Sunday, January 25, 2009

Book 3 for 2009

The Reading Globally group on LibraryThing is reading books from Japan this month with a focus on fiction. I'm not much of a fiction reader and I hoped the short story format would make for easier reading. Sadly, I was wrong.

I chose A Late Chrysanthemum – 21 short stories by seven writers from the first half of the twentieth century, translated by Lane Dunlop.
I read the first four stories by Shiga Naoya and was singularly unimpressed. With guarded encouragement from another group member, I continued on to try other authors. I read two stories by Yasunari Kawabata, which were minimally better, and the tale by Hayashi Fumiko from which the collection took its title.

The last story relates the musings of a middle-aged Geisha-type as she mulls over love affairs from earlier days while preparing for a visit from one of the former lovers. I enjoyed this story more than the others, but not enough to finish the book, I'm afraid.

I'm feeling mired in the mud with this book. I echo the sentiments of another Reading Globally member in feeling that Japanese works are perhaps "too subtle" for me. And the sentiments of another 75 Book Challenge member who talked about a tendency to read literally, not always picking up on the hidden symbolism. The understatement and the focus on interior thoughts just moves too slowly to keep my attention. Perhaps this is a result of my mostly having read nonfiction for many years, or perhaps my liking for nonfiction is a result of this inclination – hard to tell which came first!

I think I'd give it about 2-1/2 stars. Certainly they weren't poorly written, just not my cup of tea.

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