May 2023

My book of the month for May was Andrew Robinson's, Earthquake: Nature and Culture

J.M. Coetzee, Disgrace
A truly terrible novel that won the Booker Prize. A less demanding read than Edith Nesbit's children's novels.
Eudora Welty, The Robber-Bridegroom
Extremely enjoyable, well-written version of a Brothers Grimm story, relocated to the American South.
J.G. Ballard, The Unlimited Dream Company
Brilliantly imagined novel centred on the aftermath of a young, disaffected man, Blake, crashing a light aircraft into the Thames and then discovering he is unable to leave the suburb of Shepperton; the trauma of the crash blurs fantasy and reality to the extent that he is not even sure if he is alive or dead. Has the same sudden transfiguration of the natural environment that made The Crystal World so impressive.

Life Writing
Kaneko Fumiko, The Prison Memoirs of a Japanese Woman
The writings of Kaneko Fumiko, a Japanese nihilist sentenced to death for a plot to assassinate the Japanese emperor. An excellent resistance narrative/piece of prison writing (produced in prison rather than about life in prison).
Jimmy Boyle, A Sense of Freedom
Another prison memoir, this one written by a Glasgow gangster who turned his life around and went on to become an internationally-acclaimed sculptor. Excellent writing.

Short Stories
H.G. Wells, The Man Who Could Work Miracles
Very amusing tale of a simple-minded man who, for no discernible reason, is able to perform miracles. One of these miracles threatens to destroy the planet, prompting him to an action that brings a very satisfying conclusion to this story.
Leo Tolstoy, Master and Man
A longish short story about a successful businessman and one of his men, Nikita, becoming lost during heavy snow on the way to concluding a business deal. The chief interest, in my view, was how the ultimate sacrifice made to save a man's life was not particularly appreciated.

Journal Articles
Ron Christenson, Political Trials in Imperial Japan
Helene Bowen Radekker, "The Body of the Condemned": the case of a Japanese "traitor"
Helene Bowen Radekker, The Past through Telescopic Sights - reading the prison-life story of Kaneko Fumiko
Sonia Ryang, The Great Kanto Earthquake and the Massacre of Koreans in 1923: Notes on Japan's Modern National Sovereignty
Peter Phillips, George Steiner's Wager on Transcendence
Martin Kern, Ends and Beginnings of World Literature
Karolina Watroba, World Literature and Literary Value: Is "Global Literature" the new "Lowbrow"?
Alan MacSimoin, The Korean Anarchist Movement
Philip Billingsley, A Male Contribution to Women's Studies

Critical works
Wolfgang Iser, The Implied Reader
A classic of reader-response theory, this text leads you through a number of developments in what the novel at different points in its development demands of the reader. The texts selected just happen, for the most part, to be ones I was already familiar with: Pilgrim's Progress, Joseph Andrews, Humphrey Clinker, Waverley, Vanity Fair, etc. Very clearly written and some excellent insights.
Mikiso Hane, Reflections on the Way to the Gallows
Great study of rebels in post-war Japan. One chapter compresses Kaneko Fumiko's memoir into 40 pages or so.
Andrew Robinson, Earthquake: Nature and Culture
Excellently-produced book on earthquakes, full of great color photos.
Laura Miller and Jan Bardsley, Bad Girls of Japan
Helene Bowen Raddeker, Treacherous Women of Imperial Japan
Chapter on development of Fumiko's nihilism.