Friday, 1 May 2009

May Day: Time to Think about Books for Next Season

Today's the day I must get to work on choosing books and dates for next season's book discussions. Librarians have to deal with municipal bureaucracies and it seems the wheels grind exceedingly slow. Announcements for next fall's reading series must be to whomever is responsible for communication by the end of May at two of the four libraries where I lead book groups, and once one has begun thinking about the fall, one might as well do the whole 2009-2010 season.

I've asked members of the various groups to bring suggestions to our May meetings, but, of course, I'll have my own list to suggest too. Here's what I've come up with so far: all excellent reads and all good discussion material.

For the English groups:

The Elegance of the Hedgehog
by Muriel Barbery
The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy
Distantly Related to Freud by Ann Charney
The Heart Specialist by Claire Holden Rothman
Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones
The Old Man Who Read Love Stories by Luis Sepulveda
Fault Lines by Nancy Huston
The Reader by Bernhard Schlink
The Celllist of Sarjevo by Steven Galloway
Lives of the Saints by Nino Ricci
Deaf Sentence by David Lodge
Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
Late Nights on Air by Elizabeth Hay
Earth and High Heaven by Gwethalyn Graham

For the French groups:

Kamouraska de Anne Hébert
Champagne de Monique Proulx
Mr. Pip de Lloyd Jones
Le Vieux qui lisait des romans d'amour de Luis Sepulveda
La Fille laide de Yves Theriault
Le Liseur de Bernhard Schlink
La Saga des Béothuks de Bernard Assiniwi
Barrage contre le Pacifique de Marguerite Duras
L’Attenat de Yasmina Khadra
L’étranger de Albert Camus
Une soirée Le Clezio : chacun(e) lit un livre du lauréat Nobel, et nous partagerons nos impressions

My criteria? About equal representaton between men and women writers, at least one translated from the other official language, at least one from some culture other than French or English North America, something that is not recent, and something that will make a splash--and, perhaps most importantly since I can be a bit of a martinet, the fact that I like it or have liked books by the author in the past.


Martin Langeland said...

May I offer Natsume Soseki for your consideration?
Writing at the turn of the 20th century he melds the traditions of Japan with a Western awareness unknown at the time. To us he introduces the rich textures of a culture struggling to cope with overwhelming outside forces overlaying barely digested, sweeping internal change. I particularly recommend "The Three Cornered World" which explores how an artist interacts with those around him when he feels the culture and his perception lack the fourth corner which makes everything stable and real. Or at least that is what remains in my pea brain from reading it some forty years ago.
The Times Literary Supplement writes: "This novel is a key work in the Japanese transition from traditional to modern literature. An artist abandons city life to wander into the mountains to meditate, but when he decides to stay at a near-deserted inn he soon finds himself drawn to the daughter of the innkeeper. The artist becomes entranced by her. She reminds him of Millais's portrait of Ophelia drowning and he wants to paint her. Yet, troubled by a certain quality in her expression, he struggles to complete the portrait until he is finally able to penetrate the enigma of her life. Interspersed with philosophies of both East and West, Soseki's writing skillfully blends two very different cultures in this unique representation of the artistic sensibility. Natsume Soseki (1867-1916) was one of the first Japanese writers to be aware of Western culture and has been seen as a counter-reformation figure maintaining the virtues of tradition at a time of intellectual chaos. Soseki is generally acknowledged to have been one of the most important writers of the modern period."
"I am a Cat" and "Kokoro are also good. The first a satire of modern life narrated by the cat, while the latter is a sensitve exploration of the heart of things. "Heart" being an inadequate translation of the Japanese.


Mary Soderstrom said...

Thanks so much for this, Martin. I'd never hear of Soseki, being woefully ignorant of Japanese literature. I will check him out.