Advanced Japanese Book Club // Now reading: 海辺のカフカ

Just a quick tip that the current book is currently on half coin back on Bookwalker if anyone not participating in the bookclub is interested.

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Hey, I’d like to join this club starting with the next book (すべてがFになる). I’ve been reading Haruki Murakami’s ノルウェイの森 for a long time, but the end is currently in sight and I want to read more books. I need to raise my reading pace though. Hopefully this club will help me do that.

I’m also currently studying for the N1, so I hope this will help with that too.

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After a bit of discussion here (book review by Myria), here (comments by Naphthalene) and here (more comments by Myria), I decided to move this book nomination from Intermediate to Advanced Book Club.

It is very short, so I guess if it wins, we would read it and also the second winner of that same poll.

乳と卵 - Breasts and Eggs

Summary

Japanese

娘の緑子を連れて大阪から上京してきた姉でホステスの巻子。巻子は豊胸手術を受けることに取りつかれている。緑子は言葉を発することを拒否し、ノートに言葉を書き連ねる。夏の三日間に展開される哀切なドラマは、身体と言葉の狂おしい交錯としての表現を極める。日本文学の風景を一夜にして変えてしまった傑作。

English

Breasts & Eggs paints a portrait of contemporary womanhood in Japan and recounts the intimate journeys of three women as they confront oppressive mores and their own uncertainties on the road to finding peace and futures they can truly call their own.

It tells the story of three women: the thirty-year-old Natsu, her older sister, Makiko, and Makiko’s daughter, Midoriko. Makiko has traveled to Tokyo in search of an affordable breast enhancement procedure. She is accompanied by Midoriko, who has recently grown silent, finding herself unable to voice the vague yet overwhelming pressures associated with growing up. Her silence proves a catalyst for each woman to confront her fears and frustrations.

On another hot summer’s day ten years later, Natsu, on a journey back to her native city, struggles with her own indeterminate identity as she confronts anxieties about growing old alone and childless.
(from this review of an English version)

Availability

amazon.co.jp
BookWalker

Personal Opinion

I became aware of the author through this Japan Times article about the most important Japan-related books of the 2010’s, and it turns out that she is quite the celebrated author right now. Therefore I would love to read something written by her.

Pros and Cons for the Book Club

Pros

  • The book won the Akutagawa Prize in 2008
  • I like the subject of criticism towards society and its norms
  • Very short (only 133 pages), so it’s a quick read (maybe 4 weeks or a bit longer?)
  • There are at least 2 English translations available, called “Breasts and Eggs” (one of which interestingly translates Osaka-ben to Manchester dialect).

Cons

  • Kawakami’s writing often employs Osaka-ben
  • She also incorporates experimental and poetic language into her short stories and novels, citing Lydia Davis and James Joyce as literary influences
  • (I actually don’t think these are con’s, it might just make the book harder to read, so I listed them here.)

Pictures

First Three Pages of Chapter One



Additional 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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I hope the excerpts @Myria posted in the akutagawa thread and my fuzzy memory from when I read the sample pages when you nominated it before fused into an accurate assessment.

It feels weird to be one the same effort vote as @Naphthalene somehow. :joy:

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Time flies, and we’re already almost halfway through our current pick :slight_smile:
That means that the next poll is already around the corner, and if you want to throw your favorite book(s) into the ring, now would be a very good time for that :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

We currently have 11 nominations in the “fast” category and 5 entries in the “hard” category - this does not leave much space but we can take on 4 new nominations!

Looking forward to your books of choice :+1:

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On to the next round!

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 “impossible, even with everyone’s help”. 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 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 July 3rd (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: 海辺のカフカ (上) [2.31]
  • Fast: 騎士団長殺し 第1部 [2.33]
  • Fast: 化物語(上) [2.8]
  • Fast: 虐殺器官 - Genocidal Organ [3]
  • Fast/Hard: 薬屋のひとりごと [3.5]
  • Fast: 乳と卵 - Breasts and Eggs [3]
  • Hard: 薮の中・将軍 [3.6]
  • Hard: 檸檬 [3.6]
  • Hard: 風立ちぬ [3]
  • Hard: 午後の曳航 [3]
  • Hard: 人間失格 [3.14]

0 voters

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I haven’t joined this club yet, but I voted for the ones I’d like to read someday, so if they win, I’d tag along.

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There is no real “joining procedure” other than voting for books you like and then reading them - in other words, welcome to the club! :hugs:

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Yeah, I meant ‘tracking the thread’ by joining. :smiley: Thank you! ^^

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Welcome!

I do remember us talking that it’s at least expected to try to read the book with the club if you vote. At least I think it’d be a bit shame for someone to swing the vote if they are not participating, as it affects if current people get to read what they want :thinking:

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(I am only voting for 化物語 myself. And I have already started it, so…)

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I don’t remember what consensus we reached then if any, but that’s if the book you voted for wins, right?

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Oh, right, I may have misremembered. Seems it’s still applicable to the current poll situation :grin:.

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My mental model is that I’d hope for many (most? all?) of the voters to participate in reading the winning book (that’s my understanding of “book club membership”, at least) but in practice this is of course much more relaxed as we don’t have a strict formal “membership” procedure, we have a high fluctuation of members anyways, and because of course everybody is free to read what they like.

But I would definitely expect all those who voted for a given book to try to read it when it wins.
(But of course there is no rule without exception, and if life acts up or something, then that’s a different story again…)

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Obviously I will try to read them. I don’t want to trick anyone to read stuff I wouldn’t.
I’m also interested in how hard the pace of the advanced book club is for me - I usually finish the weekly sections of the intermediate one in one sitting.
It looks like now that I’m gonna find it out soon - except if a lot of people quickly vote on 海辺のカフカ which I just read in translation a few weeks ago, and really don’t want to read it again (for a while).

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Oh yeah, I’m definitely not gonna read a book I don’t want to read, and currently the only book on the list I want to read is loitering near the bottom, sooo…

This sort of book club is a bit different to the real-life book club I’m in - aside from the fact that there’s generally only four or five of us, it’s also a sci-fi and fantasy focused club, so I’d probably enjoy, or at least be able to tolerate, any book that won, even if I didn’t vote for it. In this book club, the only common link is they’re books that are written in Japanese, so there’s no guarantee that it’ll even be a genre I enjoy. Currently, the first book on that list I might want to read is in fifth place, but I’m also not looking to start another novel right now.

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My initial approach towards the book clubs here in the forums was „I‘ll try out each book and if I like it - great; if I don’t like it - I learned something.“ but I‘ve noticed that I‘ve started to become more picky recently. :woman_shrugging: So I can totally relate to your thinking.

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Voting has almost dried up by now, so I will close the poll tomorrow. If you were thinking of voting but haven’t done so yet, now is the time! :+1:

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It is official! The next book club pick is 人間失格 :tada:

I will set up the home thread in a minute.

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We also lose 藪の中・将軍 for lack of interest, and 騎士団長殺し is now on its last strike.

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