Review: Remake by Jeff Hamada

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Hardcover, 128 pages
Expected publication: June 9th 2015 by Chronicle Books
Source: Raincoast Books

The idea behind this book is to collect some of the submissions to the Boom blog (http://www.booooooom.com/) into a volume so people other than the blog’s readers can enjoy the creativity of the people participating in the remake project. The remake project, in case it isn’t clear to you, challenges participants to recreate in whichever way famous works of art and to have fun with your interpretation along the way.

I was impressed and amused by the range of works exhibited in the book. There are some which are quite intricate and take pains to recreate the artwork as precisely as possible while there are others that interpret the work quite expansively, and then there are others who add a twist or two that will make you chortle. Even if you are not an art aficionado, you will still enjoy seeing how creative people art. There are some works that are more popular than others, Girl with a Pearl Earring being one of them.

I do recommend this book as a gift or a coffee table book. It will start conversations. The ones below are my favourites.

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Tania-Brassesco-02

Review: Salad Anniversary by Machi Tawara

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Paperback, 112 pages
Expected publication: June 9th 2015 by Pushkin Press
Source: Publisher

Tanka: a Japanese poem consisting of five lines, the first and third of which have five syllables and the other seven, making 31 syllables in all and giving a complete picture of an event or mood. (according to Google).

Machi Tawara’s Salad Anniversary is a collection of tanka poems that are crazily popular in Japan. The translator’s note (the translator of this collection is Juliet Winters Carpenter) at the end theorizes on the plausible reasons for this collection’s popularity and mentions that one of the things that distinguishes Tawara’s work from other poets is the language she uses which, unfortunately, the English reading audience are unable to experience. Carpenter also talks about how Tawara uses a mixture of formal Japanese and modern Japanese to create poetry that is wholly contemporary and resonates with its readers.

I appreciate the difficulty that must have accompanied Ms. Carpenter when she was translating this collection. It cannot have been easy or simple to translate the work without sacrificing either the language or the meaning inherent in the verse. I have to be honest here and admit that there were moments when I couldn’t understand what the fuss was all about and then I’d come across a particularly beautiful stanza and glimpse the reason Tawara’s poems speak to the people.

Her words, though simple in translation, have this weight to them, this depth that transcends culture and age to find relevancy. The feelings she expresses with her poetry transcends language and speaks to the human in me. I will share some of my favourite stanzas below and urge you to give her Salad Anniversary a try. It may surprise you.

Skeptical of promises
You don’t even bother
to build your castle away from the waves.

—————————–

Your disappearing figure,
A little too cool–
it’s always the man
who sets off on a journey.

————————-

The flow of the river
whatever I compare it to leaves out
the stones at the bottom.

——————————–

Red pepper hotness
of the words I failed to say,
bitter in my mouth.

The Reading Forecast including Bout of Books Readathon Wrap-Up

The week of reading (to be honest, all weeks are week of reading for me) is now over and it was the first time I had taken part in a readathon. In a very unofficial manner because I don’t like pressure or deadlines when I’m reading. That tends to put a damper on things for me. Anyway. I could have read a lot more than I did but I began to feel hm, a bit overwhelmed by it all. So these are the books I read last week:

  1. The Orphan Queen –  Jodi Meadows
  2. SuperMutant Magic Academy – Jillian Tamaki
  3. The Ravenous Gown: And 14 More Takes of Real Beauty – Steffani Raff
  4. Remake – Jeff Hamada
  5. 100 Great Children’s PictureBooks – Martin Salisbury
  6. Once Upon a Tide – Tony Mitton
  7. Deer Dancer – Mary Lynn Ray
  8. The Frog Prince Continued – Jon Scieszka
  9. The Bramble – Lee Nordling
  10. Salad Anniversary – Machi Tawara
  11. Sweet Tooth: Out of Deep Woods – Jeff Lamire
  12. Sweet Tooth: In Captivity – Jeff Lamire
  13. Sweet Tooth: Animal Armies – Jeff Lamire
  14. A User’s Guide to Neglectful Parenting – Guy Delisle
  15. The Lie Tree – Frances Hardinge
  16. Reluctantly Charmed – Ellie O’Neill

These were the books I finished but they weren’t the only ones I read. I couldn’t get into one book so I kept starting new ones (which may have been what finally prompted me to stop reading altogether until I made myself finish The Lie Tree and ended up loving it). These are the books I’m currently reading:

  1. A Stranger in Olondria – Sofia Samatar
    I’m liking this but I don’t know why I can’t read more than a chapter of this book at a time. Perhaps because of the exposition? Very little happens and the pace is extremely so. It’s only 299 pages or so and I should have finished it by now but eh. I’m going to finish it…I just don’t know when.
  2. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie – Alan Bradley
    Way too early to say anything about the book but I’m hoping I enjoy it.
  3. Throne of the Crescent Moon – Saladin Ahmed
    I’m only 6 pages in.
  4. Elena Vanishing – Clare and Elena Dunkle
    I’m on page 23 and while it is a tough read, I’ve already read Hope and Other Luxuries and feel better prepared for this book.
  5. The Pornography of Grief – Philip Huang
    I’m actually quite liking this collection.

Reading in the coming week:

Hmm. I think I’ll chug along with Olondria, see how far I get and hopefully the pace will pick (and so will my reading pace). I want to read the Saladin Ahmed book because Yash and I are supposed to review it together. I may read a bit more of Elena Vanishing. I also want to read Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami and The Thickety: The Whispering Trees by J. A. White.

Moomin: The Deluxe Anniversary Edition by Tove Jansson

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Hardcover, 448 pages
Published October 21st 2014 by Drawn and Quarterly
Source: Raincoast Books

If you’re not familiar with Moomin, it is a comic strip created by Finnish author and illustrator Tove Jansson, originally published in Swedish. Even though I had heard of Moomin before, I hadn’t read any of the strips so when I got the chance to review this version, I jumped at it. The anniversary edition is gorgeous. It’s oversized and comes with a slipcase and a ribbon bookmark. The paper quality is high and the book is skillfully bound. I could go on for ages on the aesthetic appeal of this edition.

The content is amusing. It took me a while to get used to Moomin and company and their antics but once I did, I was hooked. There’s a certain innocence to the strips that I have read that charmed me. If you are already a fan of the comic, then this edition will be a wonderful addition to your collection. It’ll also make an amazing gift for a Moomin fan.

MoominJournal

Bout of Books Update #1

Soo I have been reading.

Monday I read:

  1. The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows
  2. Super Mutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki
  3. 100 Great Children’s Picturebooks by Martin Salisbury

It’s Tuesday and so far I have finished:

  1. Once Upon a Tide by Tony Mitton
  2. Deer Dancer by Mary Lyn Ray
  3. The Frog Prince, Continued by Jon Scieszka
  4. The Bramble by Lee Nordling

These were all picturebooks so they don’t really count as much. I am currently reading:

  1. The Ravenous Gown by Steffani Raff
  2. A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar
  3. Salad Anniversary by Machi Tawara

I’m really pleased by the variety of genres I am reading. We’ll see what I read before the week is up.

The Reading Forecast (Plus Bout of Books Readathon)

Last week was, once again, a dudly week where I didn’t feel like reading much until the latter part of the week. Still I did get some things read…

  1. The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste
  2. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
  3. Women Who Wear the Breeches by Shahrukh Husain
  4. Dragons Beware – Jorge Aguirre
  5. Last Man vol. 2 – Bastien Vives
  6. The Demon’s Librarian – Lilith Saintcrow

I’m currently reading:

  1. The Ravenous Gown – Steffani Raff
  2. A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar

I’m not sure if I’m going to finish either of these two in the coming week but I do know that I want to make inroads in them both.

I am going to be unofficially participating in the Bout of Books Readathon. I usually don’t because I don’t really reading on a deadline but this is relatively low pressure and seems like it’ll be fun. I won’t be doing any challenges but I’ll hopefully be doing a lot of reading.

Here are the books on my TBR. I won’t be reading all of them but I will be choosing from this pile while reading:

  1. Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed
  2. The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows
  3. Super Mutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki
  4. Jerusalem by Guy Delisle
  5. The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

On the Separation of the Book and its Author

I have been thinking about this topic for a good long while and have yet to reach a concrete conclusion, in fact, I think this is such a murky topic that a conclusion cannot be reached. However, the topic is interesting enough that unwrapping it and discussing it is fun.

I refer to the separation of a book and it’s author where analysis of the book is concerned. If I am not mistaken, there are different schools of thought in academic analysis of English literature where one theory sharply and incisively separates the author from the text and analyzes the text simply as it exists, contained and limited to the boundaries created within it (I’m referring to specifically fiction here) while the other theory considers the author’s contribution to the text in terms of the views/experiences/education the author has and how these may have affected the text under consideration.

As a writer, I can definitely argue for the latter theory because my book is mine because the experiences I had while conceiving it are unique to me. My words are my own because of who I am and what I have seen and been through. My story is what it is because the experiences I have lived through. So I have an irrevocable bond to the text I have written.

However, things get very murky when you move the discussion out of the classroom and into the world. Just because a book has been written by a POC or has diverse characters in it doesn’t make it automatically good. I do think there needs to be a separation of the text from the book where the evaluation of a work of literature is concerned. A work cannot be judged on the basis of who the author is but needs to be evaluated for the quality of the story it tells and the manner in which it tells this story.

Then again, in situations where cultural appropriation might be concerned, who a person is matters very much. Should it? I don’t know. Can there be issues of cultural appropriation even when a story is told with respect and well-researched? I don’t know. More research is necessary before I say anything of the kind but if I were to speculate, I’d say yes. I do remember a conversation in class in the past where a person who had written a book from the viewpoint of a Haitian boy and won an award for this book was accused of cultural appropriation. (I’m assuming that the book winning an award is an indication that it is well written.)

Cultural appropriation aside, I do think I will stick to my earlier claim: that the evaluation of a book as a piece of literature/art should not have anything to do with who the author is.

Thoughts?