banana yoshimoto, book review, daniel keyes, forster, japanese horror story, jeffrey eugenides, ryunosuke akutagawa
It’s that time of year again when I do a little retrospective of best books. I’m quite surprised that I’ve been a little frugal with my 5/5 stars, but 2012 has certainly put me in touch with some awesome authors I have never heard of or read before. So, without further ado, here’s a taste of the best bits of how my reading year went.
By far the most heartbreaking and astonishing book I have come across during the year. It’s one hell of a story that really examines the fleeting nature of our lives, our achievements and our losses. Nothing prepares you for the amazement and devastation you will feel when Charlie Gordon, a simpleton with an IQ of 18 undergoes breakthrough brain surgery to increase his intelligence levels. His one goal in life is to be intelligent, yet when this wish is granted, he is unaware of the horrible revelations it brings with it. As the veil of dumb ignorance is slowly lifted, his perception of friends and family also change. On his journey of discovery he gets a taste of emotions and thoughts he never knew existed. ‘Flowers for Algernon‘ is a beautiful illustration of how bitter the fruit of knowledge really can be.
My first attempt at Eugenides was absolute bliss. ‘Middlesex’ explores themes of incest and family history through the eyes of Cal, a hermaphrodite. “I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day of January 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974. . . My birth certificate lists my name as Calliope Helen Stephanides. My most recent driver-s license…records my first name simply as Cal.” The opening paragraph on it’s own is electrifying enough. I couldn’t put it down and if you choose to read this, neither will you. Hilarious and tragic in equal amounts with just the right dose of literary intelligence to keep the literary critic in you smiling too.
My first attempt at Banana Yoshimoto also left me with warm, fuzzy feelings. Japanese fiction is so beautiful, and ‘Kitchen’ embodies faithful representations of human emotions with that trademark simplicity that Japanese writers seem to have a knack for. This book is like a celebration of death and life, and reminds us that we must cherish the people around us when we still have them. This book reads like a series of short stories. Here’s my review of it.
Akutagawa, the father of modern Japanese literature, translated by Jay Rubin. What more could you want? This is a short, short read that packs one hell of a punch. Akutagawa brings out the delicious lacquerwork and intricate embellishment of Japanese folklore in this collection of sharp, disturbing tales about art and sacrifice. Read my review here.
Romance novels, I do not like. However, I am willing to change that with a book like ‘A Room With A View’. Forster’s perspective of love is what really endeared this novel to me. It’s not lovey-dovey, wishy-wishy. Real love is messy, it’s more to do with gut feelings than rationality. It’s a tricky path to negotiate and our two lovers here certainly fall from grace more than once trying to find their way to one another. Read my review here.
That’s it folks! Those are my best pickings of 2012. What are yours?
- The Japanese Literature Publishing Project and The Private Library (privatelibrary.typepad.com)
- Daniel Keyes’s Flowers for Algernon (booknutcase.wordpress.com)
- Review of the Year 2012- Fiction (lucybirdbooks.wordpress.com)
- Friday Round-Up: December 28, 2012 (themidwestmaven.wordpress.com)
- What Was The Most Reviewed Book Of 2012? (huffingtonpost.com)
- 2012 round-up (jennydavidson.blogspot.com)