bookbug vashti maple/maplebear inkcaps unfortunateaccident tsumugsfish daughterofbilitis ribozone getcubed miela583 devils the observer kengo 10kph
neoaspect strawberryreverie/virtualdreamland godza lazybones komichi not prince hamlet chrysanthemum fairygore pudo finnialla tehuan swiftred errormine moria
snewberry firozah nullspace missymjwrites linwood milkteamoon moondvsted catgiri percevalprintpress cherie melancholic-entrails/hina buki tabatinga ondine

Bookbug is a monthly book club hosted on neocities by Maple and Vashti that was started in December of 2023. Here's where I'll share my thoughts on the books we're reading through. =3

June 2024: Strangers on a Train

initial thoughts

  • I'm not always able get through the books fast enough during the loan perio from my library (and a lot of them have had crazy wait times!), so no May bookbug update for me. =( For our June read, the audiobook version is the only one available to me right now, so we're gonna give it a shot!

final thoughts

relevant links

February 2024: Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin

initial thoughts

  • There's a 6 week to "several months" wait for this book between my four library cards, so it looks like I'm either going to have to read a PDF scan of the book or listen to the audio book...
  • Alright, audiobook was NOT a good pick for me. Even playing it at double speed. =( If anyone else is struggling to get a copy, Internet Archive has a copy you can check out for an hour at a time here.
  • "I was beginning to judge him. And the very harshness of this judgment, which broke my heart, revealed, though I could not have said it then, how much I had loved him, how that love, along with my innocence, was dying." - OOF, relatable.
  • "...and perhaps one day this morning will not be ashes in your mouth." - I keep going back and forth on how I feel about the prose in this, but there are some beautifully crafted lines.

final thoughts

Finished yesterday (2/24/24) so thoughts will be up soon!

Reading Giovanni's room felt like standing on a beach as the tide comes in. You know the tide is coming, and the water begins to lap at your feet occassionally, but there are still warm, golden moments that feel like a balm. But it comes further and further in, the cold dread lapping now at your calves, then your knees, and eventually, you are submerged and taken by the cold waters. Much as the certainty with which the tide comes in, the opening of the book and the constant lull of forshadowing hide nothing from the reader.

This was not necessarily a comfortable read, but it was a good read. It is uncomfortable to hear David and Giovanni talk about women. It is uncomfortable to hear Halla discuss being a woman and her own resignation to it. It is uncomfortable to hear and see the ways that David treats his and others' queerness. But this book is a technical masterpiece in how elegantly it holds together so many themes—among them various forms of bigotry, isolation/alienation, vulnerability and the ability to love—without being overwhelming or jarring as the narrator rambles from one point in time to another, reflecting and remembering in the past one moment and then moving through the motions of the present.

The beauty of a novel containing such anxiety and grief and self-loathing is the ugly, utter human-ness of it. This is a story that reads like a confessional, parts of which are echoed in the lives of people I personally know, some maybe even in my own life if I want to offer myself up to that kind of vulnerability. I can't say that I loved any of the characters, but they felt like people struggling with their own identities and how their relationships to others informed their identities whether between David and Giovanni or Halla and David. There is no happy ending at the end of the tunnel, we are told this up front, but there is something cathartic in knowing that David will have to live with the consequences of his action/inaction past the end of the prose.

My thoughts this month are a little short, not because I have nothing to say, but because I have too much to say. I've been constantly rotating this story around in my mind as I've been reading, and every angle seems to reflect some new feeling or theme that pulls at something in my heart. Perhaps it is my love of tragedy. Perhaps is is my own history with loneliness and alienation and trying to overcome them to be vulnerable and love myself as I am. Perhaps still it is that tiny wish in my heart to hear the same stories again, only for them to turn out differently (though I know they won't). I could get lost in the prism of hallways that extend from this novel, and though it is a sad read, it's one I will probably return to in a few years time when the dust has settled.

relevant links

January 2024: Convenience Store Woman, Sayaka Murata; translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori

initial thoughts

  • I'm enjoying the prose immensely. Everything feels so vivid and I can very clearly imagine the things the narrator describes. It draws you right in!
  • I desperately wish my Japanese was good enough to read full novels (I could probably barely handle children's books at this point!), but I would love to know how the narration compares between the English translation and the original Japanese.
  • I know I'm neurodivergent as hell, but there are some very #relatable thoughts and moments. Lotta weird girl energy here. I want to be her friend.
  • BRUH, this guy sucks but also like, that feeling of not wanting people to not bother you about your unconventional life choices is a mood. So on the one hand, GIRL NO, but on the other hand, society pls leave me alone. =')
  • Want to do a little supplemental reading before I write up my review to get a little more perspective and settle my own thoughts....

final thoughts

Finished today (1/20/24) so thoughts will be up soon!

I read a handful of reviews before voting in the poll to pick this month's book, but otherwise tried to avoid any information regarding the plot. Having now finished the book, some of these professional reviewers feeling that the novel was funny or calling Keiko disturbing is really disheartening if not upsetting, and I really feel it does a disservice to Keiko's story arc of pointing out the absurdities of pursuing normalcy (uncomfortable, fake, unsafe normalcy!) for the sake of normalcy and making others comfortable. And this is supposedly one of Murata’s tamer pieces, so I can only imagine what critics would have to say about her other works!

As a neurodivergent person myself, it's very easy to read Keiko as such. She is logical and her decisions are purposeful, made for her to continue her work day in and day out, but she is comfortable and content with her routine of working at the store. It is only when her life status is questioned in quick succession by multiple people in her life that she begins to feel that, “Any change, good or bad, would be better than the state of impasse I was in now.” And in a sad way, she was right, but only as a balm for others’ discomfort with her life.

Her sister, their friends, and even her coworkers begin to treat her differently when her fake relationship begins – inviting her out to socialize (which Keiko didn’t even know her coworkers did), encouraging her relationship even after she mentions his non-participation in anything resembling relationship building, and even talking about marriage right as soon as she mentions that a man is living with her. And all of this ultimately culminates in Keiko quitting her job to look for a job more suitable to her age, leaving her depressed and directionless.

My only “criticism” of the book is that it was much shorter than I anticipated, but I found that it probably works better for this story than it would for others. It’s more like a snapshot into someone’s inner struggle up to their final decision. It doesn’t overstay its welcome with an epilogue or try to add in a feel good ending to tie things up with a bow. She tells her fake relationship partner that she is a convenience store worker before even being human and tells him that she doesn’t need him. Given Keiko’s character that we’ve seen thus far, what else would there really be to say?

My ebook copy from my library also included an essay originally published on Literary Hub (the first link down below). I think the combination of both gives a little additional perspective of one to the other even though the narrators are unrelated. Keiko’s story ends in mentioning that she will need to find a new store. She has no attachment to the creature comforts of the single store she has known and loved for 18 years but to the konbini as though it were an archetypical entity. It feels… almost religious and like a very animist interpretation which is maybe a little bit of a personal projection than anything else, but who is there to say there isn’t a god of konbini?

I really enjoyed this book, perhaps because it was comforting to see a little bit of myself in Keiko – both her social struggles as well as her comfort with her unconventional life. I’m very interested to read more of Murata’s work, and maybe I’ll finally start working on my Japanese again so I can read some of her untranslated works.

relevant links