The Crazed by Ha Jin is told from the point of view of the student, Jian, who is under the guidance of Mr. Yang. But the novel starts with Mr Yang having suffered from a stroke and in the hospital in 1989.
WARNING: Spoilers Ahead!
Mr. Yang’s crazy outbursts while in hospital give a glimpse into his relationship with his student, Jian, as well as his past: affairs, his ill treatment under the Mao regime, his unconscious desire to have been a well respected official along with being a scholar among other things.
What is so interesting about The Crazed are the several literary references that pepper the novel, particularly Mr Yang’s lectures even in that delirious state about random literary subjects such as why Western poets use a persona to speak in their poems whereas the Chinese poets speak as themselves in the poems or his references to poets such as Goethe, Dante and several Tang poets like Tu Fu or Li Po.
It was astonishing how in that state he goes from “a political parrot” as Jian calls him, spewing Communist jingles to a lecture spewing professor.
Ito Junji’s horror mangas are well renowned but this famous Cat Diary takes a step away from the usual gory affairs and gives an autobiographical look at how Junji warmed up to two pet cats his fiance got into their lives.
Cat Diary starts with the author moving into a new house in Gifu with his fiance.
And that turns his world upside because his cat loving fiance brings her parents’ cat, Yon, from their house in Chiba.
Yon is a scary cat nicknamed, “the cat with an accursed face”, since it has an eerie print of a skull on its back.
Horror may be his forte, but the accursed face scares the living daylights out of Junji Ito in Cat Diary!
Quite ironical, yeah?
This lovely novella, The Dog Who Dared to Dream, is the second story I came across written by Sun-Mi Hwang. The first one was The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly, which I would highly recommend! Read my review here!
I am sure many hardcore Murakami fans will swear by the magic realism and surreal feel of his novel, Kafka on the Shore.
And it sure has a touch of the bizarre and the other worldly.
Kafka on the Shore starts with a 15 year old boy deciding to runaway from his father to live on his own under the pseudonym, Kafka Tamura. The novel than traces his journey where he meets other characters such as Sakura who is a hair dresser and who he thinks might be his sister. Then he stumbles on a job in the library that he had visited and finds a home there. At the library, he meets Oshima, who is the assistant, and the owner, Miss Saeki, who has her own melancholic back story.
Parallelly, the novel touches upon a curious incident that happened in the Yamanashi Prefecture where a group of children suddenly became unconsciously. It then focuses on one of those students, Mr. Nakata, who after the accident lost the ability to read and write but could mysteriously talk to cats. Consequently, he was the cat finder of his area in Nakano where he stayed.
Talking to cats is just one in the series of bizarre things to pop up in the novel.
With pale pink illustrations, My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Nagata Kabi, gives a sharp look at how one person deals with the demons in her mind that the world creates and painfully overcomes them.
What is the book about?
The opening scene of the manga, My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Nagata Kabi is like a film since it focuses on an unexpected situation that the female protagonist of this manga is in and then she talks about the scene and how she ended up there.
Next page though, we see the ghosts that haunted her in the past ten years that led her to that opening situation: ghosts that we may all face such as not knowing where to go, not having a “something I belong to”, to much more serious ones such as self harm, eating disorders and depression.
The second Blurb Appreciation Reviews presents a review of Boats on Land by Janice Pariat.
About the blurb:
I agree with one thing in the blurb that Boats on Land is imbued with the supernatural and the folkloric. From the first page itself, Janice Pariat gives a glimpse of the Khasi (an ethnic group of the north eastern Indian state of Meghalaya) culture through the concept of ka ktien, which would roughly mean (if I am not mistaken) the power that words have.
Right in the first story itself, we see the power of the ka ktien and throughout the stories we see other rituals such as “the three night long watches kept by the ieng iap briew (household of the dead) when windows and doors stayed open for the spirits of the deceased.”
Pariat has infused elements of the Khasi oral culture, with its many customs, beliefs and superstitions, into the written word and she upholds the former’s power over the latter.
In the Honduran novel, The Ships by the Honduran author, Roberto Quesado, the protagonist, Lopez Guillermo is proud to be working on the pineapple plantation for the Standard Fruit Company despite being a city person. That is because there are not many jobs that pay well in the city.
What he would like to do is write but he is not sure if that too will bring in the money. However, that does not stop him from always thinking about how to write about certain things that are happening around him such as when he visits the town of El Porvenir, he thinks about how to write about that town where one is greeted by headless hands. He is always thinking about how to make his writing interesting and unique even though we do not really see him writing.
I Hear the Sunspot by Yuki Fumino is one of the sweetest and most beautiful story on queer love between two boys who are poles apart.
What is the book about?
The manga, I Hear the Sunspot, is a beautiful blossoming story of how two school boys meet each other and slowly, tentatively, hesitatingly fall for each other. One is Kouhei, quiet and composed, and the other is Sagawa Taichi, who is the exact opposite: loud, boisterous and ready to pick a fight!
Kouhei has a hearing disability which makes his college life difficult as it does not help him socialise easily and in turn leads to him being labelled as being aloof.
Intrigued? Read more!
Guest post by Linda Shaji-Pauline:
Linda Shaji-Pauline, a fellow feminist and a rice lover, who had an affinity for post-colonial literature but now realises that there is much more to read as well. When she’s not at work, her motto is, “will walk for food.” You can often find her walking around all over the city in search of that new restaurant. She is still undecided if she loves music or books more but agrees that together they make the best combination. Together they make her life in finance very tolerable.
I love debuts, and why not? There is a new author / musician / composer / actor whose art is to be explored by their audience.
Dinaw Mengestu’s 2007 book, Children of the Revolution, captured my attention in a second hand book sale for not just being a debut but also for being written by an immigrant writer. Dinaw Mengestu is Ethiopian-American. This was the first book that I was reading that had a connection to Ethiopia. I do not consider it Ethiopian in nature, it is still American.
Written in a first person narrative, the story is that of Sepha Stephanos who left Ethiopia as a refugee simply seeking survival in America. He does not bring along with him the great American dream, he simply wants to be invisible enough to survive. Sepha survives on his meagre income earned by running his simple grocery / general store. It is not the best store in the neighbourhood as he frankly attests.