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Hikonyan
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 12, 2008 3:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Obenjo Kusanosuke wrote:
Surprised Wait a minute! I thought Hikonyan was supposed to be a fluffy, uber kawaiiiiiiii, schmoo-looking, stuffed samurai cat that kids, teenaged girls and Nobunaga fans in need could rely on for a hug.


Aw, come on, Obenjo-san-you know that line of BS That's BS is all for the tourists!

Just like the origin of Hikonyan that the castle gives out:

"One day Naotaka Ii saw a cat beckoning him in a temple. It was raining. He dismounted and walked into the temple. Then the temple gate where he had dismounted was struck by thunder."

But SOON I'll tell the true story to all my SA pals! Nyan nyan!
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 12, 2008 3:11 pm    Post subject: Re: Slush Pile Samurai Reply with quote
Wave Tossed wrote:
Shisendo, I couldn't help it, I first read OSAI. It was quite entrancing and interesting. On the site, it says that the book is "incomplete." Now I want to know how this book ends.


No need to apologize. I wouldn't be surprised if the Osai book attracts a lot of interest. On authonomy, "Incomplete" just means that the full book hasn't been uploaded, not that it isn't finished. Usually the author will indicate the book's status in the synopsis
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PostPosted: Fri Sep 12, 2008 5:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I am glad that I bought The Signore. I have not read a Sengoku fiction book in ages. It will be on my must read list. If anybody has not read the book, give a try. You will be glad you did.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 13, 2008 1:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
nohime wrote:
I am glad that I bought The Signore. I have not read a Sengoku fiction book in ages. It will be on my must read list. If anybody has not read the book, give a try. You will be glad you did.


Les aka nobu-chan


Thanks for The Signore info. I had never heard of it until reading this thread. The depiction of Nobunaga in Kagemusha sparked my curiosity (before that, I had just associated him with the Hiei massacre). Too bad it's out of print. I tried Alibris and see there are plenty available still.
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 13, 2008 5:54 am    Post subject: Re: Slush Pile Samurai Reply with quote
Shisendo wrote:
Wave Tossed wrote:
Shisendo, I couldn't help it, I first read OSAI. It was quite entrancing and interesting. On the site, it says that the book is "incomplete." Now I want to know how this book ends.


No need to apologize. I wouldn't be surprised if the Osai book attracts a lot of interest. On authonomy, "Incomplete" just means that the full book hasn't been uploaded, not that it isn't finished. Usually the author will indicate the book's status in the synopsis
Well then, upload the rest -- so I can see how it ends! Very Happy
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 21, 2010 3:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I had been holding off on buying The Signore for the longest time. It was $28 in Canada, and Alibris wanted $12 just to ship from the US. They finally discounted the book to $1 (so $13 inclusive) and I took the bait. To my surprise, the book was in incredibly good condition. It’s a 1st Edition (English version) hardcover with vintage 1989 Kodansha leaflets intact. The overleaf had slight creases, the spine was weakened in one spot, and one page had a crease in it. It felt like going back in a time machine twenty years to bring back a copy that had been handled once or twice in a bookstore.

As for the book itself, it lived up to the recommendations of SA members. I found the opening pages covering the narrator’s backstory hard to get into, but once he reached Sakai, I was hooked. Whether it is credit to the translator, the author, or both, the voice approximated a sixteenth century Italian well enough with his rhetorical flourishes that I really forgot that I was reading a book written by a Japanese author.

At first it seemed like the author was trying to gloss over Nobunaga’s dark side by describing the Hiei massacre from a distance, but the closer examination of the lesser known sieges of Nagashima and Ishiyama allayed that suspicion. While the emphasis is on exploring the more positive aspects of Nobunaga’s personality, there is enough balance to keep the book from sliding into hagiography.

Ultimately, The SIgnore represents the best type of historical fiction, telling a very human story while driving the curious reader to a book like Japonius Tyrannus to learn more about the historical figure of Nobunaga. The prose is of a much higher quality than one finds in a book like Taiko (which lends nearly as much space to a study of Nobunaga as it does to Hideyoshi), making it a recommended first stop for anyone seeking a fictional representation of Oda, especially if you enjoyed the charismatic depiction of him in Kurosawa’s Kagemusha.
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 22, 2010 6:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
The Signore is one of my favorite books and gald you liked it. Also the Signore blows away Taiko in my opinion. Looks like I have to reread the book before heading off for ops later this summer.
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 27, 2010 12:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Right now I'm reading (and loving) "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet" by David Mitchell. It was just released last month in the UK and hit #1 on the bestseller charts. It centers around the Dutch trading island of Dejima in Nagasaki and a temple in the nearby hills where strange things are happening. Excellent, well drawn characters (both western and Japanese) and (so far) an involving story that encompasses a multitude of threads. Very well written and evocative, although set in time about 40 or 50 years too early in my opinion (taking place in 1799).

The author's done some homework in Japanese history but many of the names look to have been lifted from pop culture stuff (like characters from Shogun, the Tenchu series, Inuyasha, etc). Only occasionally will you read it and think "No, that's not right". It's much more of an adventure novel like 'Cloud of Sparrows' (without the supernatural goings-on, at least so far) or the Sano Ichiro series (albeit without the historical gaffes of the latter) than straight up 'historical fiction' brimming with real-life characters (I hear one of these will be gracing bookstore shelves later this year Wink).
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 27, 2010 2:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Already finished Thousand Autumns and intend to next read a draft translation of Ikenami Shoutarou's Onin War next by some punk I know.

I enjoyed Thousand Autumns, but have some "complex" issues with it that sprang up about 150 to 200 pages into it. My issues have nothing to do with the minor historical gaffes that pop up from time to time--those are always going to be forgivable as long as they don't distract from the actual story (which infers the plot is good and strong). My issues with the book have to do with some of the things David Mitchell did from a technical writing perspective and how he tells his story.

I do however, recommend this book as a very good example of Japanese historical fiction--precisely because the premise of the plot is interesting, he did his historical homework and the fact that DM lived in Japan certainly helps.
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PostPosted: Sun Jun 27, 2010 4:29 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Obenjo Kusanosuke wrote:
Already finished Thousand Autumns and intend to next read a draft translation of Ikenami Shoutarou's Onin War next by some punk I know.


Oh, great Embarassed
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2010 8:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I read Thousand Autumnsa couple of months ago (I was sent a proof copy) and thought it was quite brilliant. The thing about DM is he is a fantastic writer with a highly original literary style and willing to tackle serious themes, as well as being almost a cultishly popular author who has a very wide appeal due to his boundless imagination and ability to write in a wide variety of voices. I am on holiday in Ontario at the moment and caught part of an interview with him on the radio yesterday. He said the main female character of Orito was based partly on Siebold's daughter, Kusumoto Ine, which I had assumed when I read it. The only problem for me (and I've been doing very similar research to Mitchell as the main character of my new novel is also a doctor's daughter) is that Ine was studying and working 40 or so years after Orito would have been, and the situation in Nagasaki had changed completely by then. Another forum member mentioned to me that it was as though DM wanted to write about the bakumatsu but was committed to 1799-1800 (The Phaeton incident is also moved forward in the book to 1800 from 1808 and the British navy ship is called Phoebus - quite cute as Phoebus was the father of Phaeton Very Happy)I've got other minor quibbles but overall I would strongly recommend Thousand Autumns to everyone as a fascinating example of Japanese historical fiction in English.
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Quote:
straight up 'historical fiction' brimming with real-life characters (I hear one of these will be gracing bookstore shelves later this year ).

Yes, my bakumatsu novel is finally finished and will be on shelves at least in Australia in October. It is called Blossoms and Shadows. It will be published in England and other European countries next year. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped me with research. This forum has been invaluable for exchanging ideas and discussing characters and incidents and I could never have even begun to get my head around the complexities of the bakumatsu without the help of so many of you. Very Happy
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PostPosted: Thu Jul 01, 2010 10:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
heron wrote:
I am on holiday in Ontario at the moment and caught part of an interview with him on the radio yesterday. He said the main female character of Orito was based partly on Siebold's daughter, Kusumoto Ine, which I had assumed when I read it. The only problem for me (and I've been doing very similar research to Mitchell as the main character of my new novel is also a doctor's daughter) is that Ine was studying and working 40 or so years after Orito would have been, and the situation in Nagasaki had changed completely by then.


Hope you enjoy the Canada Day celebrations while you're in Ontario. If you need any insider tips, PM me. Looking forward to reading Blossoms and Shadows. Does it look like it will have the same title when published worldwide?

Regarding the research you did for your doctor's daughter character, did you have a chance to visit any Edo period hospitals in the course of your research? The reason I ask is that there is one in Sakura, near Narita airport, but I don't know about any others. I'd assume there's one in Nagasaki. Interesting to see how Western medicine was imported during the time of official isolation.
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 02, 2010 11:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I've got a couple of books on the Juntendou, the old hospital and academy in Sakura and on Satou Taizen and his family. But I've never been to the actual hospital, even though I've been in Sakura a couple of times. I'll go in November when I'm visiting my friends who live not far away.
As far as I know the title will be the same, though I don't know yet how the Europeans will translate it exactly.
Canada Day celebrations were all good, waffles for breakfast and fireworks at night. Very Happy
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 03, 2010 6:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
heron wrote:

Yes, my bakumatsu novel is finally finished and will be on shelves at least in Australia in October. It is called Blossoms and Shadows. It will be published in England and other European countries next year. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has helped me with research. This forum has been invaluable for exchanging ideas and discussing characters and incidents and I could never have even begun to get my head around the complexities of the bakumatsu without the help of so many of you. Very Happy
Wow, congratulations on the completion and publication of your Bakumatsu novel, heron! I'm looking forward to reading it when it makes its way over here! And, yeah, the Bakumatsu makes my head spin, too, but somehow I keep coming back for more... Very Happy If anyone can make it make sense, I'm sure you can! Cool
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 04, 2010 7:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
There is a decent novel about Nobunaga's wife Nohime called Nohime Koshuu by Keiko Ai. The novel explains Nohime's tragic and lonely life.

The novel is hard to find and was lucky to buy it at Book-Off.
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 04, 2010 12:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Thousands Autumns is on my reading list (too much ahead of it at the moment).

Is it the sort of book you'd buy to keep a copy, or borrow from someone and give back?
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 16, 2010 6:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
I finished The Thousand Autumns last week and really enjoyed it. Mitchell is quite a writer and a storyteller. Stylistically, the book is the best piece of historical fiction set in Japan that I've ever read. That said, the novel could almost be called Dutch historical fiction given the focus on Dejima. The only part of the novel that didn't work for me was the middle section where the action is focused on the Shiranui Shrine. For some reason, I couldn't shake the feeling that I was reading The Handmaid's Tale set two centuries in the past.

Thanks to everyone who mentioned the book here, because I wouldn't have heard of it otherwise. Definitely a recommended read.
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 16, 2010 7:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Shisendo wrote:
I finished The Thousand Autumns last week and really enjoyed it. Mitchell is quite a writer and a storyteller. Stylistically, the book is the best piece of historical fiction set in Japan that I've ever read.


That's a pretty strong statement - not that I don't believe you - but before I pick it up, could you compare it to some of the other historical fiction out there so I can get an idea? In other words, what makes it better than, say, Shogun (obviously it can't be worse in the historical screw-ups department) for example.
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 16, 2010 3:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
kitsuno wrote:
Shisendo wrote:
I finished The Thousand Autumns last week and really enjoyed it. Mitchell is quite a writer and a storyteller. Stylistically, the book is the best piece of historical fiction set in Japan that I've ever read.


That's a pretty strong statement - not that I don't believe you - but before I pick it up, could you compare it to some of the other historical fiction out there so I can get an idea? In other words, what makes it better than, say, Shogun (obviously it can't be worse in the historical screw-ups department) for example.


I suppose it is a strong statement, and not one I made lightly. For starters, I would describe Mitchell as a “writer’s writer.” By that I mean it appears that he leaves no stone unturned in preparing for and writing a novel. Each character comes across as a unique person in voice and backstory. I would not be surprised if he worked out an entire life story for each character, then selected only those details required for the novel. It takes a lot of extra work, but it lends an unquantifiable richness to the book.

In comparing it to other works of Japanese historical fiction, I should say at the outset that I have read about a dozen novels and short story collections in the genre, but not Hearn’s Blossoms and Shadows, which has also been well reviewed on this site. Compared to those books I have read, Mitchell’s command of language, characterization, and description shine above the rest--some of which might approach him in one category, but not all three at once. Having said that, The Signore is my personal favourite of the group, but as the saying goes, there’s no accounting for taste.

One element of Mitchell’s style I found particularly appealing is his one sentence vignettes that he sprinkles throughout the novel to keep the story grounded, e.g. “Eaves drip; dogs bark; an angry rash itches against Jacob’s stockings.” In one sense, the sentence is wholly unnecessary. In another, it leaves the reader with the impression that if the author knows when his main character has a bothersome rash, what hasn’t he worked out in his imagination?

As well, there are some hard earned insights into human nature that remind us why excellent fiction is still as necessary to read as the most thoroughly researched academic text. To wit: “Lust tricks babies from their parents, mishap, duty, but perhaps the luckiest are those born from an unthought thought: that the intolerable gulf between lovers can be bridged only by the bones and cartilage of a new being.”

I would suggest reading the opening chapter available at Amazon. If it doesn’t hook you hard, pass on it. If it does, you’re sure to enjoy the novel, even if no other chapter matches it for its intensity. I’d send you my own copy, but it’s such a well designed first edition, I just don’t think I can part with it.
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 16, 2010 4:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Mitchell' is a great storyteller, no doubt about that. But, as a tale of historical fiction, A Thousand Autumns falls flat precisely because Mitchell goes way, way astray in the middle of the book. The book plunges into an abyss of silliness that left me disappointed after such a promising start. Mitchell's prose in that first chapter or two left me stunned. It was incredible! But what happened to that kind of prose later on? It seems that it was used up as quickly as a case of mercury in Nagasaki. Laughing

There is also a huge gap in the quality of Mitchell's character development for his western characters and his Japanese ones. His western ones are developed much more fully while his Japanese characters appear to be two dimensional, shaped from a cookie cutter that was molded based on too many B-movies. As I've stated to others privately, Mitchell borrows liberally from some of Japan's better known cult movies from the late 60s and early 70s for some of his inspirations--including the Hanzo the Razor series. However, this is my humble opinion.

You want to read good historical fiction, read Lian Hearn's new book, Blossoms and Shadows. I found this book to be much superior to Mitchell's precisely because Hearn realistically conveys the feel of late Edo Period Japan while keeping the reader gripped to the story, craving to find out what happens next with each turn of the page.

Most people who know me, know very well that I am NOTORIOUSLY picky about what Japanese fiction I read-- particularly stories written by western authors. Perhaps I am overly critical as I have lived in Japan for quite a while and know my history. Anyway, let me assure you, Hearn is at the top of my list in terms of non-Japanese writers who can write some amazing Japanese historical fiction. Give Blossoms and Shadows a try-- I think you will quickly back away from your statement about Mitchell's book being stylistically the best piece of historical fiction you've read that is set in Japan.
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 16, 2010 9:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Obenjo Kusanosuke wrote:
...Mitchell goes way, way astray in the middle of the book.


Then there's the people like me who enjoyed that section the most, if we're thinking of the same thing.

Obenjo Kusanosuke wrote:
There is also a huge gap in the quality of Mitchell's character development for his western characters and his Japanese ones.


I agree with this wholeheartedly. As Shisendo mentioned, the book in many ways is more Dutch historical fiction than Japanese, with the Japanese just being stock characters. That's one facet of Hearn's book I really enjoyed-it's Japanese historical fiction told from the viewpoint of Japanese characters. While there's the occasional short bit with someone like Thomas Glover, the Western characters are set firmly in the background-none of the silliness seen in 'Gai-jin'.
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 16, 2010 10:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
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...none of the silliness seen in 'Gai-jin'.


Worst historical fiction ever. There are only three books I've ever started that I couldn't finish, and not only is this one of the those, but I even tried to read it again, and still couldn't finish it. Not to give anything away, but the second time I got further in, and when a particular character died, I gave a hearty wtf and tossed the book right then and there.
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 17, 2010 1:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
kitsuno wrote:


Worst historical fiction ever.
\

In your opinion anyway. For me, there's this novel about Sekigahara in Indonesian. Lemme tell you, the book is total Unko . It heavily contains the misconception about samurai that many of us Indonesians have, that samurai is a Japanese sword. So in the story, the author wrote something like "Nobunaga draws his samurai".

The whole story makes little to no sense. How, and why would Shingen and Kenshin accompany Hideyoshi to a meeting with Date Masamune?

Not to mention how ridicoulous Nobunaga is portrayed (being That's gay with Yasuke, of all things), and how the author really favors Mitsunari.

Honestly, there's too many I want to say, but I won't.
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 17, 2010 5:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Obenjo Kusanosuke wrote:
Mitchell' is a great storyteller, no doubt about that. But, as a tale of historical fiction, A Thousand Autumns falls flat precisely because Mitchell goes way, way astray in the middle of the book. The book plunges into an abyss of silliness that left me disappointed after such a promising start. Mitchell's prose in that first chapter or two left me stunned. It was incredible! But what happened to that kind of prose later on? It seems that it was used up as quickly as a case of mercury in Nagasaki. Laughing


Good joke aside, I hesitate to judge yet because I haven't read any of his other books. From what I understand, they all tie together in their own parallel universe, so the "abyss of silliness" might make perfect sense to his longtime readers.

Quote:
As I've stated to others privately, Mitchell borrows liberally from some of Japan's better known cult movies from the late 60s and early 70s for some of his inspirations--including the Hanzo the Razor series. However, this is my humble opinion.


I wouldn't rule out the possibility that this a deliberate use of intertextuality on his part.

Quote:
You want to read good historical fiction, read Lian Hearn's new book, Blossoms and Shadows.


I'm looking forward to it, but I'm still waiting for it to be translated from Australian to Canadian Smile for its 2011 release on this side of the pond.

Quote:
I think you will quickly back away from your statement about Mitchell's book being stylistically the best piece of historical fiction you've read that is set in Japan.


That's hard to say. Even if I end up enjoying Blossoms more, I could still end up preferring Mitchell's writing style. As I've posted elsewhere here, I am a fan of the Otori series, so you never know.

As for Kitsuno's Gaijin dig, I'd have to agree. If it's not the worst, it's at least in the bottom two that I've read. Pretty shallow book IMHO. Just don't ask me to back this one up, because I gave the book away a long time ago, making me no longer able to quote some of its more risible aspects.
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PostPosted: Sun Oct 17, 2010 2:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I think the key word in Shisendo`s appraisal of Thousand Autumns is "stylistically". I agree that David Mitchell is far and away the best writer to have tackled Japanese historical fiction in the last few years. Mitchell's writing is continually astonishing and original, and his insights are perceptive and humane and often very funny. In style I think he and I are very different - my writing is much more pared down and simple. That's the way I write, in tune with my temperament and abilities.
I've read all Mitchell's books and enjoyed them all in different ways but I didn't find that the middle section tied in with any of them particularly. I was also reminded of The Handmaid's Tale, and of several other books from a few years ago. I liked this section the least, but I think Sisendo's comment on intertextuality is a good one. When I finished Thousand Autumns I thought, Wow, David has put in every single thing he has ever learnt, seen, heard, watched, lived, about and in Japan. You could say it was too much, but that is the book it is, as much a multi-layered response to Japan in history and tradition, as a straightforward historical novel. In fact probably more so, given the elasticity with dates.
It's very different from my approach in Blossoms and Shadows, (which I hope will find an American publisher soon. Lots of people are ordering it on line from Australia, so perhaps that doesn't matter!)
I'm writing this in Japan on an unfamiliar computer so will say no more for now in case I lose the whole lot Smile
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