The Classics Club: The Classics Spin #21



The Classics Club

The Classics Spin #21

Time for a new spin!

At your blog, before next Monday, Monday 23, create a post to list your choice of any twenty books that remain “to be read” on your Classics Club list.

This is your Spin List. You have to read one of these twenty books by the end of the year. Try to challenge yourself. For example, you could list five Classics Club books you are dreading/hesitant to read, five you can’t WAIT to read, five you are neutral about, and five free choice (favorite author, re-reads, ancients — whatever you choose.)

On Monday September 23, we’ll post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List by October 21, 2019.

I have just started my 2nd list of 50 classics, so I’m just picking the 20 oldest books on my list.
Some are quite long, like #1, some short:

1 Laurence Sterne The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman (1767)
2 Xavier de Maistre Voyage Autour de Ma Chambre (1794)
3 Edgar Allan Poe The Masque of the Red Death (1842)
4 Henry David Thoreau Civil Disobedience (1849)
5 Nikolai Leskov On the Edge of the World (1875)
6 Robert Louis Stevenson Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes (1879)
7 Fergus Hume The Mystery of a Hansom Cab (1886)
8 Edmond Rostand Cyrano de Bergerac (1897) = reread
9 Machado de Assi Dom Casmurro (1899)
10 Marcel Proust Days of Reading (1905)
11 Natsume Soseki Kusamakura (1906)
12 Kakuzo Okakura The Book of Tea (1906)
13 Natsume Soseki Sanshirō (1908)
14 Natsume Soseki The Miner (1908)
15 Robert Walser Jakob von Gunten (1909)
16 Natsume Soseki To the Spring Equinox and Beyond (1910)
17 Natsume Soseki The Gate (1910)
18 Marie Belloc Lowndes The Lodger (1913)
19 Christopher Morley Parnassus on Wheels (1917)
20 Jun’ichiro Tanizaki Devils in Daylight (1918)










Six degrees of separation: From the Renaissance to Versailles


Six degrees of separation:
From the Renaissance to Versailles

Using my own rules for this fun meme hosted by Kate at Booksaremyfavouriteandbest (see there the origin of the meme and how it works – posted the first Saturday of every month), I went back in time, from the Renaissance to Versailles!

Here are my own quirky rules:

1. Use your list of books on Goodreads
2. Take the first word of the title offered and find another title with that word in it
3. Then use the first word of THAT title to find your text title
4. Or the second if the title starts with the same word, or you are stuck

After the covers, you can find the links to my reviews or to the title on Goodreads:

How to be Both How the Light Gets In

Light And Dark Too Dark To Sleep

before I go Before Versailles

1. How to Be Both
I have just read one book by Ali Smith: There But For The. It was very confusing, but could be because I made the mistake to listen to it. This is probably the type of literary fiction that needs to be read rather.
The synopsis of this novel here says part of the story is set in the Renaissance.

2. How the Light Gets in
I haven’t reviewed this book #9 of this amazing series by Louise Penny. This one is excellent, as almost all the others. But you really need to read them in order. I am looking forward to #15, to be released in August 2019.

3. Light and Dark
Excerpt from my review:
“This book is unlike any other I have read by this author: like in Proust it focuses on social interaction and analysis, and just like Proust’s narrator, I find the characters too self-tortured. But the writing is very good and there are some very interesting images.”
Soseki is definitely a Japanese author you need to try.

4. Too Dark To Sleep
My verdict was: A stunning new voice in psychological thrillers. An amazing battle of the brains you are not going to forget. 

5. Before I Go to Sleep
Another amazing psychological thriller.
Listen to it if possible, Orlagh Cassidy is an outstanding narrator. In fact, I listened to this one because she was narrating it.

6. Before Versailles
A historical novel about Louis XIV.
“The characters sounded true to life, the topic was well researched, the descriptions beautiful.”


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Reviews of Japanese novels


As usual, until I manage to amend my ways, lol, here comes the end of the year and I have zillion of reviews to post, so I have recourse to the short form. Mind you, there is no relation whatsoever with the quality of these books. I actually enjoy very much Japanese Literature, and have been doing the Japanese Literature Challenge for a few years now. In 2014, I have managed to read 5:

As I have already reviewed the first book by Murakami, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Year of Pilgrimage, let’s start first with a few words on this other one by him – how lucky we were to have 2 books by Murakami come out in the US this year!

The Strange Library:

No comparison in format with his usual novels, for instance the massive 1Q84: this one is just 96 pages and is a cross between a novella and a picture book.
The illustrations are awesome, first the cover, but you are probably used by now to having awesome covers for Murakami’s books.
But as in his other books, it’s about a strange world, here a very peculiar library –beware, it may make you hesitate before your next trip to your own public library!!
Here again Murakami excels at evoking the question of reality vs. unreality. Could the world we see hide another one?
I loved his correspondences and symbols between worlds, and of course watch for the moon!
The book is also about grief and the ending yes is rather sad.

I actually read another Japanese book this year dealing with grief and sadness:

Kira-Kira, by Cynthia Kadohata

This book won the Newbery Medal (2005)

Kira-Kira (which means glittering) is a young Japanese girl, actually born in Iowa in 1951.
It’s about the life of her family in Iowa and then in Georgia where they move in hope of a better economic situation, but the poultry factory has a crazy work load in horrible conditions.
There are lots of details on their life as Japanese, and her experience of discrimination and curiosity of the people around her –imagine being a Japanese girl  in Iowa in the 1950s!

Kira-Kira feels very close to her sister Lynn, four years older, but then Lynn has lymphoma…

I’m the first one reacting on how kids around me are raised in cocoons, different from what I remember in France, and illness and death do  touch everyone, but still, it felt a bit odd to me to read this book knowing children were the intended readers.

It is beautifully written, but very sad, very different in mood from all the other Japanese novels I have read so far.
I would like to share one quotation:

My sister had taught me to look at the world that way, as a place that glitters, as a place where the calls of the crickets and the crows and the wind are everyday occurences that also happen to be magic.

I rarely read short stories, but wanted to try something by Shusaku Endo, and somehow had this title on my shelf:

Five by Endo

Actually, a common them in these 5 short stories is also death.
“Winner of every major Japanese literary prize, his work translated around the globe, Shusaku Endo (1923-1996) is a great and unique figure in the literature of the twentieth century”, to quote Goodreads. But he was unique in the sense that he was Roman Catholic, definitely not that common in the world Japanese authors.

The first story, Unzen is about Suguro, baptized as a Christian, who goes to the village of Obama, home of many Christian martyrs  around 1630. He tries to retrace the footsteps of one of these men, wanting to find a “regular” Christian to emulate.
The same Christian theme is explicit in the 3rd story with 10 Japanese tourists arriving in Warsaw. Poles keep asking them if they know of Father Kolbe, the famous martyred priest who had been a missionary in Nagasaki in 1930. But they are not Christians and have no idea whom they are talking about. Except Imamiya who thinks remembering him.

The theme of current death or the past death of other people is common to the 5 stories, with the addition of the unchristian theme of reincarnation in the last story.

I have read he wrote a much longer novel on the topic of Christians in Japan, and that format might work better for me than  short novel.
I was unfortunately not really able to feel the greatness of his writing through this very short book.

Well, I did read a much longer book, 464 pages:

Light And Dark, by Natsume Sōseki

Unfortunately, the book is unfinished.
At the time it was published, in 1916, it was considered quite modern in style: indeed, basically almost nothing happens, it’s very interior and actually made me think many times about Proust whom I am reading at the same time.

Tsuda, 30, married O-Nobu 6 months ago. He has a lesion in the intestine and needs surgery. Most of the book is spent in his clinic room, and then in a place he goes to recover, at least that’s the reason he gives his wife.

There are a lot of dialogs, and it’s a lot about what people think, what façade they offer to other people around them, their families, their friends, and themselves. How one can get caught in lies and deceit to oneself and others. It’ also about the complexity of human relationships, between husband-wife, brother-sister, father-children, boss-emplyer, friends, relatives, in-laws, man-woman.

The chapters are short and punchy. I am intrigued to know how the book would have ended, but I don’t think I’ll ever know.

This book is unlike any other I have read by this author: like in Proust it focuses on social interaction and analysis, and just like Proust’s narrator, I find the characters too self-tortured.
But the writing is very good and there are some very interesting images, such as this one:

Walking along, he recalled bits and pieces of their conversation. And when he came upon a certain portion of it he sampled its flavor, chewing, as if it were a mouthful of toasted soybeans.