Advanced Japanese Book Club // Now reading: 海辺のカフカ・Next: 狼と香辛料

I’ll probably sit this one out because I’ve read it too recently in English, but it’s an excellent book and I envy anyone reading it for the first time.

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Here’s the home thread for our newest pick:

@jhol Sad but understandable! You are of course always welcome to discuss with us anyways. (And maybe help us along with the language :sweat_smile:)

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I read it in my native language a few years ago and it’s one of my favourite Murakami’s books (along with 1Q84), so I relate to @jhol words so much! I don’t know if I would be able to keep up with an ABC anyway (maybe in the future:), but have fun reading!

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More of a general question - if I understand correctly people can nominate a book pretty much whenever and it will be up in the next voting so long as we have 20-or-fewer nominations in total - Is that accurate?

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Yes, that’s correct! If you absolutely want to make sure that it gets into the next voting, then you could add it to the list in the OP already - usually I do that at some point, but I’m waiting for the day where I will overlook one of the nominations :scream: and cause it to be skipped, which would be very very sad. But usually I check at least 3 times or so… :grin:

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Perfect! In that case, here’s my nomination post for something I have on my BookMeter 読みたい list that I think might have wider appeal. Will then add to the list in the OP. :smiley:

感応グラン=ギニョル

Author: 空木 春宵

Summary

Japanese

Taken from Amazon:
昭和初期、浅草六区の片隅に建つ芝居小屋では、夜ごと少女たちによる残酷劇が演じられている。一座の役者は皆、ある特殊な条件のもと集められていた。ある日、容姿端麗で美しい声を持つ新人がやってくる。本来ここには完璧な少女は存在してはいけないはずなのに。その秘密が明らかになるとき、彼女の〈復讐〉が始まる。(「感応グラン=ギニョル」)。分かち合えない痛みや苦しみを抱えて生きる孤独な魂を描く全5編。第2回創元SF短編賞佳作受賞者、待望の書籍デビュー。

English

Chucking the Amazon description into DeepL:
In the early Showa period, a playhouse stands in a corner of Asakusa’s six wards, where cruel plays are performed nightly by young girls. All the actors in the troupe were gathered under certain special conditions. One day, a newcomer with good looks and a beautiful voice arrives. A perfect girl is not supposed to exist in this place. When her secret is revealed, her “revenge” begins. (“Sensou Grand-Guignol”). A total of five stories depicting lonely souls living with pain and suffering they cannot share. The long-awaited book debut of the winner of the 2nd Sogen SF Short Story Award.

Length: 393 pages (per Amazon)
Category: Sci-fi / dystopia-ish?

Availability

amazon.co.jp
bookwalker
booklive
honto (ebook, paper)

Personal Opinion

I read a review of it months ago when challenging myself to read an article everyday and it sounded intriguing. New author, short stories, has excellent reviews, seems like it will make me feel some feels. One of the Amazon reviews said it had cyberpunk vibes and it was 江戸川乱歩 esque.

Pros and Cons for the Book Club

Pros*

  • Short stories tend to be more punchy and interesting
  • Won a prize
  • Widely available in ebook format

Cons*

  • Almost 400 pages and the language seems like it fluctuates in difficulty a bit
  • I have no idea how weird things might get

Pictures

First Three Pages of Chapter One



Additional Pages

Since it’s short stories I just grabbed a short section from the 立ち読み preview here:

Difficulty Poll

How much effort would you need to read this book?

  • No effort at all

  • Minimal effort

  • Moderate effort

  • Significant effort

  • So much effort my head might explode

  • I don’t know

0 voters

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How’d you manage to get the blank lines in the poll? :joy:

I copied the template over to Notion when I was filling it out (just nicer to not have a draft that long and easy to see everything at once). It probably choked on the formatting somewhere and I didn’t notice when pasting it back :sweat_smile:

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Early heads-up for y’all: We will run our next poll in about a month, so if you stumble across something that might be interesting for this club, please keep it in mind! I will call for an official round of nominations a bit later on, but of course you can nominate books at any point in time. :blush:

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Hey all, I will start the next poll later this week (let’s say 2022-07-14T06:00:00Z or something), so if you have any interesting books to throw into the ring, now’s the time!

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村上海賊の娘

Author: 和田竜 (Wada Ryou)

Summary

Japanese

(Source: 村上海賊の娘 - Wikipedia)
主人公・景(きょう)は、戦国時代に瀬戸内海を席巻した村上水軍の当主・村上武吉の娘である。景は、軍船に乗り瀬戸内の海で狼藉を働く者を成敗したり、男勝りの活躍をする。ある日、毛利家から信長に追い詰められ窮地に陥った本願寺を救うため、物資を輸送してほしいという依頼が来る。村上水軍は毛利方に加勢することを決め、景も戦いに身を投じていく。

(Source: Amazon)
時は戦国。乱世にその名を轟かせた海賊衆がいた。村上海賊――。瀬戸内海の島々に根を張り、強勢を誇る当主の村上武吉。彼の剛勇と荒々しさを引き継いだのは、娘の景(きょう)だった。海賊働きに明け暮れ、地元では嫁の貰い手のない悍婦(かんぷ)で醜女。この姫が合戦前夜の難波へ向かう時、物語の幕が開く――。本屋大賞、吉川英治文学新人賞ダブル受賞! 木津川合戦の史実に基づく壮大な歴史巨編。

Length: 343 pages
Category: Fast

Availability

Amazon
Bookwalker

Personal Opinion

A (Japanese) friend of mine recommended this to me. It is set in the Seto Inland Sea, has pirates and history, so what can possibly go wrong? :grin:

Pros and Cons for the Book Club

Pros

Cons

  • This is the first book of a series of 4, and I don’t know how well the first book can stand on its own.
  • The contents might be complicated and confusing as it probably contains lots of historical details.

Preview

Please refer to the Bookwalker 試し読み where you can read quite a few pages.

Difficulty Poll

How much effort would you need to read this book?

  • No effort at all
  • Minimal effort
  • Moderate effort
  • Significant effort
  • So much effort my head might explode
  • I don’t know

0 voters

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It has a 登場人物 at the front listing all the characters’ names with furigana so you know how to read them. For me and especially for a historical book that is a massive pro :slight_smile: I have terrible trouble guessing and remembering name readings, and names of that time period seem to follow totally different conventions from modern ones.

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Another big pro for me is that, judging by the first couple pages, all the places and times seem to get an annotation about their current equivalent. Which is great for people like me who don’t know much about historical Japan. :100:

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I don’t have any new nominations, but I do have a quick updated pitch for 文字渦 which I nominated previously, since I’ve read 3 (of 12) stories/chapters from it now!

It’s definitely very difficult, and it’s definitely very dry, but I’ve found it extremely interesting so far!
And I’d be happy to reread those chapters and read the rest with a book club, as there would definitely be interesting things to piece together and ask questions about, and in particular very interesting things done with kanji.

The way I would sort of describe it so far, is it’s a bit like snippets of various kinds of non-fiction from a world where kanji have a mysterious power. The fun of reading it is tied with piecing together along with the characters just how that power manifests in the particular story.

The dryness comes from not focusing very much on like… narrative… or characters… or plot… But when I’ve set aside time to read through a chapter I’ve been enthralled anyway because wondering what’s going on in the story’s world is a compelling mystery in and of itself! (and I still don’t know if it’s all connected, or if they’re isolated premises)
Which means the reading’s been very rewarding for me, at least so far.

Spoiler-free summary of the chapters I've read
  1. A sculptor working on the Terracotta Army, along with the formation of kanji, is used as a lens to question poetically the relationship between people and ideas, and their representations.
  2. In the future, a character investigates an extremely unusual text file found far away from earth.
  3. A narrator reports on a local culture where kanji are used in recreational duels.

I think it would be a good fit for the advanced club because the discussions would be motivation to press through and think fully about what’s going on! And support to make it more accessible.

Just thought I’d update while I’m still in that “started, but not very far into it yet” sweet spot!

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Aaaaannnddd…

We Are POLLLLLLLL! :grin:

Have a look at the List of Proposed Books section in the first post for details on each book. Every book has a difficulty associated with it (based on the book club members’ votes, thus subjective) out of 5, where 1 means “no effort at all” and 5 means “so much effort my head might explode”. The difficulty is annotated in the poll in square brackets after the book’s name.

Do not rely solely on difficulty when making a choice. Please have a look at the nomination posts and text samples if you haven’t already.

Expected reading pace: The proposals fall into two categories, Fast and Hard. We aim to read fast books at 30-50 pages per week and hard books at ~15 pages per week (that number might vary a bit throughout, depending on the book’s breaks and chapters). For manga, depending on difficulty and chapter length, we will probably read one to several chapters per week. The pick’s exact reading schedule will be negotiated before the book club kicks off.

Start of Book Club: We will start the next book on August 27th (after a one-week break).

Poll duration: The poll will be closed within a week (and most likely before that), whenever it looks like voting has dried up. You can choose up to 5 options.

  • Fast: 86―エイティシックス― [2.67]
  • Fast: クォンタムデビルサーガ アバタールチューナーⅠ [3.29]
  • Fast: 狼と香辛料 [2.67]
  • Fast: マスカレード・ホテル [1.89]
  • Fast: 風の谷のナウシカ [3.13]
  • Fast: 化物語(上) [2.8]
  • Fast: 虐殺器官 - Genocidal Organ [3]
  • Fast: ユージニア [2.25]
  • Fast: 蛇にピアス [2.33]
  • Fast: 感応グラン=ギニョル [3]
  • Fast: 村上海賊の娘 [2.83]
  • Hard: 檸檬 [3.6]
  • Hard: 風立ちぬ [3]
  • Hard: 午後の曳航 [3]
  • Hard: 文字渦 [3.86]

0 voters

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The poll is going in an interesting direction so far :upside_down_face:

Just FYI, I had a quick look at Spice and Wulf, and it happens to have 6 chapters (they differ a bit in length, but I guess we can balance that) with an average of 50 pages per chapter. So if the poll stayed like this, my idea is that we could actually have Spice and Wulf as a quick read first, followed by Eugenia :blush:

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Alright, voting has dried up by now, and so I would like to announce our new winner, 狼と香辛料 aka Spice and Wolf!

Like I said, I’d like to see whether we can read this as a short club. In order to figure this out, I will set up its home thread and then we can discuss the schedule over there.

EDIT: As promised, here is the home thread for 狼と香辛料 - Spice and Wolf 🐺 (Advanced Book Club) with a schedule suggestion and poll.

Also if somebody could help me with a combo breaker please :sweat_smile:

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I agree with this idea :sweat_smile:

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How about we also read the third place after that? :eyes:

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Ah, looking at your votes, I guess we should just ditch the first place and go with 2nd and 3rd :joy_cat: