Sunday, May 13, 2012


I've finally finished "火車" ("Fire Engine" perhaps? It's a little subtle) after a whole year. That's not a snub at Miyabe Miyuki; this book was, if anything, tighter and better played than "Riyuu". Neither is it too difficult, as I could read large parts of it with only occasional support of a dictionary. Instead, work and family issues has taken up much of my time, and the book has lied unread for weeks and months at a time.

The book mirrors Riyuu in using a crime as a backdrop to highlight a societal problem — the rise of consumer credit in this case. Unlike Riyuu, though, it stays focused on the crime story, and reads much like any detective novel. It was a fun read, and it's a testament to Miyabe's skill that I was motivated to pick it up again as soon as I could after leaving it for months.

Now, what to read next? We do have another Miyabe Miyuki novel at home called "模倣犯" ("Copycat") but it's in five(!) volumes and would take me years to get through. Murakami Harumi's "海辺のカフカ" ("Kafka on the shore") is waiting on the bookshelf. His style is deceptively simple but there's a lot of subtext, and I'm afraid I'm still not good enough to read it without missing much of the point. I'll leave it for another year.

I have a bad book-buying habit, so I have plenty of less weighty novels to choose from. "死の点滴" ("Drip Of Death"), for instance, was a fun tv-drama and I doubt there is much deep subtext there for me to miss. "Kitchen" by Yoshimoto Banana seems a short, tight read. I also have several classics in Japanese translation, such as "Neuromancer" by William Gibson, "The Caves of Steel" by Asimov and "Mio my Mio" by Astrid Lindgren. As I've read them in original already they'd make for a quick, enjoyable read.

Or I could do nonfiction. A book on Euler's formula or on Penrose tiles both look like fun. I have an introduction to cuttlefish biology that seems fascinating, and one on insect neurology that I've wanted to read for years already. Two fun-looking books are "電車の運転" ("Rail operation") about how railway systems (not just the trains themselves) work; and "さおだけ屋はなぜ潰れないのか" ("Why don't laundry pole shops go bankrupt?"), a popular introduction to accounting.

I'll have a few days to decide. We'll see.


  1. I just finished this last week! In translation though ('All She Was Worth' in English, one of those times there's really no point going for anything like a direct rendering of the original, I guess).

    I hated Paprika by Tsutui so much, and went on about it at such length, that my wife ended up getting it in Japanese just to see what was so bad. Flicking through it gives me the sense that my Japanese might not be as awful as I usually think. Still terrible, but not completely so. Still a looong way off reading a novel in Japanese from scratch though. If you're taking requests, I'd be interesting in hearing how Neuromancer holds up, given everything.

  2. Yes, I'm considering Neuromancer, but I read it a number of times in English already and I'm not sure how well it really holds up for me today.

    Also, I kind of realized that science fiction may not be optimal when you're trying to learn a language. You're not really able to tell when a word is real but not known to you and when it's simply made up for the occasion.

    I'm still waffling about the next book to be honest. I even thought I might want to buy "Princess Toyotomi" as I saw the movie last year, but I seem to remember the language was actually somewhat difficult.


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