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Showing posts with the label Literature

Neil Gaiman and Kazuo Ishiguro talk about genre

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Today is a day that is tinged a little with grey. The husband of a friend passed away early in the morning. I have never met him before. yet I cannot shake away the feeling of melancholy. Their child is very young. So was he. At night, I received news of screen legend Sir Christopher Lee's passing. He was 93. He had spent more than half a century giving us iconic roles like Count Dracula, and Saruman. A few weeks earlier, a friend dear to my heart lost her older sister too. When I was with her in Singapore, I struggled to find words to tell her. She looked strong, we laughed through the day, but I wished that was enough to help her momentarily forget her pain. Recent events are constantly reminding me about the impermanence of life. I do not know what to do, except to just live the moment, I guess. Just now I had the pleasure of reading a nice article on The New Statesman featuring two literary giants, Neil Gaiman and Kazuo Ishiguro, talking about the complications of ge

Yangsze Choo's THE GHOST BRIDE

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Last July, my friend Lydia sent me an article about a US-based Malaysian author Yangsze Choo , whose debut novel THE GHOST BRIDE had just been released. The author was a family friend from Lydia's childhood. In the book, its protagonist Li Lan receives a proposal of marriage from the wealthy family of Lim Tian Ching, a young man who died of fever a few months earlier.

Finished Charles Yu's THIRD CLASS SUPERHERO in a day. Loved it.

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I bought this book at least 2-3 years ago. (Probably closer to 3 than 2, I am not sure) It was an accident, I was ordering a graphic novel on Amazon, this book was recommended to me, I figured it was another graphic novel (by an Asian American artist? okay!), so I bought it too. The next day, when the books arrived, I was surprised that Charles Yu 's THIRD CLASS SUPERHERO turned out to be a collection of short stories, and not a graphic novel ("whaaat? no pictures?" I whined to myself, becoming a parody of people I despised) Because I had so many other books to read then, I put it aside. Years passed. It was then left in a box at the corner of a room in Tokyo that I left vacant for ten months. I found it again only a few days ago, in the almost-forgotten box with my almost-forgotten stuff that I left here. Having spent the entire week working on the music of RIVER OF EXPLODING DURIANS with my composer, I finally got to rest. Yesterday evening I was supposed to go t

Finishing Roberto Bolano's THE SAVAGE DETECTIVES in Bali

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I discovered Roberto Bolano during my 2007 trip in Chile. That was my first ever trip to a film festival as an invited filmmaker (went there as producer for ELEPHANT AND THE SEA, which was in competition), and also a prelude of the many solo travelings that I would do after that. My routine in these (film festival) trips has remained mostly the same. When I'm not attending the film festival, I would be taking solitary walks around recommended places, snapping photos, and then taking a break somewhere for food or coffee, in which I would take out a book to read. Otherwise, I would just head into a nearby bookstore to look through the books. On the day that I was about to leave Santiago, I decided that I had a few hours to kill, so I went to the shopping mall next to my hotel and hung out at the bookshop. A few days earlier, someone had recommended Bolano's works to me, so I was curious to read them. There was a bookshelf full of his works, and I decided to check out hi

Mieko Kanai 金井美恵子

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You might not have heard of the Japanese writer Mieko Kanai (金井美恵子), but she wrote the short story "The Moon" that inspired my short film "LAST FRAGMENTS OF WINTER". I stumbled upon her works by accident. It was September 2010. My uncle (father's younger brother) passed away suddenly, my parents, who were in Tokyo with me for my graduation ceremony, had to fly back to Malaysia immediately. I was left alone in the hotel that my parents were supposed to stay for a few more days. Overwhelmed by solitude, I went to my favourite Aoyama Book Center in Roppongi, hoping to distract my mind with literature. Going through the shelf, "THE WORD BOOK" by Mieko Kanai, a collection of her short stories, caught my eye. Maybe it was the cover. THE WORD BOOK came out in the 70s, but it only just got translated into English that year. I flipped through the book, went through some stories, and found myself captivated by the imagery of her dream-like tales. I d

On Borges, Eco, Calvino, Marquez... and McDull

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I never forgave my secondary school for banning us from bringing novels to school. That is why I constantly speak about it. Back then, unable to accept such a rule, I occasionally brought a book to school for some reading pleasure. Alas, the school prefects deemed me, a guy who was just sitting at the corner, quietly reading a book, a threat to school safety, thus my books were sometimes confiscated. I had to write eloquent letters to the prefects just so I could get them back. That is why, in some of my angry rants over the years, I couldn't stop blaming the local education system for not emphasizing the importance of literature and culture to its students, that we lived merely to score well academically, that our education was more on learning how to deal with exams, instead of preparing us properly to contribute to society. That our country is full of highly-educated folks who don't give a crap about literature. Many years ago, back in Perth, Justin (who used to con

Burn after reading... Salman Rushdie's MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN

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I got myself this book two years ago in Perth. Not through purchase, but by forcing Justin to swap his MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN with my THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN (by John Fowles). It was a fair trade. He didn't like magical realism, while I do, and he ended up enjoying the latter immensely anyway. But this isn't exactly a book review, just a quick note on how I felt after finishing Salman Rushdie's MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN yesterday afternoon. It didn't really take me that long to finish the book, really. I picked it up during my two weeks in Malaysia earlier this month, read through chunks of it on certain days in the LRT, then more as I flew back to Tokyo. Because the in-flight entertainment was down throughout half of my journey and I couldn't watch any films on the plane except THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM , I spent most of the time reading instead.

Umberto Eco - The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana

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Compared to previous years, I don't think I've been able to read as much as before, some books took me months to finish (Neal Stephenson's CRYPTONOMICON, which I admired, but didn't think was as good as SNOW CRASH), while some took me only two or three days (David Mitchell's GHOSTWRITTEN, awesome book) or mere hours (Haruki Murakami's AFTER DARK, which I mentioned here ). So I felt some sense of accomplishment after actually completing Hemingway's SUN ALSO RISES and Umberto Eco's THE MYSTERIOUS FLAME OF QUEEN LOANA in consecutive days last week. (I was reading the latter first, but felt that it was too dense, so borrowed the lighter SUN ALSO RISES from Ming Jin to read instead) (Note that this is not really a review, but more of me chronicling some thoughts while reading the book.) THE MYSTERIOUS FLAME OF QUEEN LOANA is said to be Umberto Eco's last novel, and was the second novel I read from the Italian writer (THE NAME OF THE ROSE was my

Haruki Murakami - After Dark

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This blog hasn't been very kind to Haruki Murakami. First off, there was Justin's negative review of THE ELEPHANT VANISHES , and then, there were my own gripes with THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE , which ultimately led to our 'seminal' HARUKI MURAKAMI IS WRONG! entry written last October. There used to be so much hate for Murakami here that this blog could've easily been mistaken for an anti-Murakami site. More than a year had passed since then, I picked up and read AFTER DARK, my first Murakami book since Norwegian Woods (finished that sometime around the middle of last year, liked it) at Borders, The Curve after a production meeting. Being merely a 200-page-long novella, I finished it in one sitting, around 2 hours.

Serious Literary Fiction about Idols

I need help. I am writing a serious literary work about idols and wota. Someone please tell me suggestions for things they want to see in this. This is not a joke, I am a published author.

Great Photo of Mishima

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Incredible photo showing his style, along with the current mayor of Tokyo. Also check this: His English is unfortunately camp, but look at his smile while he talks and notice the massive contempt and disgust for everything showing through. Beautiful.

Eimi Yamada

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The above is a picture of Eimi Yamada.

Defending Fanfiction. Was It Worth It?

JUSTIN: More than a year ago, I posted an entry called ' In Defense of Fanfiction '. Earlier on the day it was written, Swifty sent me a link to an article by fantasy writer Robin Hobb - someone I knew of but had never read, my interest in American fantasy-genre fiction being comparatively low. The Hobb essay, which attacked fanfiction and its writers on principle, seemed distinctly petty, childish, and reactionary - in need of a good thrashing, in other words. Although I didn't hold any particular interest in fanfiction at the time, neither reading nor writing it, the Hobb essay seemed to be opposed to not only fanfiction but, more broadly, creativity in general. So without even really thinking I tore through a rebuttal, easily demolishing the numerous straw-men and outright fallacies Hobb had put forth. I posted it and then proceeded to think nothing more of it: seeing as it was written in less than fifteen minutes and our readership at the time was probably less than a

An Interview With Quentin S. Crisp

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I've talked about Quentin S. Crisp before - he's one of my favorite living writers. His 'demented fiction' is unrivalled for its poetic quality and general, um, dementedness, and I suspect it won't be long before he has a major mainstream breakthrough - not that there's anything particularly 'mainstream' about him, but his stories and novels are certainly of world-class quality. Anyway, I sat down with him recently to discuss his writing, his favorite films, pop music, the meaning of Mishima's death, the real reason why most people study Japanese, and other relevant topics. Suffice it to say that this is probably the most important thing I have yet posted to this site, and it certainly touches on more or less everything Swifty and I have put up here at some point. It is thus mandatory reading . Apart from that, it's probably the last substantial thing I'll post for a while, time constraints being what they are. Read on and learn more.

Quentin S. Crisp - Rule Dementia!

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Quentin S. Crisp is a British writer who ostensibly produces horror or 'weird' fiction, but I don't really care about either of those genres or whether Crisp conforms to them. The reason his writing interests me is because of the personality and worldview underlying it, and the way the language of his fiction conveys them. Crisp has described his own writing as 'demented fiction', but I approached it the same I would any novel, not particularly worrying about the genre. This is not to suggest Crisp's work isn't often horrific, though, because it is. Mainstream fiction, such as the numerous tedious novels dealing either directly or tangentially with 9/11, admits existential horror and aimlessness only through a kind of trapdoor designed to regulate their impact: things may look bad for a time, but there is always faith, hope, love, the human spirit, conventional middle-class values, etc. to be salvaged at the end. This kind of 'salvaging' goes back

Craig Reviews Junichi Tanizaki's Naomi

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On my recommendation, Craig of Your Opinion Doesn't Count has just read and provided a three-part review of Tanizaki's Naomi , analogizing the novel to the idol world. His interpretation is highly original and provocative, and there's definitely some kind of graduate-paper potential in there somewhere about idol-continuity in Japanese culture over the course of the twentieth century. Was Tanizaki a proto-wota?

Junichiro Tanizaki - Seven Japanese Tales

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" Here, the exploration...leads into a tangle of relationships as bizarre and unhealthy as those of Tanizaki's earlier novel , The Key," -from the introduction by translator Howard Hibbett "Unhealthy" is an apt word to describe the fictional world of Jun'ichiro Tanizaki. Although now accepted as a pillar of modern Japanese literature largely on the basis of his re-translation of Genji and the sprawling novel The Makioka Sisters , Tanizaki's early work was better known for its aesthetic obsessions and outre subject matter - a typical Tanizaki story would concern something like stealing a girl's used handkerchief and licking it, or the joys of prostitution in China (John Updike memorably called him 'the most masculine writer of the 20th century'). Compared to Mishima, who dealt with characters at least as fucked up, Tanizaki's protagonists are far less self-conscious, less guilty or conflicted - where a Mishima character would anal

Yasunari Kawabata - The Master of Go

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Yasunari Kawabata is a writer I admire immensely. Although perhaps slightly limited in his range of themes and stories, he has a truly world-class sense of technical perfection and stylistic beauty, and the best of his novels and stories ( Snow Country and Beauty and Sadness are my favorites, with the excellent Palm of the Hand Stories perhaps being his masterwork) are so satisfying and haunting as to make him unquestionably deserving of his Nobel Prize. Someone (can't remember the source) compared reading a Kurt Vonnegut book to eating an ice cream cone, and if that's true, then a Kawabata book is more like a high-quality Italian gelato - cold, perhaps, but exquisite, and best when served in small portions. At one point I pretty much blindly accepted him as a god; and while after much consideration I've decided Mishima at least equals him, he's still up there for me as one of the masters.

D.B. Weiss - Lucky Wander Boy

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I picked up Lucky Wander Boy (Swifty: Official website of the book here ) on a recent trip, mainly on the strength of its premise but without any real expectations, since the book is about, among other things, video games. A 'gaming novel' is not a prospect that would seem especially earmarked for greatness, and so D.B. Weiss's debut came as a welcome surprise: while perhaps not great in any real sense, this is certainly a very good book*, with more-than-capable prose and much trenchant humor.

Yukio Mishima - The Sailor Who Fell From Grace With The Sea

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I can't be bothered to review this in any real depth, so I'll just excerpt parts of it and laugh at them. Much like the previous review, you're pretty much aboard the train at this point or you're not. Despite overseas acclaim (it was even made into an English movie starring Kris Kristofferson ...what the fuck? ), this novel, about a doomed romance between a sailor and a widow offset by evil kids, probably isn't one of Mishima's major works. It feels almost like a novella or really long short story, something that could have gone in one of the collections Acts of Worship or Death in Midsummer (discussed here )