Saturday, January 22, 2022

January Reads & What's Coming in February


The first month of 2022 has been a productive one for me so far, reading wise. I have read 3 books, and will soon start the 4th. The above painting might perfectly reflect my reading mood right now. Not that I read a lot at the cafe - I love that, but since Covid-19 I can't do that anymore *sigh.. - but I often read while it's raining outside (my office, my apartment, my online car). I don't know, but the sound of raindrops is really soothing, and perfect for reading. It's monsoon season here in Indonesia, and I expect to do the reading-while-raining a lot during next month! - (painting: Alicia en el cafe, 2012 by Antonio Varas de La Rosa)

📚 What I've Read in January

The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu - ⭐⭐⭐

Who would've guessed that the first novel ever written in the world was actually a work of a Japanese woman in 11th century? It's a romantic glimpse of court lives (and politics) in Heian period. My review will tell you more about this classic. It's my only entry for Japanese Literature Challenge # 15.

Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Another gem I've rediscovered from Christie! It's more of a psychological thriller than a murder story. For once, I didn't even care of the whodunit! And the investigation seems only to make it eligible to be considered a crime story. Review will follow soon.

A Bear Called Paddington by Michael Bond - ⭐⭐⭐⭐

After a slow start with a an Asian classic, then followed by a psychological thriller, I naturally craved for a comfort reading. And what's better than a children classic? I've never read Paddington before, and was instantly hooked by the first chapter! It's funny and warm. I just finished it yesterday, review will be following.

Statistics

📊 Total books read: 3
📊 Challenge progress:
* 2022 TBR Pile Challenge: 1
* Back to the Classics Challenge 2022: 2
* 2022 Chunkster Challenge: 0

And so, I am now ready to face the new month!


📚 What I Will Read in February

February is always special for me. No, it's not because of Valentine's and all the 'love is in the air' crap, no. See, my birthday is in February, and how cool is it that I get to share the same birth month with one of my favorite authors, Charles Dickens?

Therefore, every February I celebrate this special author's birthday with the coolest thing I can think of, that is, reading his book the whole month. And that's how #DickensInFebruary was born.

This year I will read Martin Chuzzlewit. That is one of the last two Dickens' I haven't yet read. Next year will be Barnaby Rudge's turn. After that, I plan to re-read Dickens novels every February.

My copy of Martin Chuzzlewit is of 762 pages, and I'm pretty sure I'd spend the whole month reading it... while raining. Jolly, isn't it?

Saturday, January 15, 2022

The Tale of Genji by Murashaki Shikibu

👑 Murasaki Shikibu was a lady-in-waiting (court lady) in the 11th century Imperial court on the Heian period. And Genji Monogatari (translated to The Tale of Genji) - which is written based on her service period in court - is considered one of the first novels which had ever written in the world.

👑 Genji is the Emperor Kiritsubo's son with his favorite but low ranking concubine from Pauliwnia Court, whom he loved more than the others, more, even, to his wife, Kokiden. The little son was a prodigy (handsome, intelligent, and very talented). And the Emperor would have liked to make him royal prince, but decided not to, because a boy without high rank maternal backing would be tortured by court political backlashes. That was exactly what his mother had experienced (and presumably the cause of her premature death, which caused sadness to the Emperor). Therefore he was brought up instead as a commoner, named Minamoto or Genji.

👑 I couldn't help thinking how lonesome it is being at the top. When one loves a person, the loved one would be hated by others, thus one just causes only grieves to the loved one. Then both would be unhappy.

"Happy are they whose place in the world puts them beneath such notice!
The great ones of the world live sadly constricted lives."


👑 Don't quite understand too why parents at that era (most often the father) thought that sending their daughters to the court would make them happy. But then, that's typical of Asian parents, apparently - telling their children to be so and so "because they know what would make the children happy", while ignoring what the children must have thought for themselves.

👑 And it's also typical of Asian children to obey their parents. Disobeying means disaster, but obeying often leads to another disaster. And it's amazing how generation after generation repeat the same thing, while they know the consequences.


👑 Anyway, a princess called Fujitsubo, whose resemblance with Genji's late mother is uncanny, was brought to the court and won the love of, not only the Emperor's, but also young Genji, despite of his (Genji's) recent marriage with the Minister's daughter (political marriage without consent of neither bride nor groom), right after his initiation as an adult.

👑 By the second chapter, it is clear that Genji is a womanizer, and that the whole story would center mainly on his numerous amorous adventures. His interests extend from young girls to older women, from high rank princess to girls from far lower rank. Of all his women, he respects his wife most, but there's not warm affection from both sides.

👑 Though disapproved of Genji's immorality, I was prepared to tolerate it, as it was the imperial's way of life at the 11th century. However, when he took a beautiful little girl of ten y.o. to "shape" her to resemble Fujitsubo (whose love he cannot have) and to be his future wife; well...I lost a little respect I've reserved for him. Even the little girl's people thought it inappropriate.

👑 I was relieved then, that he kept his promises, to treat Murasaki (the little girl) more like his protegé. She continued to be his favorite lady, though it didn't prevent him from having an affair during his exile - which, by the way, was the result of his other scandalous affair with the Emperor's consort. In short, the tale is about Genji's love affairs, with a little glimpses of court politics at that period, composed neatly with lyrical poems and prose.

What I loved most about this book:

The Poems - I quote one here for you:

"The lady was sad, and more beautiful for the sadness, as she recited a poem:

'They say that it is dawn, that you grow weary.
I weep, my sorrows wrought by myself alone.'


(Genji) answered:

'You tell me that these sorrows must not cease?
My sorrows, my love will neither have an ending.
'”

The art of communications - carefully chosen paper colors and materials for letters, implying different meanings; the handwriting and gradations of ink, intensifying the writer's feeling. Sometimes they exchange fans with some handwriting on the corner.

The musics - They play koto (eight or thirteen strings instrument) and flute, and the best players often brought tears to the listeners. I could well imagine the beauty of such musics. The sounds of Japanese or Chinese Koto and Flute, or Indonesian gamelan, always bring peace into your soul.

👑 Tale of Genji's original manuscript actually composed of fifty four chapters. The one I read is the abridgment, of Edward G. Seidensticker's translation, containing twelve chapters. I've randomly chose this version, mainly because its availability on Google Playbooks. But after small researches through google, I'm glad I'd pick this up in the first place - it's considered quite following the original rather strictly, but not too scholarly to cause you headache. 386 pages of Genji is the perfect dose, I guess, and with all the beautiful poems along with prose, one can follow nicely the tale.

If you need more references to which translations to pick, check this blog's helpful and thorough comparation of half a dozen versions of Genji's.

👑 The only setback is its inconclusive ending. But again, I didn't feel like reading further of Genji, so I guess, this is it. It's worth to read for its literary value and classic beauty, but not more.

Rating : 3 / 5


Sunday, January 9, 2022

Back to the Classics Challenge 2022

I'm so glad that Karen have decided to host another Back to the Classics Challenge this year (it's the ninth!), since it's another of my most favorite reading challenges. Basically it challenges you to read classics for twelve categories. Here's my list (it may change along the way, according to my reading mood):

1. A 19th century classic:
Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope

2. A 20th century classic
All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren 

3. A classic by a woman author
A Lost Lady by Willa Cather

4. A classic in translation
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

5. A classic by BIPOC author
Go Tell It on the Mountain by James Baldwin

6. Mystery/Detective/Crime Classic
Appointment with Death by Agatha Christie

7. A Classic Short Story Collection
Flappers and Philosophers by F. Scott Fitzgerald

8. Pre-1800 Classic
The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu

9. A Nonfiction Classic
The Bhagavad Gita by Anonymous

10. Classic That's Been on Your TBR List the Longest
Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens

11. Classic Set in a Place You'd Like to Visit
L'Assommoir by Émile Zola (Paris!!)

12. Wild Card Classic
Evelina by Frances Burney (18th century classic)

Will you participate in this year's challenge too? Which books from my list interest/intrigue you most?

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

The 2022 TBR Pile Challenge




My first post of 2022 is for one of my most favorite reading challenges: TBR Pile Challenge, hosted by Adam @ Roof Beam Reader. For me personally, it's not really a challenge, since I rarely read newly published books (if any, it's not more than one or two a year), thus my reading plans are mostly based on books from my TBR pile.

The 2022 TBR Pile Challenge - the Master List

  1. The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu
  2. Orang-Orang Bloomington (People from Bloomington) by Budi Darma
  3. Evelina by Frances Burney
  4. All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
  5. Mrs. Osmond by John Banville
  6. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer
  7. The Attack on the Mill by Émile Zola
  8. Flappers and Philosophers by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  9. Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens
  10. The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton
  11. Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope
  12. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier


Alternative

  1. The Bhagavad Gita by Anonymous
  2. Middlemarch by George Eliot or No Name by Wilkie Collins

 


Thursday, December 30, 2021

2021 Reading WRAP UP

📚BOOKS READ

In chronological order:

1. Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin ⭐⭐⭐1/2
2. Death on the Clouds by Agatha Christie (re-read) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
3. The Conquest of Plassans by Émile Zola (re-read) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
4. Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
5. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe ⭐⭐⭐1/2
6. Murder in Mesopotamia by Agatha Christie (re-read) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
7. The Sin of Abbé Mouret by Émile Zola (re-read) ⭐⭐⭐1/2
8. A Biography of Êmile Zola by Alan Schom ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
9. The A.B.C Murders by Agatha Christie (re-read) ⭐⭐⭐1/2
10. My Ántonia by Willa Cather ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
11. One of Ours by Willa Cather ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
12. Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie (re-read) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
13. The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald ⭐⭐⭐1/2
15. Dumb Witness by Agatha Christie (re-read) ⭐⭐⭐⭐
16. Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
17. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo (re-read) ⭐⭐⭐
18. The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy ⭐⭐⭐⭐
19. Watership Down by Richard Adams ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
20. Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
21. Lady Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde ⭐⭐⭐⭐
22. The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey ⭐⭐⭐1/2
23. The Inimitable Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse ⭐⭐⭐1/2
24. The Guernsey Literary and Potatoe Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
25. Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie (re-read) ⭐⭐⭐1/2
26. The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffman ⭐⭐⭐
27. Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Steven's ⭐⭐⭐⭐
28. A Nancy Drew Christmas by Carolyn Keene ⭐⭐⭐⭐
29. The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
30. The Burglar's Christmas by Willa Cather ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2


📊STATISTICS

- Books read: 3️⃣0️⃣
- Classic: 2️⃣5️⃣ Non classics: 5️⃣
- Reread: 9️⃣
- Non Fiction: 2️⃣
- Play: 1️⃣
- Short story/Short stories collection: 2️⃣
- Classic new author: 7️⃣


🏆WINNER vs LOSER

- Most favorite 👍🏼: Watership Down by Richard Adam ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
- Least favorite 👎🏼: The Hunchback of Notre Dame ⭐⭐⭐

This year has been surprisingly productive for me, I only hope it will continue next year. In the meantime, I'll say Auf Wiedersehen for now, as this will be my last post for 2021. Happy New Year! 🥳

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Back to the Classics Challenge 2021 - WRAP UP



This year is proved to be one of the hardest I had lived through! Covid-19 pandemic is one of the causes (July 2021 was the worst time for us in Indonesia), and then my father was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, after his fall. Since then my life has been completely changed, and I needed some months to be finally able to accept things as they were, and moved on with my new life. Through these hard times, my readings have been my biggest consolation.

And that's why I am so proud, that despite all that has happened, I COMPLETED this challenge!! 

Books I have read for ALL twelve categories:

1. A 19th century classic: any book first published from 1800 to 1899 – The Return of the Native by Thomas Hardy

2. A 20th century classic: any book first published from 1900 to 1971. All books must have been published at least 50 years ago; the only exceptions are books which were written by 1971 and posthumously published. – My Antonia by Willa Cather

3. A classic by a woman author. – Lady Audley’s Secret by Mary Elisabeth Braddon

4. A classic in translation, meaning any book first published in a language that is not your primary language. You may read it in translation or in its original language, if you prefer.  – The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo

5. A classic by BIPOC author; that is, a non-white author. – Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

6. A classic by a new-to-you author, i.e., an author whose work you have never read. – Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin

7. New-to-you classic by a favorite author -- a new book by an author whose works you have already read.  – Nicholas Nickleby by Charles Dickens

8. A classic about an animal, or with an animal in the title. The animal can be real or metaphorical. (i.e., To Kill a Mockingbird). – Watership Down by Richard Adams

9. A children's classic. – The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann

10. A humorous or satirical classic. – The Inimitable Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse 

11. A travel or adventure classic (fiction or non-fiction). It can be a travelogue or a classic in which the main character travels or has an adventure. – Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris by Paul Gallico

12. A classic play. Plays will only count in this category. – Mrs. Windermere's Fan by Oscar Wilde



I must thank Karen for hosting yet another year of this challenge, and hope for the best for the next year!


My contact: vixxiomail at gmail dot com

Saturday, December 25, 2021

My Christmas Reading 2021 - WRAP UP

 



My Christmas reading this year has been a blast, and I'm enjoying every second of every book/story!

Books I have read:

1. The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffman   ⭐⭐⭐
2. Mistletoe and Murder by Robin Stevens   ⭐⭐⭐⭐
3. The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder    ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2
4. A Nancy Drew Christmas by Carolyn Keene     ⭐⭐⭐⭐
5. The Burglar's Christmas by Willa Cather     ⭐⭐⭐⭐1/2

Two classics, two mysteries, and one...extraordinary story.
Combined, they gave me much joy as well as a lot of reflections to welcome Christmas.