Monday, 29 December 2014

A wildly imaginative depiction of a nightmarish future

Title: MaddAddam

Author: Margaret Atwood

Tags: #theyearoftheflood #oryxandcrake

Discovered: Waterstones, Piccadilly

Where read: (In part) The Monocle Cafe, Marylebone  

The Word's Shortlist view:

"But hatred and viciousness are addictive. You can get high on them. Once you've had a little, you start shaking if you don't get more"

MaddAddam is the final part of a trilogy which began in 2013 with Oryx and Crake. The novel is set in a future dystopia in which warring groups fight to survive in the aftermath of a apocalyptic man-made plague where 'Crakers' have been bio-engineered to replace humans. Be warned, this is not an easy read but, as with all Atwood novels, the reader is rewarded with exceptional prose and vivid ideas - you just need to stick with it.

Like other Atwood works this is not simply science fiction, her future worlds are so plausible that the author herself describes the writing as 'speculative fiction'. The story weaves together contemporary themes including ecology, the environment and genetic engineering with a thorough injection of dark humour.

At its best this book is widely imaginative in its depiction of a nightmarish future which is more than a little thought provoking. 

The trouble with MaddAddam is that, at times, the narrative is over indulgent and concerned with telling a number of back stories that don't push the story on. Ardent fans will relish this but after over 10 years some of the detail here is over cooked. 

Amazing writing but commitment required! 

Click here for the official book trailer http://youtu.be/a1MGqgOthUM





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Sunday, 14 December 2014

... A heartwarming little novel about life, love and cat-flaps 

Title: The Guest Cat

Author: Takashi Hiraide

Tags: #japan #tokyo #cats

Discovered: The Riverside Bookshop, London Bridge

Where read: (In part) Southeastern high speed train to Canterbury  

Why read now?: Enjoy now and give as presents to your friends this Christmas

The Word's Shortlist view:

"Looking back on it now, I'd say one's thirties are a cruel age. At this point, I think of them as a time I whiled away unaware of the tide that can suddenly pull you out, beyond the shallows, into the sea of hardship, and even death."

This is one of those novels where brevity and simplicity conceal, at least initially, a depth and appeal beyond its 146 pages. Don't be fooled by the title, this is a novel (more specifically a novella) not so much about a cat but about a couple. 

The narrative follows a middle aged and emotionally distant couple working from a rented home in one of the outer suburbs of Tokyo. Into this routine way of life comes 'the guest cat' whom the couple name Chibi. The rhythm of the couples life changes pace irreversibly sending ripples through their destiny.

Hirade's style is succint, like much Japanese fiction, but never clipped. Passages in this novel capture what other authors would take a whole chapter to convey which is undoubtedly due to the author's skills as a poet.

Anyone whose ever been in a relationship will recognise aspects of the couple's lives at home and you don't have to be a pet lover to see, in Chibi, the universal desire to befriend and care for another being.

This is a heartwarming and unforgettable little story about life, love and cat-flaps. Having won Japan's Kiyama Shohei literary award the novel has been a New York Times Bestseller and is now a surprise hit in the UK.  

Note: What's makes a novel a novella? A novella occupies the set spot between a short story and a novel






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Sunday, 7 December 2014

The December shortlist....

The Crane Wife - Patrick Ness


The Guest Cat - Takashi Hiraide

Maddaddam - Margaret Atwood

#amreading



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Sunday, 30 November 2014

In short, a great read but we want more Mr Smith! 

Title: Man's World

Author: Rupert Smith

Tags: #gayliterature #theimitationgame #queerfiction

Discovered: Strand Book store, NYC

Where read: (In part) Black Seed Bagel, NYC   

Why read now?:  The Imitation Game on film has shed light on this period in gay history. A Man's World turns the brightness up some more. 

The Word's Shortlist view:

"....and that's why this diary will remain hidden inside the lining of my suitcase along with the copies of Health and Strength and Man's World.."

Man's World tells two parallel stories, a queer timeline if you like between the 1950's and the present day in which the lives of the two leads, Robert and Michael, couldn't be further apart. 

Robert lives the kind of lifestyle that, on the surface at least, prioritises a diet of gym, drugs and clubs. Sex is straight-forward and available but relationships are half formed and transient. On the other hand Michael's life on National Service at an RAF base on the 1950's is closeted, secretive and risky.

Life for Michael and friends after the War was inconceivably tough but is brought to vivid life with real dignity by Smith (reminiscent of the similar parallel lines in The Pride by Alexi Kaye Campbell). For me the story should have explored this aspect far more rather than drawing parallels with today. The shift between the two generations is just two vast to convey in a relatively short novel. 

This book is not exactly full of likeable characters but the chapters concerning Michael and Mervyn in the 50s and 60s are the most succesful. There are times when you'll want to skip over the minutiae of Robert's destructive relationship with Stuart however, stick with it because, as a device, this works well to heighten the tension between the two strands. When lives overlap, you can make your own judgement.

In short, a great read but we want more Mr Smith!!






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Monday, 17 November 2014

The experience of this book is like a one on one audience with the storyteller  

Title: The Moth: 50 Extraordinary True Stories

Author: Introduced by Neil Gaiman

Tags: #moth #storytelling #reallife

Discovered: The Book House, High Street, Thame

Where read: (In part) Ace Hotel, NYC  

Why read now?:  Moth events are gaining momentum across the globe. Find out why these open mike nights for story tellers are so dam good!

The Word's Shortlist view:

"In 1975, I was twenty-eight years old, and I weighed in at 120 pounds. I found myself on a bus, chained to a West Indian brother, headed upstate to prison"

This collection of 50 true stories is a an edit of some of the best real life stories told at Moth events in the US. These 'open mike' nights for storytellers have become increasingly popular for their opportunity for people to tell tales from their own lives to an audience of active listeners.

The Moth phenomena is named after moths that were drawn to gas lamps on verandas across America in a pre digital age when family and friends gathered to recount tales. Like moths to a new flame these events are now taking place in the UK.

In the book, the stories are sorted by theme (Carpe Diem, Coming Home, In the Trenches etc) which belies the truth that these are all completely unique tales told directly from the heart.

Quite literally these tales are some of the most truthful and intimate I have ever read. The experience of the book is like a one on one audience with the story teller, full of pathos and passion. 

Everyone will respond differently to these stories. The fact that the most poignant for me were 'LOL' by Adam Gopnik, 'A Kind of Wisdom' by Ellie Lee and 'Discussing Family Trees in School Can be Dangerous' by Paul Nurse are by the by. 

You'll find your own favourites. Just read :)

Find out more about the Moth movement here: http://themoth.org


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Sunday, 9 November 2014

"manuscripts don't burn" (рукописи не горят) 

Title: The Master and Margarita (Alma Classics)

Author: Mikhail Bulgakov

Tags: #russia #censorship #devil

Discovered: Thame Library, Oxfordshire

Where read: (In part) Heathrow Terminal 2  

Why read now?:  A great introduction to satirical (and at times crazy) Russian literature

The Word's Shortlist view:

"Really, I would pawn my soul to the devil to find out whether he is alive or dead."

A poet, a talking black cat, Pontius Pilate, a fanged hitman and Satan himself all feature in this complex and symbol laden tale written by Mikhail Bulgakov between 1928 and 1940. The book became a cult classic in the 70s following its publication some years after Bulgakov's own death. 

Bulgakov is hailed as one of the greatest Russian writers of the 20th Century but first time readers of Russian literature, like me, will find this difficult to follow and at times impenetrable.  Translated writing often feels like trying to break a code but this, with its heavy use of allegory and metaphor, is especially challenging.

On the other hand, once you begin to accept the style of the book you're rewarded with the key to an 'other world' in which good and evil, past and present, blur into a cultural soup. 

The novel follows two strands, the first in 1930s Moscow with the arrival of a mysterious magician who proceeds to send the upper echelons of academia spiralling into chaos, and the second in the Jerusalem of Pontius Pilate. In the first book the Master is the protagonist and in the second we follow his Mistress Margarita more closely. For me the 1930s sections are stronger than the lengthy passages in the Holy Land. Likewise, the Margarita sections are the more memorable once she takes flight following Satan's Ball, surely one of the most enigmatic and inexplicable sequences in any book. 

This is not an easy book to read and certainly one that will challenge your perseverance in places. Like many 'cult classics' the myth that surrounds the work is probably more significant than the book itself, checkout the Bulgakov House in Moscow which has become a Mecca to fiction fans, satanists and street artists. The novel has been suggested as an influence from the Rolling Stones to Star Trek and was recently cited by Daniel Radcliffe as his favourite book of all time!

Memorable, peerless and a bit zany. Read if you're up for a challenge.




See a clip from a Russian film adaptation here: http://youtu.be/a6zsQZd6UM4

Read 'Books that made a difference to Daniel Radcliffe' here http://www.cnn.com/2011/09/30/living/books-radcliffe-o/index.html?sr=sharebar_twitter

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Friday, 7 November 2014

The November shortlist....

Man's World - Rupert Smith

The Master and Margarita - Mickhail Bulgakov

The Moth: 50 Extraordinary True Stories - Introduced by Neil Gaiman

#amreading



Twitter: @wordsshortlist
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Friday, 31 October 2014

...and Manchester created Joy Division 

Title: Chapter and Verse - New Order, Joy Division and Me (Transworld Digital)

Author: Bernard Sumner

Tags: #manchester #bluemonday #lovewilltearusapart

Discovered: Foyles Waterloo

Where read: (In part) Notes, Covent Garden (notes-uk.co.uk)  

Why read now?: The infectious floor filling sound of New Order's Blue Monday will never fall out of fashion.  

The Word's Shortlist view:

Bernard Sumner is not known as an outspoken self publicist so it comes as no surprise that his new autobiography lacks the tell-all sensationalist reveals of other titles on the market. Chapter and Verse is more like a chat with a mate down the local, and what's wrong with that. Pour yourself a pint and get stuck in.

Sumner's story moves from grimy post war Salford in the 50s and 60s through Punk in the 70s and the formation of his first band Joy Division. Wild eloquent prose this isn't (read Autobiography by Morrissey for this) but what we do read is an intelligent, honest and self deprecating tale of music, passion and friendship. 

The best chapters of the book chart Sumner's part in the transformation of the Manchester youth scene from derelict cotton mills to The Factory (think Studio 54 with a side of mushy peas). Other sections of the story are light on detail. Recurring characters, like Tony Wilson, form a chorus but so much more could have been included about these influences. The full circumstances around Ian Curtis's death is mostly absent which is a shame.

From Punk we hurtle into New Order, the Hacienda and Acid House with Sumner relating this to the rise of the synthesiser and electronic music production. Music fans will love the detailed descriptions of the way tracks were written and recorded but for me the social/cultural sounds are more epic.  

In short this is a brilliant read for fans of music, the 80s and the early club scene. Sumner was instrumental in defining an identity for post industrial Northern England and specifically Manchester and this book goes some way to explain how and why.

oh and he write some quite catchy songs too. How does it feel to treat me like you do? (Blue Monday)




Love will tear us apart clip http://youtu.be/zuuObGsB0No

Blue Monday clip 
http://youtu.be/FYH8DsU2WCk

Sunday, 19 October 2014

The Miniaturist - The eerie prophecy of the doll's house 

Title: The Miniaturist (Picador)

Author: Jessie Burton

Tags: #rijksmuseum, #amsterdam, #thegoldfinch

Discovered: The Book House, Thame (http://www.thebookhousethame.co.uk)

Where read: (In part) in Peyton and Byrne St Pancras (peytonandbyrne.co.uk)  

Why read now?: A compelling page turner set in the perpetually chilly Autumn world of 17th Century Amsterdam. 

The Word's Shortlist view:

In this debut novel Jessie Burton brilliantly transports the reader to 17th Century Amsterdam through the eyes of Petronella Oortman an 18 year old girl sent to be the bride of a wealthy merchant.

Like Girl with a Pearl Earring and The Goldfinch (and indeed The Da Vinci Code) the novel takes its lead from a work of art, in this case the 'Doll's House of Petronella Oortman' in Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum. In the novel Nella is presented with the dolls house as a wedding gift from her new, but distant, husband Johannes. 

The dolls house itself becomes the theatre in which Nella's life, along with the lives of the family around her, is played out in eerie prophecy. 

The drama is fast paced and weaves together domestic conflict with social and political intrigue brilliantly illustrated by well developed characters, particularly Agnes and Marin. A glossary in the appendix is useful for getting to grips with some of the terms Burton uses to authentically bring scenes to life.

Whilst some of the plot points are literary staples; family secrets,  paternity intrigue and repressive religious forces, there is plenty of uniqueness here. The real star of the piece is Amsterdam itself, the damp and misty canal-side world in which wealth and poverty co-exits with the exotic and the parochial. Having said that, there is another novel to be written about Johannes Brandt's trade journeys to the East Indies. Over to you Ms Burton  

A compelling page turner.

Read more about the actual doll's house in the Rijksmuseum here:
https://www.rijksmuseum.nl/en/collection/BK-NM-1010 

Discover more fiction inspired by works of art here:
http://blog.ted.com/2012/07/25/10-books-inspired-by-paintings/




Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Possibly the greatest literature/trainer mash up of all time....


My favourite is the 977 inspired by Catcher in the Rye's Holden Caulfield

 

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Bad Blood - A macabre slice of urban gothic

Title: Bad Blood: The Second Intercrime Thriller (Harvill Secker 2013)

Author: Arne Dahl

Tags: #nordicnoir, #scandi, #gothicfiction

Discovered: At the Blenheim Palace Literary Festival (@BlenheimLitFest)

Where read: (In part) On the 280 bus to Oxford 

Why read now?: Immerse yourself in this dark and brooding man hunt as the Autumn evenings draw in. 

The Word's Shortlist view: 

From the title on the dust jacket to the deep crimson red of the front cover spilled blood literally seeps from this novel. Victims with pincer like scars, a psychopathic killer back from the dead travelling by night across time zones - this reads like a macabre slice of modern urban gothic.

Inspector Paul Hjelm and the A-Unit team in Stockholm are pulled into the story following a tip off from the FBI that a serial killer, the presumed dead 'Kentucky Killer', is en route to Arlanda Airport.  

Unlike other genre novels set in police departments the team is  complex and made up of interesting, slightly odd-ball, characters (particularly Kersten Holm and Jorge Chavez) each with their own unique back stories. Establishing these personalties in the early series is one of the secrets behind the longevity, and devout fan loyalty, of the Intercrime series and TV shows.

The opening chapter, set in Newark Airport, hauls the reader right into the heart of the story. I challenge anyone not to read on after  this terrifying prologue in a cleaners closet! Moving on, the pace of the story varies from slow burning plot heavy sections to gory roller coaster sequences with explicit bloodshed.

Nordic crime novels are well know to be equally compelling and chilling but what sets Arne Dahl apart from Larsson, Mankel et al is style and literary accomplishment. With detailed plot points and well crafted characters this is far more than a simple page turner.

Dahl's novels have a implicit cinematic aesthetic that amplifies the fear and anxiety in the writing. This is great story telling in the finest tradition of gothic fiction.

Read Nordic Style's article Pioneer of Nordic Noir: http://www.nordicstylemag.com/2014/10/arne-dahl-pioneer-nordic-noir/


      




What to read next: The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

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Saturday, 4 October 2014

The October Shortlist

Ballsy Nordic Noir, a new classic(?) and erudite Northernism ;)

Bad Blood - Arne Dahl

The Miniaturist - Jessie Burton

Chapter and Verse: New Order, Joy Division and Me - Bernard Sumner


Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Is Joanna Briscoe's Touched just too polite to be a real ghost story?

The novella's 1960s analogue setting is an excellent backdrop to what promises to be a chilling and creepy tale from the Hammer stable (expectation = intelligent horror with film noir nuance). 

The drama begins with the Crale family, with their five children, relocating to the village of Crowsely Beck from London. A displaced family in a new and isolated countryside community, very promising. What ghastly secrets could possibly lay beyond the village green in this quintessential English setting?

A few chapters in the biggest scare is how difficult this story is to get in to. Characters are flimsy and under-developed and the story goes nowhere despite having all the ingredients of a good old fashioned haunted house page turner. 

The star of the show is the cottage itself; the stench of cat urine, the curious damp stains on the wallpaper, the aroma of an old lady's perfume and the brick wall that just won't budge during the renovation work.

Although there are hints of suspense, the ethereal daughter Evangeline in Victorian dress who disappears for days on end with her imaginary co-conspirator Freddie, the story struggles to come together and realise the tension and fear that a real ghost story needs to deliver. If you're looking for chills and scare from this Hammer release you'll be sorely disappointed.

Much has been written recently about the back breaking weight of some of the novels on the market (have editors lost the ability to cull??) so the chance to pick up a slender novella like this is a luxury.

Read this book during an extra long lie in on a Sunday morning but don't be surprised if its just not Hammer enough for you - you will undoubtedly miss the spine chilling moments you expected.

Read, in part, at Foodhall in The Barbican
Discovered on Net Galley (Thank you!)

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Sunday, 7 September 2014

Pulp fiction meets cyber-punk in 'Hard Boiled Wonderland and The End of the World'

If Colourless Tsukuru wasn't quite Murakami enough for you try this novel from 1985 (translated into English in 1991) which many fans cite as their favourite. In this idiosyncratic story Murakami spins two separate narratives that delve into the kind of existential angst at the heart of Murakami mania.

The odd numbered chapters, Hard Boiled Wonderland, are set in a near future Tokyo which blends science fiction and cyber-punk without conforming to either genre. Anime fans will recognise this version of Tokyo as a megalopolis in which data is a commodity to both steal and protect. Warring factions fight for control in a cyber crime detective story with more than a hint to the novels of, Murakami favourite, Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep and The Long goodbye).  

Even numbered chapters, The End of the World, are set in an ethereal walled city where citizens are separated from their shadows and where great horned beasts rise and fall with the changing seasons.

What runs through both stories is profound sense of isolation. Although this is a recurring theme in Japanese fiction it reaches new heights in both of these worlds where characters are nameless; The Librarian, Chubby Girl, INKlings, and lives are governed by the routine of task based work.  

The Hardboiled chapters are arguably the most successful. The near future setting exaggerates the neo-noir science fiction scenes which hit many Westerners on a first time visit to Shinjuku or Shibuya. Both stories are dream-like and delusional in places which, to first time Murakami readers, may be inaccessible. 

The real reward for reading this particular novel are the 'Murakami-isms' which are aplenty throughout from the mundanity of the laundrette to the whimsy of the secret worlds beneath the Ginza line - all set of course to a soundtrack from mid-century jazz to Dylan.

Discovered in Foyles, Charing Cross Road

Read, in part, in The Monocle Cafe, Chiltern Street

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Tuesday, 2 September 2014

The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir who got Trapped in an IKEA Wardrobe.

Certainly one of the more eccentric titles on the bookshelves at the moment is this novel by Romain Puertolas. The novel was a big hit in French speaking markets last year and follows the success of recently translated thriller The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair by Joel Dicker. 

This is a picaresque caper that sees our unwitting hero, the eponymous Fakir, traversing Europe from France to the UK, Italy and Libya following an unsuccessful attempt to purchase a bed of nails from the Roissy branch of IKEA outside Paris. 

The first couple of chapters are good fun, once you accept the idea that IKEA would actually sell a bed of nails. The idea of a story being told within the fake theatrical habitat of an IKEA showroom is a great premise - could we see a season of pop up performances in IKEA Milton Keynes soon? 

More likely is that in this novel we have a screen-play just waiting to be committed to celluloid. Given the novels direct casting of Sophie Marceau (disguised as Morceau) in a leading role I suspect the film version is currently in pre-production with Canal+.

Following well worn European people trafficking routes this tale offers up a refreshing take on the typical narrative around immigrants trapped in shipping containers and aeroplane holds but the trouble with the novel is that the fast pace and episodic adventure actually conceals a very light story that fails to fully reward the reader in the end. Yes there's victory over adversity but this is little more than a (partly) humorous romp with a quirky title.

Sometimes novels can be just too quick and easy to read. 

Discovered in Daunt Books, Marylebone

Read, in part, in Curators Coffee Gallery and the 09:53 from Haddenham and Thame Parkway to London Marylebone.

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Monday, 1 September 2014

On the bookshelf this month.....

The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir who got Trapped in an IKEA Wardrobe - Romain Puertolas 

Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World Haruki Murakami

Touched - Joanna Briscoe

The Year of Reading Dangerously - Andy Miller



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Sunday, 31 August 2014

Need some inspiration from other readers???

Thanks for all the comments and feedback this month. Great to hear about what you've been reading.... (and where!)

And the Mountains Echoed - Khaled Hosseini

The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair - Joel Dicker

Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Year's of Pilgrimage - Haruki Murakami

The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt

The Fault in our Stars - John Green

The September shortlist, out tomorrow

For reviews, news and recommendations follow:twitter: @wordsshortlistinstagram: your_next_readwww.facebook.com/thewordsshortlist 




Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Murakami's long awaited new novel may be a world away from the mega hit 1Q84 but don't ignore the apparent realism of this story, what lurks beneath are all the hallmarks of classic Murakami.

The central plot of this neat story is Tsukuru's search to understand why his four closest school friends suddenly, and without warning, give up all communication. Cue themes of rejection, loneliness and solitary reflection which run through so much Japanese fiction.

What's different here are the Murakami motifs which recur over and over; the soundtrack (in this case Liszt's 'Le Mal du Pays'), surreal dream sequences and characters with profoundly deep emotions. Note: You won't find any talking cats this time I'm afraid.   

Nevertheless, reasons to love this novel are plenty, put simply this is the perfect blend of the mundane and the mystical, the everyday and the enigmatic. Murakami novels are inhabited by people consumed equally by the routine of domestic chores and the fantasy of the alternative.

Tsukuru Tazaki may not have the allure of 1Q84's Tengo or the charm of Kafka in Kafka on the Shore but seen alongside Norwegian Wood's Turu Watanabe you'll find the typical alienated male figure that makes Murakami's world so compelling. Tsukuru is like a blank canvas that readers must project themselves onto.

Complex relationships shed light on real grown up anxiety that's as much a global theme as a Japanese predilection. In the past Murakami has been celebrated for giving voice to a subcultural generation but now, selling as many copies as Harry Potter, the subculture has gone mainstream.

Look out for Finnair's Murakami themed itineraries in the Narita to Helsinki in flight magazine, coming soon!




  

Sunday, 17 August 2014

A screen, A screen..... my bandwidth for a screen!

Nikesh Shuklar's novel Meatspace perfectly captures the paranoia and angst that lurks beneath the witty banter of today's social media age. For anyone whose first and last thought of the day is to check their social media feeds this is an 'M.R.' - must read.

Like Tao Lin's novel Taipei, the novel is set in a contemporary social media obsessed world, in this case London, in which hours/days are idled away with a cultural digest of celebrity gossip, vacuous live tweeting and pornography, heightening the anxiety that there is little time for actual work never mind a fulfilling career.

Where the book succeeds is in exploring the extremes of digital anxiety where the edges of identity and relationships blur in to a dubious area where the nature of 'friends' and 'likes' is seriously questioned. 

The novel's protagonist Kitab first finds his twitter account has been hacked before discovering that his complete identity has been hijacked. The way 'Kitab 2' conducts a complete and total identity takeover is dangerously simple and sobering (to this reader at least). 

Less successful are the chapters concerning Aziz in New York if only  because the Kitab/Kitab 2 story is so strong. Something about the claustrophobia of one man's loss of identity is lost in these sections however, the end result delivers.

The themes of paranoia and personality disorder may sound a little Bret Easton Ellis but what Shuklar actually does with Meatspace is create a unique and compelling story that packs a zeitgeisty punch that will leave you with a serious urge to change your passwords as a matter of urgency.









Friday, 8 August 2014


Ruth Ozeki's A Tale For the Time Being is a stunning achievement and certainly worthy of being long-listed for the 2014 Man Booker prize.

"A Time Being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and everyone of us who is, or was, or ever will be"

The narrative follows Canadian novelist Ruth as she is dragged into the world of 16 year old Tokyoite, Nao, via the medium of a washed up diary. A Hello Kitty lunch box, Marcel Proust, a 101 year old Buddhist Nun and Haruki #1 the kamikaze pilot all wind up in this Tsunami of a story.

From the French Maid cafes of urban Akihabara to the Mountain retreats of Sendai and the coast of British Columbia this novel casts the net of Japanese cultural influence across the pacific to Canada.

Ozeki manages to weave every major contemporary Japanese narrative in to this intricate story from the trauma of the recent earthquake and tsunami to the plight of the Tokyo 'salarymen'. The writing neatly contrasts the WWII Kamakazi soldiers to the modern corporate army of Suits all too prepared to throw themselves in-front of commuter trains.

Ozeki authentically uses so many Japanese terms that footnotes are aplenty. Whilst fans of Japanese culture will appreciate this those reading on a Kindle will be annoyed!

Not always easy to connect with the characters and not over flowing with laughs but a rewarding, if long, novel from an expert modern story teller.


Sunday, 3 August 2014

The Word's Shortlist..... 

of best contemporary Japanese fiction



Haruki Murakami - 1Q84

Ruth Ozeki - A Tale for the Time Being

Banana Yoshimoto - The Lake

Hiromi Kawakami - Strange Weather in Tokyo

Ryo Murakami - In the Miso Soup



Tweet @wordsshortlist with your recommendations and discoveries