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Japanese literature 
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Post Japanese literature
There seemed to be some contention when books were suggested regarding the fact that three of the five titles were written by Japanese people, and this got me wondering: Have many of you read books by Japanese authors? Is there a reputation that Japanese writers have that you are aware of? Do you think there would be contention of all suggested writers were American? Why or why not?


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Fri Jun 04, 2010 9:06 am
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Post Re: Japanese literature
Personally I have only read two authors from Japan that I am aware of: Haruki Murakami and Kobo Abe. Kobo Abe's book "A Woman in the Dunes" was a previous selection here on BookTalk, and though I own it, I've not yet read it. I have read his book "The Box Man", and I found it so bizarre I didn't even know what to think. By the end of the novel, I wasn't certain who the narrator was or if he even existed. I don't even know how I would define that book: Modernist, Postmodern, insane. I get the impression he's a bit of an author's author with his experimentation of concept, but again, I've only read that one novel.

Haruki Murakami is recognized as a pomo author, but as we've discussed, that definition is a nebulous one. When I was younger, I read a lot of sci-fi and fantasy fiction. Neil Gaiman was my favourite author (I still like him a lot!), but beyond him I read a lot of random sci-fi and such. "Speculative Fiction" one might say (Miss Atwood). A friend of mine tsk tsked at my limited scope and insisted I read Murakami. I wasn't really interested, but then my friend pointed out the novel "Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World" by him, which has a sci-fi premise. I thought it sounded interesting so I read it - as soon as I finished it I picked up another of his books (the one we're reading now) and I just couldn't get enough of him. After Murakami, I started to read non-genre fiction and I think I will be forever grateful to Murakami and my friend (thanks Matthew!) for opening my eyes to all these amazing books.

I have heard Murakami criticized for having a lot of Western influence in his writing. He has a definite love of Western music and he lived in the US for a number of years. I thought it somewhat ironic that he would be termed YAJA (Yet Another Japanese Author) when he takes flak for not being "Japanese enough". I wonder what it is to be a Japanese writer? From the two I've read I would say they need to be able to fold your brain in half, but I am not certain they are a good representation of Japanese writing as a whole because obviously I have read only the authors that had stories that appealed to me. I have been meaning to read other Japanese authors (at least one or two) and see how they stack up, but honestly I've not yet found anything compelling enough.

I didn't know of any rep Japanese writers had of any sort. While initially it seemed weird to me that there may be one, I am abruptly reminded of my opinion of Indian novels. That is, if I see a book is written by an Indian author, I am less likely to read it. Is this because I am a book racist? I don't know. I've read three books by Indian writers and to me, they were the same thing. Life in India, the common man living in his common house in a city trying to live in a good life. I just find them super boring! But maybe I haven't read a wide enough variety to really judge. I am in general a fan of Magic Realism which is something prevalent in Indian writing (I am told) but I haven't really come across it much.

I don't think if all books listed were by American authors, anyone would care. I don't know if this is because of a perceived depth in American literature (not sure I agree with that) or because it is familiar (more inclined to agree with that). I suspect in Japan if all authors listed were American, they would note it more than we would in North America (and if all authors were Japanese I don't think they would comment). Hard to say, though. If all authors listed were Canadian I would probably have a seizure! I'm way more racist against Canadian books than Indian books. :D Though I have serious issues with any book described as "poignant" and sometimes it seems that is the most popular descriptive term for books from Canuckistan.


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Fri Jun 04, 2010 9:17 am
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Post Re: Japanese literature
Theomanic wrote:
. If all authors listed were Canadian I would probably have a seizure! I'm way more racist against Canadian books than Indian books. :D Though I have serious issues with any book described as "poignant" and sometimes it seems that is the most popular descriptive term for books from Canuckistan.


Have you read The Vanishing Point by W.O. Mitchell? I guess you could stretch a point and call it "historical fiction" but I liked it. Mitchell paints word pictures of places that make you think you are there.


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Fri Jun 04, 2010 10:56 am
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Post Re: Japanese literature
I have not. And I'm not a huge fan of historical fiction either. I have read Canadian authors I liked, but by and large "Can Lit" is a depth which I do not want to explore. The person I think of when I think typical Can Lit is Jane Urquhart. I read "Away" by her and it just bored me senseless. It's an epic tale of three generations of a family as they move from Ireland to Canada during the potato famine. Or something. To quote Amazon "JANE URQUHART's Away is a complex layering of ideas about emotions and emotions about ideas." Yeah, like every other Can Lit book. I just wait for the main character to tearily begin singing "Feelings".

Feelings, nothing more than feelings, trying to forget my feelings of love. Teardrops rolling down on my face, trying to forget my feelings of love.

Sounds about right! Even when it's not so much about emotions, it's still about the nature of common people, struggling to go about their lives. Hey, reminds me of what I dislike about Indian literature I've read! Maybe it all comes down to the fact that I'm not a very philosophical person. I think a lot of these books ascribe depth and meaning where it does not exist.


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Fri Jun 04, 2010 11:21 am
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Post Re: Japanese literature
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I've read three books by Indian writers and to me, they were the same thing. Life in India, the common man living in his common house in a city trying to live in a good life. I just find them super boring! But maybe I haven't read a wide enough variety to really judge. I am in general a fan of Magic Realism which is something prevalent in Indian writing (I am told) but I haven't really come across it much.


Trust me... if the books you have read are about common house in a city and good life then they had to be boring. As an Indian, I feel that is not the life in India, but it is the life a privileged (me included) live and most of our mainstream talks about. But the real Indian literature is in the vernacular - stuff that perhaps doesnt get translated so much ( we do have around 100 languages you know!) That is where they are breaking new ground - inventing and inverting stuff.

As for Magic Realism about India - try reading O V Vijayan's Legends of Khasak a book you that might be really difficult to find in Canada (I presume!)

amazon.com/Legends-Khasak-O-V-Vijayan/d ... 014015647X



Sat Jun 05, 2010 12:22 am
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Post Re: Japanese literature
By "good life" I mean a moral life, not a pleasant or enjoyable life, necessarily. The main book I am thinking of is "Such a Long Journey" by Rohinton Mistry. Have you read that? Though it occurs to me he's also a Canadian. No wonder I see such similarities to Can Lit. I looked up the book you mentioned on Amazon.ca and you're right, it seems like it is out of print here. I'll keep an eye open when I hit the used bookstores. I don't really order from Amazon anymore regardless.

I should try and find out who wrote the other two books I've read and see if they're Canadian as well. I wouldn't be surprised if they are.


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Sat Jun 05, 2010 10:19 am
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Post Re: Japanese literature
I don't remember any contention. Someone referred to them as "those Japanese books," but they didn't mean anything behind it.


But anyway, as far as I know, there isn't any sort of negative reputation when it comes to Japanese writers, although I can't say that I know of many. I do like historical fiction that takes place in Asia though.


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Last edited by wilde on Mon Jun 07, 2010 11:32 am, edited 1 time in total.



Sun Jun 06, 2010 11:16 pm
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Post Re: Japanese literature
Quote:
"Such a Long Journey" by Rohinton Mistry.


Nope I haven't read that. Canadian or not - nine times out of ten I agree with your thesis about Indian books. And the one exception is in the vernacular. There is such a rich tradition there and it is a pity it isnt publicized as much. Then again I am sure there will be a tipping point and then suddenly the world will discover it. :)

Also let me try and see if I can get you an online copy somewhere.



Sun Jun 06, 2010 11:40 pm
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