#AtoZChallenge: April 11, 2013 ~ Japan

Byôdô-in When I was a very young man, a boy still really, I imagined Japan as a beautiful and mysterious – hence unattainable – woman.  For at that age, one looks at countries one has not visited, let alone lived in, as one does those unfathomable creatures of the opposite gender, with a sense of wonder.

Assiduously I frequented the local dojo, which was run by the departmental GPO, in that far away antiquity before those marvellous public organisations were “privatised”, that is plundered, and perfected my throws.

I thought of the 1,800 islands Japan is made of, learnt about the Way of the Warrior –  the Bushido – admired films of kids of my age practising Kendo the way we kicked the ball at my school.  Then I learnt about the long history of a sea-faring and proud people who kept their country closed to the rest of the world for centuries. I learnt about the Tsunamis,  Mount Fuji, the bombs, the geography. I dreamed of Shikoku, the island of the 88 temples, of the mysteries of Kyoto, the imperial city, of the hero-Samurais, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu, of the art and magic of the swordsmiths.  I even considered buying myself a Katana…

Katana Then I learned about Seppuku, read Mishima.  One of my judo coaches was a Vietnamese expert who had studied at the Kodokan: I resolved to go there, sometime.

Much later I discovered Haruki Murakami who wrote – still writes – like a Westerner with the elegance and poetry of his country.  And I fell in love – metaphorically – with Naoko (Norwegian Wood), Miss Saeki (Kafka on the Shore) and Naomame (1Q84)…

Japan is the third largest world economy by GDP, and the sixth military power by budget.  After Singapore she has the lowest homicide rate in the world.

Next year – 2014, or 1Q84 plus 30 years – Gorgeous and I are going to Japan, and she said she would come with me to the Kodokan, provided I visited the 88 temples of Shikoku with her, which I promised.  We will look for the second moon.

#AtoZChallenge: April 1 ~ Affinity

South_of_the_Border,_West_of_the_Sun_(Haruki_Murakami_novel_-_front_cover)

1 Close connection, structural resemblance

2 relationship, similarity of character suggesting relationship

3 strong liking or attraction

(Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English)

What attracts us to another human being? What determines our liking for a place, a beach, a tree, a mountain, a book, a song, a painting? And what makes us capable, or incapable, of affinity?

In his novel, “South of the Border, West of the Sun”,  Haruki Murakami describes the impossible attraction between two young people, which transcends time, growing up and the disappearance of the young woman, Shimamoto.  This a “fatal attraction”, a theme that Murakami will later extend in the magnificent 1Q84, where affinity as mutual love triumphs against all odds.

What indeed of the affinity for a book?  Is it attraction to a character, a style, a story?  Or perhaps it is the fact that we would have liked to write the story ourselves.  Affinity for art may be that: the aspiration to create, even when we know that we do not have the ability, the skills, the aspiration.

It is a world that is made of love. Did you think there is only the kind of love your sister knows for her husband? Did you think there must be here, a man with whiskers, and over here, a lady in a gown? Haven’t I said, there are no whiskers and gowns where spirits are? And what will your sister do if her husband should die, and she should take another? Who will she fly to then, when she has crossed the spheres? For she will fly to someone, we will all fly to someone, we will all return to that piece of shining matter from which our souls were torn with another, two halves of the same. It may be that the husband your sister has now has that other soul, that has the affinity with her soul—I hope it is. But it may be the next man she takes, or it may be neither. It may be someone she would never think to look to on the earth, someone kept from her by some false boundary…

A big thank you for Arlee at http://tossingitout.blogspot.co.uk/ who invented the Challenge for our greatest pleasure!

Sarah Waters, Affinity (reproduced from Goodreads)

Daily Prompt: Judgment Day

If you were to judge your favorite book by its cover, would you still read it?

1Q84 1Q84, Haruki Murakami’s masterpiece, is a long poem to love and the irrepressible human spirit: this cover is a joy to look at – the butterflies in the greenhouse, and the two moons.  The two moons signal that this world is another world, and that finding one’s beloved soul mate is to find the way back to the old world, the one before the fall.

Yes I would fall in love again with this novel, just looking at the cover! But then I am a fan of Murakami…

 

 

 

 

 

Am liebsten

liebsterawardBlogging is an intriguing art. I do think it is an art, and of course one can practise it badly… Two dear friends, who do it magically, are Old Big Jim and Marny Copal, who have both been nominated for the Liebster Award, by Seumas Gallacher and John Dolan, respectively. Independently and at a few hours interval, Jim and Marny decided to nominate your servant, and I am deeply grateful to both of them.

Jim – a well travelled American of Scottish and Irish origin – is a pillar of strength, a talented and humorist writer and blogger, an asset to his friends and a great supporter of this community. Marny, who hails from Oregon, is a beautiful blogger and published writer who has a lot to share with learners like myself.

liebsteraward1In order to comply with the spirit of the Award, and since they are all interesting too, I will answer both Jim’s and Marny’s sets of eleven questions. But first, I have to talk about myself through eleven random “facts” – so I won’t, but, rather, talk about my “masterpiece” in waiting – LOL – the Page! Before I do I will look in amazement at the variety of badges the Liebster appear to have inspired: love you all!

11 “Facts” about the Page…

  1. It’s a long haul story, that now amounts to some 100K of chapters, unfinished stuff, notes, graffiti and pictures.
  2. It has its own site, where semi-finished products are beginning to appear (but still in editing mode).
  3. It’s being written on Scrivener, and there are already two drafts of it.
  4. I am not sure if it will ever get published, other than on that WordPress blog, and it does not worry me.
  5. The characters are, literally, writing the story, I just do the research and some editing.
  6. Since I started on this two years ago, the plot has evolved dramatically, as new influences biased the writing.
  7. Authors who inspire? In no particular order: Stephen King, Haruki Murakami, Alain Fournier, Junot Diaz, Paul Auster, Thomas Pynchon, Neal Stephenson… and there are many more, in English, French and German!
  8. Do I know the end of the story? Of course not yet, and maybe there isn’t one.
  9. What does She think about it, if She has read it? She has, read the first draft, and convinced me to start again (where we are now).
  10. How much of my awake time is spent on it? Variable, probably 50% of my actual writing time, the rest being evaporated on smaller work, flash fiction and blogging on other subjects.
  11. Why? Just enjoyment, and discovery!

Jim’s questions

¶ What scares you the most, and why?

Poverty in the world, sometimes I think we won’t make it, and just regress to barbarity and self-destruction… We are hanging in by a thread.

¶ What three possessions do you think you just can’t live without?

The love of my wife, the respect of my son, my friends.

¶ When signmakers go on strike, is anything written on their signs?

“Our fight is your fight”

¶ If you could be a character in any book you’ve ever read, who would you be and why?

Tengo in 1Q84: he discovers a new world, and his lifelong love finds him…

¶ If someone wrote a book about your life, what would be the title?

Erm… “Gorgeous’ s husband, a biography”

¶ Would you prefer to spend life in prison or be executed? Why?

Death or freedom

¶ What got you in the most trouble when you were younger?

Fighting (with both fists)

¶ If you could be a religious or spiritual leader, who would it be? Why?

Ho-Chi-Minh who moved mountains

¶ What or whom do you most miss from your childhood?

My first Mistress (as school’s mistress!)

¶ Grab the book nearest you. What is the first sentence of the third paragraph on page 12?

“Whether he first puts his right or left foot forward, this too has been predetermined for each play…”

¶ When did you last write a letter on paper and send it through the postal service?

Ten minutes ago, to my aunt who’s 95.

Marny’s questions

¶ When did you first realize you liked to write?

At primary school, wanting to please my mistress…

¶ Who is your favorite villain from a book or movie?

Doctor Mabuse

¶ Can you name one item from your bucket list?

Firecracker

¶ Do you have a muse? If so, what is it?

She’s no “what”, she’s a beautiful and talented She

¶ What book excited you the most when you were a kid?

“20,000 lieues sous les mers” (Jules Vernes)

¶ Do you write in a linear fashion, or do you jump around?

I am a hobbit writer: I hop around, and back again!

¶ Do you live with animals? If so, can you read their expressions?

I enjoy philosophical musing with my pet spider

¶ Do you have a personal motto?

No, but my wife does

¶ Are you dying to know the answer to any mysteries?

I already know: it’s in my books!

¶ If you could witness any event in history, what would it be?

The resurrection

¶ Do you like dolls? If so, why?

I fear them. This is why

Geeky questions/exercises my nominees may wish to answer/do/cry about (or edit?) ~ or not!

This is deliberately tongue in cheek ~ for a more serious approach please refer to some of my previous posts… 

  1. Please read this book and then write a post on your impression (or do a drawing)
  2. Read this article, and find a picture to summarise it
  3. Would you invite this man at your Xmas party?
  4. Which one of my post(s) – here on this blog – talk about the devil?
  5. Write two sentences about this picture
  6. Any truth in this, in your view?
  7. Are you inspired by this song?
  8. Do you agree with this?
  9. Can you find “The Page” on Facebook?
  10. Write a haiku inspired by this pic
  11. Who is the skipper of the boat named Arrakis?

Well, that was a bit of work! Now about my nominees… The above notwithstanding I do love those writers bloggers:

¶ Rob Young at http://robdyoung.com/writes/

¶ Beth Ann, marathon runner

¶ Michael, who seized the storm

¶ Mon Ami, poet and erotica writer

¶ Joseph, love and dominance

¶ Gemini, loveable

¶ MarìMar, kinkiness

Beth, on the Sacred Road

Mirabella, ineffable

Heaven, sweet lust

Vincent, poet

Moon

For those who refuse to live in the real world: #Booker Award!

 Well, my dear friend Marina Sofia, who somehow finds time to write, has honoured this sinner of the very special Booker Award, and that seems to be particularly aimed at book lovers, and perhaps poets: indeed I am a book worm, if not totally immersed in fictional worlds… I have to say that among my fellow nominees I feel humble and perhaps not quite worthy –  this being typical (male?) timidity… Thank you Marina, your blog is a haven of sanity and calm in this hectic world! You were nominated by Pat Wood, and I must thank you also for allowing me to discover Pat’s wonderful blog.

I order, I will list my five currently most favourited novels, admit to what I am reading now, and, finally, risk nominating five innocent book lovers I admire…

I wrote “currently favourites” which shows what an unstable book lover this blogger is! It is a fact that favourites do change in time, as one reads, re-reads, and discovers new horizons…

At present (restricting myself to novels I read in the English language only, in so specific order):

Thomas Pynchon, Gravity Rainbow

James Ellroy, The Cold Six Thousand

Anne Rice, Interview with the Vampire

Stephen King, The Stand

Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood…

Currently reading: Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao…

As to my five nominees – trying hard not to nominate readers already in receipt!

Donna B. McNicol, who writes her life, and is the inventor of the marvellously named Napping Blogger Award!

John Lavan, wondrous poet and world observer… who does live in reality!

Louise Hastings, the Wings of Beauty and the Phases of the Moon

Diana Lee, who sees life through beautiful eyes

Ash N. Finn, writer and survivor, a friend from Dublin.

 

#WritersWednesday: November 7 – 1Q84

 1Q84 is Haruki Murakami’s latest book, and a universal best seller. I don’t intend to reveal anything of the plot, since some followers of these posts may not have read the book! 1Q84 is several books in one, a love story in the tradition of Haruki’s previous novels, especially Norwegian Wood (the love story that created the literary phenomenon Murakami for the world audience) and Kafka on the Shore, but also a reflection on modern Japan, its cities and landscapes, and human relationships.

The two central heroes of 1Q84 are ordinary people, though with special gifts. They are also failures, or at least they believe to be, for some twenty years – until one night they look at the moon. The book is full of musical and literary references, beautifully woven in the daily lives and thoughts of the characters. Some critics have pointed out that the novel mixes genres unashamedly: for this reader, this is one of the many charms of the book, which straddles highly speculative fiction and poetry. That the world we see is only an appearance created by our limited physiological abilities, sight, longevity and cultures, is a fact admitted by most writers. That there may be many variations around us is nothing more than a strong probability: but it only takes a walk along an expressway to discover one of these variations…

The novel was published in Japan in three books, the latest one year later than the first two. The UK publisher , Harvill Secker, has continued the tradition with books one and two in one volume followed by book three. I found book three in some way different in tone compared with the other two. Is it intentional, or the result of different sensibilities on the part of the two translators (Jay Rubin for books one and two, and Philip Gabriel for book three). Those translations are impressive but I wish I could read the original.

Yellow Sea

 From grey the water has turned golden yellow, coloured by the sands of the Gobi desert. The Arrakis progresses north-south first, set on a course of some four hundred nautical miles, to avoid the territorial waters of both Koreas. Francesca has radioed our course to both Korean Navies, and of course to the Japanese Naval Defence Force, since our next stop will be on Shikoku, exactly on Takamatsu, where we have a pilgrimage to make to a cherished place.

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