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ON MY BOOKSHELF

A Selection of Japanese Writing

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The Japanese Film by Joseph L. Anderson and Donald Richie with a Foreward by Akira Kosemura. Grove Press, 1960. 

A vintage copy I came across at a used bookstore. As much as I adore Japan and make it a point to study its culture, literature, art and history, I am not very familiar with its films. I think that that's because, in general, I'm not very interested in film. I don't doubt its contribution as another medium of art (films of a certain disposition), but for me, sitting in front of a screen and watching something for an hour or hours isn't appealing to me. I'd rather be doing something. Sitting in front of a screen is the last thing I want to do. It seems strange but I'm sure I'm not the only one. So, I don't know very much about Japanese film. This book seems like great reference material so I don't think I'll ever read it from start to finish. The first half is the history of Japanese film and the second half goes into techniques, directors and actors. I plan to browse through it and find a few films to watch. I had been thinking and I think it will be better to take the time to sit down and watch a few good movies and do something I normally don't. I have a started list already. :)

The Collected Poems of Chika Sagawa

Translated from the Japanese by Sawako Nakayasu. The first comprehensive collection of one of Japan's foremost modernists to appear in English translation, THE COLLECTED POEMS OF CHIKA SAGAWA is an essential book. The project received a grant from the Japan Foundation, and poems from it have appeared in Poetry, Asymptote, Fascicle, and elsewhere.

One of my favorite Japanese poets and an incredible woman. She was an avante-garde poet in the 1930s, influenced by surrealism. Read this great article about her from The New Yorker. This book has gotten some really great press and is a wonderful book to own. This particular copy is special to me because it came with a good memory. It was kindly given to me in Marfa. I went to Marfa Book Co. because, you know, I must. It's such a beautiful place, such a great bookstore. Absolutely. I walked around browsing for books to buy for my collection. I ended up choosing O Bon: Poems by Brandon Shimoda and the two books in this photo, The Collected Poems of Chika Sagawa and the following book. I went to go pay and he told me Brandon Shimoda, the author of one of the books I was about to buy was, in fact, working in the back and that I should go over and talk to him and have him sign my book. So even though I'm very timid and nervous about speaking to people I don't know, I walked over to the back and he was there unpacking boxes. He was very kind and signed my book. ("To Mari - in exchange for your kindness in the desert") We ended up having a great conversation about Japanese books and translation. He started recommending me books and the first he recommended was The Collected Poems of Chika Sagawa and said he loved it so much and thought I would too and that I could keep it for myself. I laughed and thanked him profusely and told him I actually had picked out that same book to buy myself. We talked a bit more and then I was on my way with a bag of good books and the memory of having a great conversation about something I'm passionate about with someone whose writing I admire. That is what's so special about Marfa, things like that happen. 

The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide 

A wonderful sui generis novel about a visiting cat who brings joy into a couple’s life in Tokyo.

A bestseller in France and winner of Japan’s Kiyama Shohei Literary Award, The Guest Cat, by the acclaimed poet Takashi Hiraide, is a subtly moving and exceptionally beautiful novel about the transient nature of life and idiosyncratic but deeply felt ways of living. A couple in their thirties live in a small rented cottage in a quiet part of Tokyo; they work at home, freelance copy-editing; they no longer have very much to say to one another. But one day a cat invites itself into their small kitchen. It leaves, but the next day comes again, and then again and again. Soon they are buying treats for the cat and enjoying talks about the animal and all its little ways. Life suddenly seems to have more promise for the husband and wife ― the days have more light and color. The novel brims with new small joys and many moments of staggering poetic beauty, but then something happens….

As Kenzaburo Oe has remarked, Takashi Hiraide’s work "really shines." His poetry, which is remarkably cross-hatched with beauty, has been acclaimed here for "its seemingly endless string of shape-shifting objects and experiences,whose splintering effect is enacted via a unique combination of speed and minutiae."

 For the cat people, or the people who love beautiful writing. I read this one lazy weekend in bed and it was perfect.

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