Monday, 24 December 2012

The Winner Is... & Readalong Details

Hello one and all!  Before the Christmas festivities get under way, I just thought I'd round up a few bits and pieces about January in Japan (which is only a week or so away!).

Firstly, I'd like to give you details of a readalong for anyone who is interested.  Hiromi Kawakami's The Briefcase is the only Japanese title on the longlist of this year's Man Asian Literary Prize, and after consulting the eminent bloggers on the Shadow Panel, I thought it would be nice to use it for a group read :)  There won't be any questions or anything like that - there'll just be a few reviews on the 31st of January to wrap up the month.

If you'd like to join us, it's very simple.  You can leave a comment below, or simply post your review on the day and leave your link on the Book Reviews tab at the top of the screen.  Hope you can join us!

Secondly, I'm still looking for anyone wanting to contribute to my J-Lit Giants series.  If you have a favourite Japanese writer, and you'd like to submit a brief bio and a few recommendations, I'd be happy to add your offering to the list.  Please help: otherwise I'll have to write them all myself :(

Thirdly (and perhaps most importantly), it's time to announce the winner of my giveaway.  Thanks to all who entered, but the winner of The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories is JoV of JoV's Book Pyramid!  Congratulations Jo - the book will be on its way to you very soon :)

Finally, have a great holidays, and remember to check out all the January in Japan action next year.  How?  Well, you can:
  • Follow this blog so you don't miss any news or reviews
  • Post your reviews on the Book Reviews page
  • Use (and follow) the #januaryinjapan hashtag on Twitter
All good?  Let's make the first month of the new year a great one :)

Sunday, 16 December 2012

It's Giveaway Time!

When I announced my intention to host January in Japan, I hinted that there might be some giveaways, and while I haven't been lucky enough to source any publisher freebies, I'm more than happy to provide a prize or two out of my own pocket :)

The question though is what to choose out of all the excellent Japanese books I've read over the past few years.  There are a lot of books I've enjoyed, and would like others to enjoy, but there is one I've recommended several times and will undoubtedly do so again in the future...

...and it is, of course, The Oxford Book of Japanese Short Stories :)

I reviewed this collection a few years back, and its a book I've dipped into several times since then.  It's probably the best starter anthology for J-Lit around, with a wide variety of classic and modern writers - not too old and not too heavy either ;)

So, on to the giveaway!  I will be giving away a copy of the book shown above - if you want to enter, simply:

  - comment on this post.
  - write the word 'please' somewhere in your comment; manners are important :)
  - a contact e-mail would be nice, but I will endeavour to track down the winner!
  - commenting on my review is welcome but not obligatory ;)

This competition is open to all, but please note that I will be using The Book Depository to send this prize, so it is limited to people living in countries where The Book Depository has free delivery.  Entries will close at midnight (Melbourne time) on Saturday, the 22nd of December, 2012, and I'll be announcing the winner shortly after.

Apologies to those who already have this one - I'll try to fit in another giveaway during the event itself.  To everyone who intends to enter - good luck :)

Sunday, 9 December 2012

J-Lit Giants: 2 - Yukio Mishima

I'm back again with another in my J-Lit Giants series, in which I (and, hopefully, a few guests) introduce a famous Japanese writer and recommend a few books to get you started.  Today, we'll be looking at a writer who made the headlines for more than just his literary legacy...

Yukio Mishima (real name Kimitake Hiraoka) was a prolific writer who came to a rather untimely end.  He began writing during his high-school days (even though his father was against his literary pursuits), and he had one of his stories published in a famous literary magazine.  His career began in earnest after World War Two, and he went on to write a host of famous novels, including the four-part Sea of Fertility quadrilogy.

Mishima was very different to your average writer.  He was an actor and a model, appearing in films and photo campaigns, and he also had a keen interest in weight-training and body-building (something your average writer is not exactly known for!).  He also had a keen sense of tradition and responsibility - something which was to have an impact later on in his life...

In November 1970, Mishima and a group of his followers attempted to start a coup against the Emperor.  After his half-hearted attempt was laughed down, he calmly went inside and committed seppuku - ritual suicide.  One of the most famous writers in the world attempted to disembowel himself with a sword before being beheaded by a helper.  Imagine the headlines today...

One reason for his decision may have been the fact that Yasunari Kawabata was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968, meaning that Mishima was unlikely to ever win the award, despite having been a favourite to win it several times.  Whether this was the reason or not, it was a sad end for a great writer.

Mishima is probably not the most accessible of Japanese writers.  Some of his best works are dense and can be hard going for newcomers to his work.  However, they're not all quite so difficult to get into.  My three to try would be:

1) Spring Snow - This is a late-career novel, the first in his famous Sea of Fertility series, but it's a wonderful love story and a novel which is easy to get lost in.

2) After the Banquet - The story of a high-class restaurant owner's marriage to a dour politician is a novel about opposites attracting, but failing to go the distance.  Again, it displays a much lighter touch than some of Mishima's works.

3) The Sailor who Fell from Grace with the Sea - This is a short work, more of a novella than a novel, but it is a powerful one.  A sailor's relationship with a single mother is threatened by the woman's son - a boy with some very disturbing tendencies.  This may not be one for those with faint hearts and weak stomachs...

So there you have it - another great writer with lots of books to explore :)  As always, let us know about your experiences with today's giant, be they happy or depressing ones.  Our comments box is always open ;)