Friday, June 19, 2015

Friday Reads: June 20, 2015

I've seen lots of these posts on BookTube and blogs outlining that the blogger/vlogger is going to be reading over the weekend.  Since a large swath of my reading happens over the weekend, I thought I might as well catch my readers up on what I'm planning to read and what my reading conditions are looking like for the next few days.  I'll try to do these posts as often as I can remember and will maintain the format of this post.

Without further ado . . . 

What I am Hoping to Read This Weekend

Sometime over the next three days, I want to complete the second book of Murakami's The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which is part of my Japanese June and 20 Books of Summer TBRs.  If I can complete book two by Sunday evening, I should be on track to finish the book by the end of the month.  I also want to complete Love is Colder than Death by Katz [out of print] (from 20 Books of Summer) since I only have a couple of chapters left to read.  If I have time over the weekend, I would also like to finish reading a chapter for a Psychology class I am taking this summer, but this is a low priority for the weekend.  

My Reading Situation

I have a lot of writing to do this weekend for a project that I am involved with and I may not have a lot of extra time to read outside of bed time and when I am relaxing in the bath.  If I go to the pool this weekend (it is foretasted to be REALLY hot in California this weekend), then I might get more reading done while lounging in the sun.  


Realistically, I think I may be able to complete the Katz book and maybe a few chapters of Murakami.  My reading is dependent on how much writing I am able to get done over the next couple of days.

I'll update you in my next Friday Reads on how my goals for this weekend went.  Let me know what you are going to tuck into this weekend in the comments or on GoodReads.
Friday, June 12, 2015

20 Books of Summer

Tuesday will be my first, official day of summer vacation: seventy one days where I don't have to wake up before the crack of dawn or wear real pants.  This year, from June 16 to August 26 I will be reading twenty books-- some to prepare for the new school year, some for fun, some to finally cross off of my TBR-- and will be charting my progress here on TLD.  

Here are my tenative reads:

  1. N.P. by Banana Yoshimoto [Japanese June TBR] Completed in June
  2. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami [Japanese June TBR]
  3. Girl in a Band by Kim Gordon [Complete]
  4. Love is Colder Than Death by Robert Katz [Complete] [swapped] Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
  5. The Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro [Complete] Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami [swapped]
  6. Brave Genius by Sean B. Carroll [Complete]
  7. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote [Reading for Work]
  8. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neal Hurston [Reading for Work]
  9. The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
  10. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
  11. A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara Lulu in Hollywood by Louise Brooks [swapped]
  12. The Last Four Days of Paddy Buckley by Jeremy Massey
  13. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman If On a Winter's Night a Travler by Italo Calvino [swapped]
  14. The Babysitters Club: Mary Ann Saves the Day [Graphic Novel] by Ann M. Martin and Raina Telgemeier
  15. Drama by Raina Telgemeier
  16. Americanah by Chimamanda Nagozi Adichie To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  17. The Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami
  18. Sisters by Raina Telgemeier
  19. Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami
  20. Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami 
I may change some of the books on this list depending on my mood or my ability to recheck them out at the library. 

What's on your summer TBR?  Let me know in the comments.
Thursday, June 11, 2015

Japanese June Review: Summer Blonde by Adrian Tomine

Summer Blonde by Adrian Tomine 2/5
[2003; Drawn and Quarterly, $16.95]

I am not sure why I do this to myself.  

I have an ugly habit of reading multiple books from authors who I initially disliked. Rarely are my first impressions of an author wrong; if I hated one of their books, I am almost certain to hate the others.  In retrospect, I think this has a lot to do with studying literature in college, where you have little control over your reading material and, when you encounter a book you hate, you have to lump it.  

Maybe this is why I picked up Summer Blonde, another graphic novel by Adrian Tomine, whose Shortcomings I loathed in May.  The book is actually a compilations of four Carver-esque graphic stories from Tomine's Optic Nerve comic book series.  In each story, social stunted people seek out interpersonal connections in all the wrong places.  When their attempts at social normalcy end in failure, the characters becomes a spectacle of misery.  On paper, this plot structure doesn't sound terrible, but in practice it is infuriating. 

As readers, we are meant to empathize with the series' hapless (and hopeless) characters, seeing reflections of ourselves or those we know in the panels.  Unlike Carver, who had a knack for making obtuse individuals emblematic of the universal feelings of loneliness, isolation, or crushing ordinariness, Tomine manages to make the ubiquitious niche. Each story is lousy with a cringingly overwrought "Bay Area-ness" in the most pejorative of senses.

Furthermore, Tomine's depiction of women leaves much to be desired.  Even in "Hawaiian Getaway," the central character is a pathetic, lazy, young woman whose life is lived in reaction to men: her roommate, her DJ hookup, a one night stand, and even William Shatner (who manages to get her fired).  As in Shortcomings, Tomine's female characters are variations on the manic pixie dreamgirl trope: sexy but messed-up, quirky but unobtainable, depressed but desirable-- all constructions of a maladjusted male gaze.  

Tomine, despite his best efforts, it’s not Raymond Carver.  His character’s foibles are not relatable, they are off-putting.  The experience of reading Tomine is akin to watching a Todd Solondz film: you feel as though you should like it, but find yourself too uncomfortable and off-put to enjoy the experience.  Let me rephrase this: if you loved Welcome to the Dollhouse, by all means read Summer Blonde; if, like myself, that film made you feel icky, give it a miss.  

Monday, June 8, 2015

Japanese June

For those of us who engage in the online bookish c0mmunity, this month is "Japanese June," a month-long event where participants read works by Japanese authors and authors of Japanese decent.  The International Reads Bookclub on GoodReads is hosting the event and particpants can post their TBRs and share their progress on the club's message boards.

There are three challenges for this event:
  1. Read a book by Haruki Murakami;
  2. Read a book by a female author; and
  3. Read a graphic novel
Anything else you read above and beyond these three challenges is gravey . . . as long as it is Japanese!

For my own part, I have developed a conservative TBR for the event given my terrible track record with TBRs.  By the end of the month, I hope to read three books corresponding the the three challenges:
  1. Haruki Murakami: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle [I started this back and April and need to finish it as soon as possible]
  2. Female Author: N.P. by Banana Yoshimoto [I loved Kitchen as a teen and as an adult; I am hopeful that Yoshimoto's winning stream will continue with this novel]
  3. Graphic Novel: Summer Blonde by Adrian Tomine [I disliked Shortcomings, another Tomine graphic novel.  However, I am going to give the author another chance, if only for this event.]
To participate in the event, you need only join the International Reads Bookclub and announce your intention.  If you are participating, please feel free to leave your book suggestions in the comments.

Friday, June 5, 2015

May 2015, "The Month That Wasn't," Wrap Up

May was a complete wash for me.  I only managed to complete one of the books on my May TBR and I didn't get nearly as much accomplished professionally or personally as I had hoped.  

Just as in April I was sick the entire month with an illness I am relatively certain is the hell spawn of Ebola and hay fever.  All of my grand reading plans, all of my grand blogging plans were dashed on the rocks.  

Even between coughing jags, sleepless nights, and horrifically bloody sinuses, I managed to complete four books, three of which were graphic novels.  

The first book I finished in May was What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami, a book that I had started reading in April.  Though I am not a runner myself, I enjoyed reading about Murakami's musing on getting older, goal setting, and routine.  Since I am getting older myself, these reflections on the hobbies and practices that keep older folk centered and give them purpose are particularly meaningful to me.  

On the Good Reads scale, I gave this one 4/5 stars.  I am sure the book isn't to everyone's taste, but I did find it to be a comforting, engaging read.  That being said, I still prefer Murakami's fiction.  

Next I read Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, and Me by Ellen Forney, a graphic memoir in which the cartoonist discusses her struggle to manage her bipolar disorder and her own research into the link between mental illness and art.  What makes this memoir so interesting to me, as someone with mental illness, is that Forney doesn't glamourize or nobalize her mental illness; rather, Forney truthfully addresses the importance and challenges of treatment and the ultimate fallout from not managing your condition. 

I gave this book 4/5 stars for its honesty; humor; and for its engaging, organic pen and ink panels.  

Next I read Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine, #9-11 in the Optic Nerve comic book series.  The comics follow Ben Tanaka, a Japanese-American man who manages a movie theater in the Bay Area whose fantasies about young, Caucasian women drive a wedge between Ben and his girlfriend.  When his girlfriend accepts an internship in New York, Ben finds himself drawn to a series of white women while seemingly still attached to his girlfriend.  The graphic novel is an interesting look at the complications of modern love and racial identity/ idealization. 

I gave the comic 2/5 stars primarily because of Ben’s warped romantic ideals and misogynist attitudes.  While I am usually able to bracket my feelings about a distasteful character in order to fully appreciate a quality narrative . . . the narrative didn’t have the depth to make bracketing practical or worthwhile.  In retrospect, I’d give it a miss. 

The last book I completed in May was The Baby-Sitter’s Club: Kristy’s Great Idea (Baby-Sitter’s Club Graphic Novels #1) by Ann M. Martin [original novel] and Raina Telgemeier [graphic novelization].  I am planning on writing an essay about the graphic novelizations of The Baby-Sitter’s Club and nostalgia for the once beloved pre-tween series of novels.  So, I am telling myself this one was research.

I gave this one 3/5 stars on the Good Reads scale, partly because I really enjoy Raina Telgemeier’s work and partly because the book reminded me of one of the few corners of childhood I am happy to remember. 

Let's all hope that June is a healthier month!