Sunday, June 30, 2019

Norwegian Wood

I'm out of order here (there are two other books before this I haven't written about yet, but I am just on my forth day of summer holidays and haven't even begun to think about writing until today).   I just finished this book.  It moved me so much, I didn't expect that.  I just got to the end, just finished off the translator's notes and a wave of emotion overtook me, I even leaked a tear or two.  Wow. 
This is a departure in a way from his other books, but then it isn't.   I had a peek at what other Goodreads members had to say about it, but just a peek because I don't really care what other people have to say ( I won't waste a moment on that ever again),  I think that Norwegian Wood is perfect.   This is pure Murakami and I can see why it launched his career so powerfully.   

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Haruki Murakami

So this guy is my current focus in Japanese literature.  Last year I had a general category of Japanese literature, which kept on leaning towards Murakami, and I have read a couple of his books over the years, but it has been in the back of my mind to get a closer look at him, his life, his works.  So last winter I began to collect his books until I had them all ( excepting the latest one, Killing Commendatore because it's still in hardcover and the rest of my collection is soft). 
This is my idea of fun, to just focus on a single author for a year or two depending on their body of work, and usually I purchase their entire bibliography because I know that these are books that I will want to revisit again like old friends.   Last year I listened to a couple of Murakami's audio books but there was a great deal of pleasure in reading the books this year.  As is my habit, I begin at the beginning and read on in order of publishing until the end.  Starting with these two gems
  which I enjoyed immensely.  I feel as if I have been given a bead on who the author is.  All of my research tells me that he writes from his life and everything is flavoured with his music, his occupations, and the literature he reads.  Not that I think what happens to his characters happens to him (though that would be fascinating!).  I feel like I have made a new pal, and he is really very interesting.  What will he do next?

'Fessing Up

Okay... so I didn't even last three months before I went back to my old reading habits.  Which explains why the blog entries dropped off after Spring Break. 
I was too busy reading reading reading! 
I should have known better than to try to curb that.  So I quit, simple as that.    One big difference though is that I want to write again.  So maybe it wasn't a completely futile exercise in trying to modify my behaviour. 
You know how people sometimes put off things for when they retire?  Say that they don't have time now for such indulgences?  Firstly, that just pisses me off.  Not only is it judgmental, it's not true.  What if (and I have seen this happen), you kick the big bucket shortly after you retire?  What if putting off these indulgences now only sour the life that you are currently living?  I have seen this also and I have learnt from it. 
A year or so back, I was thinking about what kind of life I would have once I retired, and it was a shock to realize that I was already living ideally.   Ever since I was a teenager and knew how I would like to live, the fantasy has always been the same; I have always wanted my own home which would be full of all the things I treasured most,  books and music.  So there you are, or should I say here I am! 
I am happiest with a book, so why change that?

It's Right There in The Title!

It's right there in the title!  I'm saying that right off the bat because this time I will be revealing spoilers about this book all over the place...  and I don't feel bad about that.  Well... maybe I should because not everyone has read about Bovine Spongiform Encephelopathy (BSE), so I guess it wouldn't be as readily apparent to everyone!  When I first became vegan, I did a lot of reading: The Mad Cowboy by Howard Lyman, Diet For  a New America by John Robbins, Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating by Erik Markus, The Moral Lives of Animals by Dale Peterson, Vegan Freak by Bob Torres etc.,  plus I've watched  a few programs about Mad Cow Disease and the Creutzfeldt-Jakob variant. 
So when the protagonist of this book, Cameron Smith, starts to show some symptoms, it's not too hard to leap from the big fat hint in the title to BSE.  It didn't stop me from tearing up when his symptoms were confirmed however...  and tearing up again after he is hospitalized and his brain can no longer tell his lungs how to work.   Everything fades to black.   
What happens next I can only describe as an odyssey of the mind.  Cameron's hallucinations take him on a wild ride across America with a classmate and a possessed garden gnome, having bizarre adventures, and experiencing life ...making friends, fighting bad guys, getting lucky with his high school crush.  I know that sounds a little bucket-listy, but Bray really crafted a great story here.  While there is no way to feel good about the fact that Cameron is dying before he really got to live, his hallucinations give him a kind of peace.  A gift before dying.  So yeah...I got a little teary-eyed at the end too. 
 It doesn't really come up at all, how Cameron contracted this disease... and I won't go into it here, except to say that I appreciate the fact that this book wasn't used as an opportunity to preach or teach about this issue.  This was story telling at it's finest and I am grateful to have read it.


Monday, March 18, 2019

There is an app for that!

After finishing the online course Japanese Sub-cultures,  I had to think about what I wanted to do with what I had learnt.  My new teacher librarian was very supportive of me doing extra curricular activities, and I was very excited about what I could do. The day I got the go-ahead to do the manga club I couldn't stop smiling.  After so many years of repression in my old job this was a brand new experience for me (having this encouragement and support), and for the first time in a long while I was full, actually I was brimming over, with joy. 
There was still a lot to do though.  I wanted to present the club as something that was all inclusive.  Originally, I had thought we might run it along similar lines as my online club which meant we would need to get more than one copy of which ever manga was chosen, and considering that that was an expense we couldn't afford, I had to find alternatives.  On my own Samsung tablet I tried out a few different manga apps but settled on Manga Master.
 I like it's simple format and inclusion of older stories (lots of Tezuka on it), but mostly I liked that you could do searches for storylines that are completed.  For IPads, I chose Manga Rock.

I admit I don't like this app as much as Manga Master, but I wanted to find the best app possible for Ipads.  Also, I find that if you just look at Manga Rock online rather than using the app you have access to more choices.
For my lap top I tried out both Manga Blaze

and Comics Unlimited. 

I like both apps, especially Comics Unlimited as I can read some pretty old comics (which is great for my research).
There is also, an online resource for those who do not have access to devices or have an older computer without Windows 10. 
I tried to cover all the bases so that any new member to Mangamaniacs!  could read the manga I had hoped to cover. 
It didn't quite work out the way I had hoped.  Most students would prefer to read the actual volume rather than look at a screen (well...for reading a book that is), but the information is still handy, especially when we have gaps in our collection.  I encourage students to have a look at these websites to fill in those gaps. 
For myself I found these apps to be invaluable.  To be able to read what book choices are made on my online group, and also to do research on whatever story might be chosen next for Mangamaniacs!  
We haven't limited ourselves to just reading manga but looking at the Marvel and DC universes as well.  Which is where Comics Unlimited has been very valuable.  Last spring we did Infinity Wars for the month of May and it was a very interesting month, discussing various superheroes, right down to their origins.  I got a lot from the experience as well as learning something new. 

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Osamu Tezuka

The creator of Astro Boy and one of my earliest exposures to the science fiction genre (it probably had something to do with my enduring devotion to stories about robots as well!).  I have fond memories of watching the show when I was a kid, and I had goosebumps when the first episode was showed to the new manga and anime group (Mangamaniacs!) at work. 

Tezuka's work was mentioned often in my course about Japanese sub-cultures and he is considered the godfather of manga and anime.  It's true that his work has inspired many artists in Japan today (including one of my favourites Akira Toriyama!).  What is fascinating to me is the scope of his work.  Not only did he create unforgettable characters for children but he also wrote for adults too.  I think back to my course and the professor's comments about the fact that there is an immaturity contributed to Japanese people today; possibly because there is such a huge industry of manga and anime.    I disagree.  I think that in the past twenty years graphica and animation have progressed so much in quantity and quality, that it is indeed something that should not be attributed just to the popularity of a younger generation.  I have read, over the past eighteen months, story lines that would never be suitable for a child to read.   Grownups need their comics too!  This is something that deserves further research, as I feel that I have a minute idea of what Japan and it's people are all about.

Back to Tezuka.  I have as yet read only eight or so of his stories, and I am impressed with his talent for illustration and his ability to shape a story that is engaging and unique.  Last year I challenged myself to read a volume of manga each day (365!), with the intent of reading all of my library's collection, so I had to drop reading Tezuka's works for a while.  Trying to read the library's collection was a challenge too because I also had commitments to what my online manga club wanted to read,  and after starting a new club at work there where different choices in this group as well.  As yet, I still have at least a third of the collection to go.  But I want to go back and read the rest of Tezuka's collection soon.  Though if you glance at the picture I posted above, you can see just how immense a task that will be. 

I loved how sometimes Tezuka would insert himself into the narrative of the story, it created a personal connection to him which I think endured him to his audience. 

I adore him for his imagination!  It touched more people than he could possibly have ever known. 
When Mangamaniacs began a year ago, Astro boy was the first story we looked at.  I will, from time to time bring him back into rotation in our club, because I think it's important to see the origins and the inspiration for what was to follow, in both manga and anime.  Of course there is lots more to talk about when it comes to the vanguard of manga and anime, and I look forward to doing that!

Friday, March 8, 2019


Number two on the list 100 Must Read YA Books In Verse.
This was an evocative read.  I made an instant connection, naturally, because my mother attempted suicide when I was a teenager.  So I  know about after.  
Anna Gonzales takes her own life and the next day, starting with the principal, you can read their reactions.  A lot of facets are introduced here, from the points of view of different students and staff.  Not all of it is about Anna, which is perfectly normal.  After reading a few poems I reflected on my own experiences.  It's all about connections.  A book can mean more to you if you are able to make personal connections, and it doesn't even have to be about the central topic.
This is an important book and I strongly recommend it.  If you can't find this at your library you can find it  here at Open Library