I have to do this now because library books are due, and it got cold and snowed and the heat came on, so I can't keep piling these suckers up on the radiator.Non-fiction:
Tyler, Royall, ed.: Japanese Tales
(this is an anthology of medieval Japanese stories--not folk lore, but rather stories written by upper-class members of the imperial court. I started reading this sucker back when I worked at the bookstore, some three years ago. It's a slow read, although an interesting and worthwhile read for people who are a) interested in Japanese history and culture, b) folklore and fairy tales, or c) Shinto and Buddhism. I'd heard for years about how Shinto and Buddhism harmoniously co-exist in Japan, but until I read this book, I never fully understood how that worked--I'd imagined peaceful mutual tolerance, but it's really more like a deep blending. You read about things like travelers going down some dangerous, haunted path, running into danger in the form of a powerful kami, and praying to a Buddhist figure. The menacing kami, however, sees that the traveler is a devout Buddhist, and, being a devout Buddhist his/her/itself, spares the traveler. It's a little bit like the way that various kinds of Western supernatural lore--vampire and werewolf myths--intermingle with Catholic imagery and Catholic beliefs--holy water, crosses, prayers, consecrated ground and whatnot).Mystery:
Matsumoto Seicho: The Voice: Short stories by Japan's leading mystery writer
(In some other decade, I guess. It took me a few stories to adjust to the fact that in every story, the twist was signaled in about the first quarter of the story, and the rest of the story would be dedicated to following events to some logical end. I kept wanting some second twist closer to the end of a story, and it kept not happening).
Stout, Rex: Too Many Cooks
(Um, yeah, as snarp
said, for a white guy writing in 1938, he didn't do too bad. And the story is Stout's usual strong stuff. But if the n-word or any of several other racial or ethnic slurs are dealbreakers for you, I would not read this.
I think Stout's racist like he is sexist--his is the worldview of an intelligent, thoughtful, sophisticated, creative, permissive and rather generous personality who is not, like, spectacularly
socially enlightened for his era--I think he fits into his zeitgeist; he doesn't push the boundaries of his world. As a white chick who like snappy writing and vintage mystery, I find it easy and worthwhile to forgive him, but he does sometimes write things that need forgiving).YA fiction:
Gaiman, Neil: The Graveyard Book
(I try to avoid Gaiman's prose books, because I don't enjoy them, but this was pressed on me by someone who knows my taste, and knows I adore Kipling. And, well, I finished it, which for me is pretty good when it comes to a Gaiman prose work, but I wish I hadn't known that it was a riff on Kipling's The Jungle Book
before I read it, because then I would have been pleasantly surprised, instead of disappointed that it wasn't more like it. I love Kipling something ungodly fierce, and although Kim
edges ahead by a hair as one of the most beautiful, loving, dream-like tributes to a real lost homeland I've ever read (the racial politics are actually really interesting, and not just massively depressing like, say, Heart of Darkness
), The Jungle Book
is nearly my favorite Kipling work. Gaiman's social politics are certainly easier to navigate than Kipling's (I mean, he did actually mean well, and he loved, loved, loved India, but boy was he racist), but if I was going to put them up next to each other, that's the only place where Gaiman would win for me.
Okay, will someone please tell Gaiman, for the love of god, that giving characters names like "Shadow" and "Door" and "Nobody" is fine when you're writing for comics--although it's still godawful cutesy--and the name is not the main signifier, but that when you're writing straight prose work, giving characters hideously unsubtle names like that is like slamming the readers in the head with a giant fucking brick over and over and over every single page? And to please stop it. Stop stop stop.
Alternatively, if people would stop trying to make me read Gaiman's prose work, he could continue to write books about people with BLINDINGLY OBVIOUS SYMBOLIC NAMES and using other textual tricks that so
work better in a visual medium than in prose, and people who like that kind of thing could enjoy them, and I could ignore them in peace).Graphic novels/comics:
Beaton, Kate: Never Learn Anything From History
(the only complaint whatsoever I have about this fabulous collection of Beaton's comics is that I had read them all recently enough to be able to remember them pretty well).
Hinds, Gareth: Beowulf
Akino Matsuri: Petshop of Horrors: Tokyo
Asano Inio: What a Wonderful World!
(okay, I remember these. I was so thrown, because I was sure I'd read some of these stories before when I heard they were licensed, but I started with volume 2 and didn't recognize any of them.
If you like Asano, you'll probably enjoy these. If you don't, you probably won't).
Azuma Kiyihiko: Yotsuba
(the translation in this volume felt weirdly stiff--it's all still funny, and god knows, the art is expressive enough, but I know this could be better. Not the work, but the translation. Bummer. I never thought I'd say this, but I'm sorry ADV isn't publishing this anymore, because they were doing it better than Yen Press).
Tanaka Masashi: Gon
Urasawa Naoki: 20th Century Boys
Urasawa Naoki: Pluto
Yasuko Aoike: From Eroica With Love
Yazawa Ai: Nana
My love for Nana K. continues to grow in a way I never envisioned when I picked up volume 1 of this book, lo those three or four years ago. There is something profoundly satisfying about watching a callow youth mature into real adulthood, and I think Nana K. has experienced more genuine positive growth as a person than any other character in this entire series. Some of her decisions are kind of anxiety-inducing, but they're decisions she made thoughtfully and even selflessly, and she follows though on them in a steady way that's kind of unimaginable for the person she used to be).