Reading List


After the key-lime intensity of The Essence of the Thing, it seemed good to have another break. As the books mentioned in comments to another post have not yet had time to arrive, it became necessary to scour the shelves and pluck off the jewel here and there that has been waiting for a lull in the list.

Obviously, Throne of Jade beckoned; however, as there are only three in the series thus far and who knows how long until the next one, it seemed better to direct attentions elsewhere. On some shelves that are too hidden for the purpose they are used (to store unread books) there were a number of gems that have been too long neglected. From these four were chosen and from the four, finally one arrived at.

The perfect counterbalance to the straight-line intensity of Madeleine St. John seemed to be the quirkiness of Karen Joy Fowler. There amidst the treasure of months gone-by book browsing lay The Jane Austen Book Club. It appears to be a novel structured around the reading of Jane Austen's novels with six members, each one with their own story--probably highlighted and corresponding to one each of the novels.

Karen Joy Fowler has produced such oddities as Artificial Things an early book of short stories that would suggest affinities with Science Fiction and fantasy; however, such a suggestion might be a little misplaced, and Sarah Canary, which, if memory serves was about the northwest territories toward the end of the 19th century and a mysterious woman who shows up in them. This too lay upon the "when the mood strikes shelves."

Also, the continued reading of Descent into Hell . . . well. . . continues. The book is strangely intense, and it really is interesting, but it isn't arresting and completely involving. Much of Charles Williams is this way--interesting and well worth-while once read, but rather difficult going to get into it.

The Japanese writers are getting attention again. Because of Jane Smiley's list at the end of 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel, The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanazaki is once again on the radar, although a reread of Some Prefer Nettles might be in order. Also under consideration is a reread from too long ago--Lady Murasaki's Tale of Genji, probably the first major full-length novel--with a rather unusual structure and set of conventions for Western readers, but a beautiful etched portrait of Imperial Japan of the Heian period. Perhaps because of the reminder of An Instance of the Fingerpost, a book of short stories by Akutagawa springs easily into the hand. And finally on the perusal of the Japanese classics shelves, two titles stand out: The Crazy Iris, a collection of short stories about the dropping of the atomic bombs and featuring a story by Nobel Prize winner Kenzaburo Oe, whose severely handicapped child is the inspiration for A Personal Matter (said son is also known as the composer of two volumes of short piano pieces--see Hikari Oe; one should hope that this would give even the most hardened bioethicists pause in the consideration of who is worthy to live); and, coming now back to the two titles that stood out, The Sea and Poison by Shusaku Endo--the story of a man reflecting on his experiences during World War II in Shanghai, where, as a medical doctor he was ordered to perform medical experiments on prisoners of war.

There are so many, many things that appeal and each will have its turn . But for the nonce there is The Jane Austen Book Club giving time for pause and reflection to consider what be next on the list.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on June 9, 2006 8:39 AM.

Signs of the Times was the previous entry in this blog.

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