Strange Weather in Tokyo

From Hiromi Kawakami’s Strange Weather in Tokyo, translated from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell,

He was my Japanese teacher at secondary school. He wasn’t my form teacher, and Japanese didn’t interest me much, so I didn’t really remember him. Since I finished school, I hadn’t seen him for quite a while.

Several years ago, we sat beside each other at a crowded bar near the train station, and after that, our paths would cross every now and then. that night, he was sitting at the counter, his back so straight it was almost concave.

Taking my seat at the counter, I ordered “Tuna with fermented soybeans, fried lotus root, and salted shallots,” while the old man next to me requested “Salted shallots, lotus root fries, and tuna with fermented soybeans” almost simultaneously. when I glanced over, I saw he was staring straight back at me.

This delightful book can be found through the publisher’s website.

On the infinite wisdom of Ursula Le Guin

I’m rereading A Wizard of Earthsea. It’s marvelously wise, and to think that it was one of the earliest of Le Guin’s published novels! I’ve read interviews with Le Guin, where she credits her discovery of feminism with uplifting her career. “A Wizard of Earthsea” predates her feminist work, but there are fun ways of reading it as a proto-feminist narrative, I believe.

Here’s a passage that comes at the end of Ged’s schooling; he’s graduated and became a full-staffed wizard. Now he needs to leave the school, and for that he needs to guess the name of The Master Doorkeeper.

Ged knew a thousand ways and crafts and means for finding out names of things and of men, of course; such craft was a part of everything he had learned at school, for without it there could be little useful magic done. But to find out the name of a Mage and Master was another matter. A mage’s name is better hidden than a herring in the sea, better guarded than a dragon’s den. A prying charm will be met with a stronger charm, subtle devices will fail, devious inquiries will be deviously thwarted, and force will be turned ruinously back upon itself. . . . .

 

After the sun was up Ged went, still fasting, to the door of the House and knocked. The Doorkeeper opened.

“Master,” said Ged, “I cannot take your name from you, not being strong enough, and I cannot trick your name from you, not being wise enough. So I am content to stay here, and learn or serve, whatever you will: unless by chance you will answer a question I have.”

“Ask it.”

“What is your name?”

Buy and read the rest of the book.

Счастьеведение по методу «Хлоп-страны»

Еще одна рецензия на “Хлоп-страну”:

Это естественное любопытство автора, а также постоянное желание проникнуть глубже поверхностного восприятия – в самую сердцевину отношений – помогает Ольге Гренец, казалось бы, самую незначительную ситуацию превратить в историю, имеющую глубину. Рассказ «Любить перемены» появился из короткой переписки дочери, живущей в США, с матерью, которая, выйдя на пенсию, приняла неожиданное решение учить английский язык. Всего несколько вопросов по переводу английских фраз – а для автора это повод поразмышлять об отношениях между родителями и детьми, о сестринском соперничестве, о том, насколько крепкими остаются семейные узы, даже когда жизнь разбрасывает членов одной семьи по всему земному шару.

Продолжение тут.

Death Sentences

I’m loving this blog project that asks readers to document “The last sentence you read before decisively, or agonizingly gradually, abandoning a book.”

The selections are curated–an art project in their own right–and make for some captivating reading. Each sentence opens up a wholly new range of considerations of the myriad decisions that go into abandoning a book.

Clark Coolidge’s Collected Poems

Excited to learn that Clark Coolidge’s new Collected Poems is being published in April. I’m well-connected! Got an email from City Lights, announcing his reading on April 13, and also an email from the publisher, Station Hill Press. Apparently, Publishers Weekly declined to review this book — which is a sure sign of a certain kind of quality. Coolidge’s experiments from 1962 to 1986 still feel experimental!  This book comes with the coolidge-cover-largeintroduction by the late poet Bill Berkson.

I learned of Coolidge’s work several years ago, when asked to review his long poem that came out of trips to Leningrad-Petersburg. That review appeared in HTMLGiant. I’ve been following his work ever since. What appeals to me the most is the sense of play that comes from reading his lines, the attitude toward poetry and language as something to take apart and mold in new ways, as though just to see what will happen. A reading act calls for some kind of an interaction, for a partner to whom I could speak some lines, and who would laugh and nod in response. That’s cool. This falls flat. Read that again.