Hirokazu Koreeda: I Wish

There is a certain kind of slice-of-life film, the kind where nothing much happens, where there is neither action or drama but where ordinary people do ordinary things and where viewers (if they don’t fall asleep) are drawn in by the slowly unfolding poetry of everyday life.

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Pu Songling: Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio

Classical Chinese literature obviously does not consist solely of the Six Great Novels, and I wanted my reading project to also include some shorter (but not necessarily minor) books. Strange Tales from a Chinese Studio was my first attempt at a canonized work which is not a several thousand pages long, and overall I enjoyed it, if not quite as much as the novels, which I strongly suspect is due to more getting lost in translation.

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My Year in Reading 2016

As awful as 2016 was in nearly every other aspect, it was a greating reading year for me. For the first time ever I took a Goodreads reading challenge and made my goal of 150 books easily and read 179 books with an average of 335 pages, which isn’t bad. But the reading was great not just in quantity but also in quality – as I struggle to remember what exactly I read, the books that stand out are J.J. Voskuil’s massive novel of office life, Het Bureau and of course my foray into the Classic Chinese novel – four of which I’ve read so far and have been enjoying immensely, so that I’m quite confident that I will be reading the remaining two in 2017. For anyone curious, here is a link to Goodread’s nifty page of My Year in Books.

Quite obviously, the amount of my reading done last year is in no way reflected in this blog. I have not counted, but my estimate is that 2016 may well have seen the lowest amount of posts ever since I dedicated myself to book blogging; weirdly enough there has a been an overall increase in visitors (it’s still a very, very low number per day, but stil somewhat higher than it used to be), accompanied, I think, with an all-time low in comments. Obviously, I’m not very happy with that state of affairs – but not unhappy enough to actually write any more blog posts, in fact I’m in the middle of another dry spell now. Which I may get over or may not, one will have to see.

I don’t feel optimistic enough for any new year’s resolutions, so there will be none this time.

And finally, a happy new year to anyone who happens to read this in actual prosimity to the start of 2017. Have a music video, from one of the great musicians who died in 2016 and whose passing did not get nearly the attention he deserved.

Kim Newman: The Bloody Red Baron

Kim Newman may not have invented the mash-up genre (but then, he possibly may) but he is undoubtedly its premier virtuoso: In his seminal novel Anno Dracula he presents readers with an appropriately grimy and realistic Victorian London, and then fills it with vampires and a whole host of literary characters. I hesitated quite a while before reading the novel, because even though the concept seemed like fun, I was not sure whether the execution would live up to it. As it turned out, it did, and then some; and in consequence I did not hesitate at all to acquire the sequel to Anno Dracula, which is at least as enjoyable as its predecessor.

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The Hollow Crown – Richard II

I love Shakespeare; I made my way through a massive one-volume edition of the Schlegel-Tieck translations of his oeuvre as a teenager, and since then have read most, if not all of them again in the original English. I have seen several of his plays on stage during the years, in particular when I was visiting London (I have to admit that I’ve grown lazy in my old age, and haven’t been to a theatre for a very long time), but always have purposefully avoided watching screen versions of them (with the occasional exception, like Peter Greenaway’s glorious Prospero’s Books). So it has been with some irritation at myself when felt a sudden urge to splurge myself on TV and movie adaptions of his plays – an irritation, however, which did not last very long as I ended up thoroughly enjoying myself (for the most part, anyway) with them.

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Russell Banks: The Sweet Hereafter

To start off, a disclaimer: I do love genre fiction. As even a brief look around this blog will show you, my reading spreads out very far afield indeed, and I enjoy pretty much every type of fiction as well as quite a lot of non-fiction. Still, the kind of fiction that I love the most, that is closest to my heart, is literary fiction; and there are reasons for that which go beyond personal preference. (And, another disclaimer, I’m of course well aware that there are exceptions, that there is genre fiction which is just as deep and ambitious and formally daring as the best of literary fiction. But those are just that: exceptions. (And, disclaimer inside a disclaimer, there is of course literary fiction that plain sucks, and this is not the exception at all. I’m not concerning myself with bad books here, however.)) What distinguishes good literary from most genre fiction is that the former has a layering of meaning, a surplus of significance which the majority of the latter lacks. You can trace this even in fairly conventional realistic fiction, if it is well made like, let’s say, Russell Banks’ comparatively slim novel The Sweet Hereafter.

So let’s take a look at it. After the disclaimers, a warning: It is impossible to make the point I want to make without mentioning details of the plot, so there will be spoilers.

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