Reading so far in 2021

A lot of Japanese novels or books in Japanese so far this year. The only non-Japanese novel was a recommendation by a penpal and I loved it.

持たない暮らし is one of those organizing/decluttering books that I read mostly over the break. Sadly have not been able to organize my life yet, nor throw all my things away. And so the journey continues.

Read the second book of “Before the coffee gets cold” by Toshikazu Kawaguchi, and I might have liked this better than the first. Can’t wait for the third one to be translated. I could read it in Japanese of course, but since I started it in English I’d like to continue it in English.

The Great Passage was great as per my post. Circe was amazing, I couldn’t put it down.

お探し物は図書室まで is the newest book by Michiko Aoyama, who wrote 木曜日にはココアを and it was in a similar vein with different stories beng slowly connected together. I loved it. While the former book was set in both Japan and Australia, a very ambitious undertaking, this one was all in Japan, very cozy and near.

I finally finished サキの忘れ物. I love the cover and I love the title story, but the other stories were just…not to my taste. I finished about half of the stories, the other half I left halfway through. I kept putting it down and not picking it back up because I was dreading the stories that didn’t catch my attention, feeling guilty wanting to skip the stories (though I had to in order to get through).

I’m reading (though I keep forgetting that I am) both Sense and Sensibility and Anne Karenina. I also started the second volume of 麦本三歩の好きな物 yesterday.

I don’t have any specific reading plans nor goals, I like browsing the bookstores and have the books come to me. And recommendations from friends and penpals and whoever is around is also good, gets me out of my comfort reading zone.

How is everyone’s reading coming along so far this year? Any plans/goals?

麦本三歩の好きなもの, a series??

Have I talked about this book before? I feel like I should have, seeing as I loved it. But I did read it a long time before even starting this blog so I might have forgotten to write about it.

It’s “Sanpo Mugimoto’s favorite things” or “The things Sanpo Mugimoto likes” or something in that vein. About Sanpo, a librarian in her twenties, and her every day life. Every chapter is about something she likes, for example; “Sanpo Mugimoto likes walking”, “Sanpo Mugimoto likes libraries”, “Sanpo Mugimoto likes today”, etc.

It’s a very cozy book, slow paced, every day life, (aka easy vocabulary) just what I like.

So today I dragged Teddy out of the house and to the bookstore/starbucks. I just finished Michiko Aoyama’s 「お探し物は図書室まで」this morning (a post will come later), and so I felt like I could allow myself to look at and even buy a new book having finished reading one.

On the new books’ shelf I saw 麦本三歩の好きなもの, it had a different cover, but I didn’t think that would justify calling it new. But, when I looked closely I saw “第二集” (vol.2)!

It has around 100 more pages and I am very excited. Of course I had to have it right away. I love how they have kept the same style both with cover and the inside in both, both yellow as well. Yellow just kind of gets you excited doesn’t it? Such a happy colour, perfect for the coming season.

It has chapters like “Sanpo Mugimoto likes sleeping”, “Sanpo Mugimoto likes pudding hair” (what プリンヘア is I do not know but I hope to find out by reading), “Sanpo Mugimoto likes girls”, “Sanpo Mugimoto likes corners”, etc.

So if you like slow everyday life kind of novels this is for you, funny, charming, relaxing.

I want to work in a library.

Spring is in the air, and on the trees

The plum blossoms are blossoming and the weather is going from winter chill to warm and breezy (and back again to the chill). It is spring.

This year I started a new job, though similar with the old one it is just different enough to not have me dread going to work. (Last year was rough)

I am keeping busy and the house and balcony is slowly filling up with flowers as well. I was walking down the main street on my day off last week and was drawn to the flower shop, and left with a little bouquet. I’m trying to propogate my pothos but it’s going slow and I might not be doing it right.

I am still writing a ton of letters, and I recently started, not collecting but, getting my own stamps so that even the postage is cute. I do feel the tendency to hoard them and not use them for what they are intended but I try to keep it in check.

Also thanks to my lovely penpals, my list of books-to-read, outside of my usual sphere of Japanese lit, is growing. I am halfway through Aoyama’s お探し物は図書室まで and loving it, and I started Circe by Madeline Miller and will be reading the poetry of Elizabeth Bishop, both recommended by penpals.

We got a tree for Darjeeling and she likes it, but finds it difficult to get down from the fourth step so we’re considering getting a second more climbable tree on the side

This week we had a national holiday so both me and Teddy had work off. We decided to drive up north to Miyagi prefecture to see the fox village! We were also lucky enough to be there just in time to experience the foxes up close; by holding one🦊

The foxes in the park are wild so to not get bitten we couldn’t touch them, though I really wanted to, they looked so cozy! And after holding one I stand by it, Momo (the fox I got to hold) was so warm and fluffy and a lot bigger than I had expected. Maybe Darjeeling could become this size one day, I certainly wouldn’t object.

I would like to get back into studying this year, the textbooks on my shelf haunt me, but we’ll see. If only one could learn enough through just reading novels to pass N1 I would be so happy but alas. As they said in If cats disappeared from the world by Genki Kawamura; 「何かを得るためには、何かを失わなけれならない」(I think that’s the quote, it’s been years since I read it) meaning something like “no pain no gain”.

I still go to my piano lessons, though it doesn’t feel like I am improving much. But they’re only for fun anyway so. I’m currently practicing backnumber’s Happy End.

As I settle more into the new routine of daily life, I predict more tea and more books. And more walks. And more baking. I recently made chocolate chip cookies for the first time and they were addictive.

Just a little update before I head off to work. I would like to blog more but I don’t really know what to blog about. Maybe I’ll have a clearer vision in the future.

Until next time~

The Great Passage by Shion Miura 三浦しをんの「舟を編む」

This book has been on my shelf for a while, but before we go further I want to put in a disclaimer; I haven’t read it in Japanese yet. I chickened out and read it in English (it has been translated!!)

I was at the bookstore here the other day looking at, well, books. I found two books that I liked:

I ended up buying the お探し物は図書室まで as it is by Michiko Aoyama who wrote 木曜日にはココアを which I loved.

I felt like I had seen Shion Miura somewhere but it didn’t register yet. As I was googling her I came over ‘The Great Passage’ and then it came to me; she wrote 舟を編む!

I watched the anime back when I was in university and loved it, but knowing how much technical terms would be in the book was what initially held me off, so finding that it has been translated was a godsend.

I stayed up till 1am yesterday finishing it, it’s that good. I couldn’t put it down. I love it. I also feel like I need to buy more dictionaries.

It’s about dictionaries and words and life and love and friendship and everything you could possibly want, and it is definitely a recommendation from me.

Maybe I’ll tackle it in Japanese one day now that I have it in English as well. We’ll see.

Anna Karenina is finally in my hands

I first read Anna Karenina many many years ago on a girls trip to a beach on a Spanish isle. We ate breakfast, went to the beach, alternated between cooling off in the water and my friend tanning while I hid under a parasol reading. Then we went back to our hotel, had an afternoon nap, or siesta, and then went out in search of dinner. So went 7 days and on the flight back I finished Anna Karenina, which now had an incredible amount of sand between her pages. It had only been about £1 at a charity shop so I wasn’t too bothered.

A couple of months ago I got the urge to reread it and decided to get a nice copy for my growing library (as my beach copy is back home in Norway), and so I ordered this one:

I thought it looked very nice and simplistic and I liked the colour choices.

After about a month my copy arrived but, it was awful.

Pages bent and ripped, about 30 of them. If I smoothed them out is the story readable? Yes. Does ripped pages spark joy? No. Seeing a book in this state rips my heart.

So I emailed the seller with pictures and got a refund. I could have ordered a new copy of the same edition, but I didn’t feel like taking the chance, so I went back to my old buddy; the Barnes and Noble leatherbounds.

And today she arrived!

(No blog post is complete without Darjeeling)
Creamy white leather and gilded edges *swoons*

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a reader in possession of good books, must be in want of a bookshelf. It seems I need a bigger bookshelf.

木曜日にはココアを by 青山美智子 

As I said in my previous post, I loved the first of the 12 stories and was relieved to find that they were not complete stand-alones.

The beauty of these stories are how they are stories in their own right, but they are also part of a bigger story.

Reading this book felt like a puzzle (and I love puzzles). At first you have a heap of pieces, that you connect together piece by piece until you have a complete picture. Every piece, while small and seemingly insignificant by itself, are connected to each other in some way and you wouldn’t get the full picture without them. And the feeling when you put in that final piece, having it all come together to form something greater, seeing how that one piece connected to this other piece, that feeling is so precious.

We have a cafe owner, a waiter, a girl writing letters in English, a mom that can’t make an omelet, a kindergarten teacher who forgot to take off her nailpolish, a lingerie designer, an old married couple, a newly married couple, a former banker, a witch, an artist, a translator, a sick girl.

We are in Tokyo, and we are in Sydney.

I sped through this novel faster than I have ever read a Japanese novel before. And yet I felt dissatisfied. I felt annoyance towards my eyeballs that they could not move faster. I started following the text with my finger in an attempt to increase my reading speed. I had a need to race through and find the connecting pieces.

And it was beautiful. I laughed. I cried. I was moved. I felt inspired.

I want to have everyone read this book. I want to talk about it, but I do not wish to spoil.

I have decided to try my hand at translating, at least the first chapter. Not that I am a great translator or anything, but it will be both good practice for me and count as studying which I have sorely neglected to do this year.

I do hope for a professional translation of this to come out one day, maybe there is somewhere one can send in requests for works to be considered for translation? If so, do tell me, I have a list of books that I’d like to see translated.

A little update (reading, letter writing, Darjeeling)

I was just at a cafe (finally) reading the 木曜日にはココアを and I am loving it. I thought the little short stories would be stand alones, which would be sad as I loved the first story, but starting the second one it seems to still be at the same place but from another character’s point of view which is a relief.

While the name should’ve made me order hot chocolate, I got some pure darjeeling milk tea instead

What I am loving about the first story is the girl the protagonist is talking about, she comes in every Thursday at the same time, orders hot chocolate regardless of the weather, and then reads and writes a letter in English. The narrator is amused that she would be sending letters in this day and age, but also impressed that she can use English, and we follow his thoughts surrounding this girl and his one-sided crush on her.

Why am I loving this? Because at the start of this month I signed up for penpalooza, a penpal project started by Rachel Syme on twitter and I have been writing and sending so many letters (have yet to get a reply but that’s the charm of snailmail). I have always loved letters, reading them, writing them, but in this day and age I haven’t had anyone to write to. Everyone I know can be reached online so writing a letter seems redundant. But I find it very exciting to write letters to people I don’t know yet. But that maybe I will after some letters back and forth.

I can’t believe it’s already November and I haven’t finished half of my tsundoku pile for this autumn, I even bought yet another book here the other day when I was killing some time at the bookstore.

I am little by little decluttering and starting on the 大掃除 (spring cleaning but for new years, a Japanese tradition) that needs to take place before this year ends. I want to get rid of anything that I don’t want to bring into the new year. As it stands now, I will be starting a new job in January, and so it is a great opportunity to declutter my home (and life) to fit with this change.

My blogging will be as it is now, here and there. I’m hoping to get a lot of reading done over Christmas break, maybe even get started on Little Women, it is still taunting me from my bookshelf.

I had a beautiful time with Darjeeling earlier today, she settled on my lap as I was having a little break in my armchair, and wanted cuddles for almost half an hour before she decided to fall asleep, still on my lap. This warmed my cat mom heart so much I almost wanted to cry, I was so happy.

Getting out of a black hole

The black hole that was my warderobe. Up until the beginning of this year I would wear black 9 times out of 10. It would be the colour I gravitated towards in the stores. The safe colour.

I had a period during middle and high school where I would only wear colored clothes, so screamingly bright that it would hurt your eyes. But as I got older I thought about dressing more adult, and so black became a staple.

Since I met Teddy he would often ask “why are you always wearing black? I think lighter colours would look a lot better on you!” but in the beginning I would just brush it off. Black is safe, I can hide the parts I don’t like about myself in black clothes.

But after a while I thought, maybe I can wear some lighter colours? Or just any colour other than black?

And so this year I started little by little adding new colours into my warderobe. A white t-shirt, a beige pair of pants, a light blue summer dress.

While my warderobe is a lot lighter now, that is not to say I don’t have any black pieces of course. I have a black dress, a black sweater, black tights, a blacl cardigan, a black t-shirt, and a black pair of jeans. But black is no longer the main colour in my warderobe.

After starting to add lighter pieces, I have noticed I enjoy dressing a lot more. Putting together an outfit, feeling good going outside. I am not fashionable by any means, but I am enjoying fashion a great deal more.

I am slowly building a warderobe of clothes I like, finding my style. I am reading many different books on the subject, about fashion, lifestyle, etc., and they are helping me piece together that which is me.

Wandering through translated fiction

I love translated fiction, translated books, translated works. I didn’t know how much I love it until the day I found myself in the middle of reading three translated works, all translated from their respective languages into a different language. I could have read them all in their original language but somehow found myself reading them in translation.

The books were namely:

  • The Makioka Sisters (translated from Japanese to English)
  • Stolthet og Fordom (Pride and Prejudice, translated from English to Norwegian)
  • フランス人は10着しか服を持たない (Lessons from Madame Chic, translated from English to Japanese)

I have gone full circle.

Growing up I read a lot of translated fiction, even my favorite children’s book was translated from Dutch (I didn’t know that at the time though).

I think a lot of people read translated fiction without realizing it. I was certainly not actively thinking about it as I was reading before. When I first started reading Gabaldon’s Outlander series at 15, it was in Norwegian. Was it because I wanted to read translated fiction? Not really, all I wanted was a story and I had yet to delve into reading novels in English.

When I started reading English novels, I read many novels by Spanish, Chinese, Japanese authors, and maybe even many other nationalities, but as a non-native English speaker, I didn’t think too deeply on the translated aspect, I was more focused on how much bigger the selection of novels were in English compared to Norwegian. As English is a much more global language than Norwegian, it is natural that the amount of novels and translations of foreign novels is greater, and so the amount of insights into other worlds, other cultures you can get your hands on is greater. The world is at your fingertips.

This is almost turning into an ad for learning English, which wasn’t my purpose but for people’s whose first language is not English I do think your life will become enriched if you take your language studies seriously.

Anyways, I love how stories from cultures and places I have never even heard about becomes available to me through the art of translation. I have walked through the streets of New York while lying in my garden in Norway. Mingled with the Russian nobility while sunbathing on a Spanish island. Through my reading I have journeyed across the globe, from the plains of Tibet, to the docks in Spain, to the Scottish highlands, to the countryside in Japan, and to the deserts of Australia. I am a literary pilgrim.

(Which is also where peregrinja is from, from the Spanish peregriña, the female version of peregriño meaning pilgrim, and in Norwegian we write the ñ sound as nj so that’s just a little story on how I made my name as I am both a wanderer through literature and also a migrant having moved to several places and countries for things such as education and employment (whether the current location is permanent or not I have yet to decide))

If I had only read Norwegian novels by Norwegian authors in Norwegian, I wouldn’t be where I am now. I can’t imagine where I would be, what I would be doing. My love of languages has shaped so many of my choices. Because I liked English I decided to do the international baccalaureate diplomma programme instead of normal Norwegian high school. Because I read Haruki Murakami’s novels and I now had an international high school diploma, I decided to study Japanese at a university in the UK. And because of that I moved to Japan, where I am now.

Translated fiction is the cheapest and safest journey you can go on. Studying a language and reading fiction that hasn’t yet been translated is the second best.

Who else loves translated fiction? Let’s talk. 話しましょう。Hablemos.

Book buying blunder and can you skip short stories?

Long time no post. I either feel the need to write three times a day or once every three months.

Today a copy of Kawakami’s People From My Neighbourhood arrived in my mailbox, a book I had forgotten I had ordered in September. The delivery date had apparently been by October the 13th, but as I had completely forgotten about it, I bought it as an ebook on the 15th and finished reading it yesterday.

I didn’t love it. I think it was good and an entertaining read, but not on the level of Strange Weather in Tokyo or The Nakano Thriftshop in my opinion.

At first I thought it would be many weird little stories that weren’t particularily connected to each other but as I read on I found out that they were. They were all little snippets of a frankly absurd neighbourhood (absurd in a good way) and the same characters kept popping up here and there. Incredibly short with only 89 pages in the kindle edition (121 in paper edition) and at the same price as a full-length novel, which is a bit… absurd (to me). Then again, I did purchase it twice, thanks to my non-existent memory.

I am still reading 先の忘れ物, another short-story collection but without the connection between the stories as with Kawakami’s. I loved the title story. I wish it would have been a novel by itself. The second story was okay. The third story is where I have a problem. I didn’t enjoy it so I skipped halfway through and went on to the next story.

So my problem is; can you skip some stories in a short-story collection and still say you read the book?

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