedules allow throughout the month of February, perhaps posting interesting bits here and there, perhaps not. At the end of the month, I will write a review, and hopefully Frances will have time to do so as well. Please join us if you like, tweeting, posting, or reading as it works for you.
(Find an updated list of all the participants under the page for the Japanese Literature Challenge 12 in the menu; three of them use Twitter or Instagram as their primary platform. Once again, all are welcome.)
First, there was Kathryn’s Garden, in which we saw a Cavorting Clown Fountain and Jesters on a Branch. This garden was the first thing I saw upon entering the Botanical Garden, and it remained my favorite throughout. Each glass figure seemed about a foot tall, and they totally charmed me dancing through the foliage.
These figures are part of the lily pond, blithely walking across the top of it as securely as the lilies sit themselves.
The lush tropical plants give me ideas for how the pages in Johanna Basford’s Magical Jungle could be colored…
while the fountain in the Asian garden section only vaguely resembled those we saw in Japan, even though both used real mill stones. It was a beautiful place to spend the afternoon today.
(The artist of the glass is Hans Godo Fräbel, who has a title of “Father of Flamework.” ‘His pieces are in public and private collections worldwide, including Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens and private collections belonging to Jimmy Carter and other heads of state.’ Naples Botanical Garden)
Books Read in 2018
I was so happy to find that several blogging friends wished to participate in the Japanese Literature Challenge yet again. Although we are not numbering in the hundreds, as in the early days of 2006, these are the faithful few endeavoring to read Japanese literature throughout the months of January, February and March.
I also have some links to share with you from the first week:
Robin of A Fondness for Reading: Sweet Bean Paste by Durian Sukegawa
Andrew Blackman: The Great Passage by Shion Miura
I have read The Master Key by Masako Togawa
There are also introductory posts from several readers to be found here:
Please let me know if I have accidentally neglected a post or a link from you. Also, remember that all are welcome and encouraged to join. My reading is greatly enriched by the reading that you do.
Here is an indication of the glory within these pages, just in Énard’s ability to write about a notebook alone:
”Michelangelo owns a notebook, a simple notebook he made himself: some leaves of paper folded in half, held together with a string, with a cover made of thick cardboard. It’s not a sketchbook, he doesn’t draw in it; nor does he note down the verses that come to him sometimes, or the drafts of his letters, even less his impressions of the days or the weather outside.
In this stained notebook, he records treasures. Endless accumulations of various objects, accounts, expenses, supplies: clothes, menus, words, simply words.
His notebook is his sea chest.” (p. 14)
Mathias Enard has written exactly how I feel about notebooks, what I have known to be true about them, but unable to articulate, since I was a child.
And then there’s this:
”You conquer people by telling them of battles, kings, elephants and marvelous beings; by speaking to them about the happiness they will find beyond death, the bright light that presided over their birth, the angels wheeling around them, the demons menacing them, and love, love, that promise of oblivion and satiety. Tell them about all of that, and they will love you; they will make you the equal of a god.” (p. 54)
I could keep writing quotes until the novel ends…
I had read the book The Temple of the Golden Pavilion by Yukio Mishima, which helped me appreciate this site all the more. Still, my heart leaps at all things natural more than the man-made.
For example, this bamboo forest, along with the cedar forest in Nikko, takes my breath away.
Or, this shot of the Pacific Ocean as we drove south down the Izu Peninsula. (It’s obvious that the same ocean my friend Lesley sees in Oregon is the one I’m looking at in Japan, but that amazes me.)
I learned that there are two kinds of gardens. One is a strolling garden, usually with a water feature, through which one walks to enjoy the view. The other is a dry garden, in which one must use one’s imagination to interpret the rocks. Ryoan-ji Temple has such a garden which is famous.
This is only one end of it, as it is quite large. The garden has 15 rocks, none of which are able to be seen all at the same time. If you could see every one of the 15 rocks, you would have reached the stage of enlightenment. (I assume that is because you would have to be looking down on them from above.) I, myself, could count only 12 as I studied it from one side.
As we wandered through the Japanese gardens, my husband took many pictures as he hopes to duplicate some of their features in ours. This is a rain chain, a beautiful way to keep the rain falling from one’s roof instead of gutters.
I leave you with a smiling monk because he is so happy with his bird. He reminds me of my beloved friend, Jean, who is a bird whisperer.