Adventures in Reading


A quote from Michael Chabon
June 14, 2008, 10:03 am
Filed under: thoughtful | Tags: , , , , , ,

In the P.S. edition of Michael Chabon’s The Final Solution, A Story of Detection is a short interview with Chabon. What is generally suggested is that as a Pulitzer Prize winner what can or should a reader infer of Chabon writing just a detective novella. From this interview, I pulled a great quote from Chabon:

“I’m really annoyed by pigeonholes and categories and labels. I view them as iniquitous to the spirit of play and of experimentation and of storytelling. The fact at a bookstore, the fiction is divided into fiction and mystery and science fiction, I don’t understand why it has to be that way. To me it’s all fiction, and I think the best science fiction, the best mystery fiction, the best horror fiction ought to be put on par with the best quote-unquote ‘literary fiction.’”

I do find this fascinating and speaking from my experience as a reader and my experience as a bookseller, it can be pretty damn difficult to talk someone into switching genre. Hell, it’s difficult enough to talk myself into switching genre. Though I usually read quite heavily from the fiction and literature section I seldom find myself in science fiction, fantasy, or horror and I cannot recall ever reading a mystery or thriller book. (Though the book Fail Safe is a military thriller it is listed as literature.)

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Fiction: Across the Nightingale Floor, 2002

nightingale floor As a long time and avid reader, I’ve only just stumbled across the idea of blogging my literary adventures. I know, who’d have thought it would take me this long to figure it out? But rather than posting the odd review of a book here and there I hope to develop this into not only a review blog but also a place where I can better explore my relationship with books.

This afternoon I finished Across the Nightingale Floor by Lian Hearn (2002). I had seen other books in the Otori series while at work (yes, my love for books extends to working at a book store and, while I’m at it, obtaining a degree in English Literature) and I will admit the Japanese-esque covers attracted me with promises of story lines similar to the plots of Kurosawa and Ozu films.

Hearn’s tale occurs in a Japanese influenced world and our main character Takeo is a member of a harassed religious group called the Hidden. Early in the story he is rescued by Lord Otori Shigeru and adopted into the Otori clan. Here Takeo begins to realize many of his special abilities marking him out as a member of the Tribe clan.

Utilizing a simplistic and clear writing style, Hearn delivers a tale promising adventure, romance, and intrigue. She subtly gives the reader all of the information before revealing exactly what she has created. It’s a beautiful story and I can’t wait to start on Grass for his Pillow – especially as Hearn has honed an ending that is both fulfilling but leaves the reader begging for more. I will say that I had an eye-rolling moment during a rather awkwardly placed sex scene between two of the characters but besides this I only have praise for this book.

One aspect of the book I found most intriguing were Takeo’s abilities: superhuman hearing, the ability to go invisible or duplicate himself for short spans of time, putting people to sleep, etc. While it may seem incredulous after reading the list what grabbed me was that Hearn develops these abilities in a manner where you can read them as fantastical and magical abilities or perhaps (at least it’s something to consider) simply his own extreme talents (okay, excluding the superhuman hearing).

From a retail end this book amused me as the series, according to the copyright information, is described as fiction but all of the other books in the series are located in the fantasy section. Across the Nightingale Floor actually seems to be out-of-print in its original format but a new edition is available as a young adult book. Perhaps nothing more than finding unique ways to market the book but I consistently find myself attracted to books that cross or blend genre and category lines.

Before getting to Grass for his Pillow I do have at least two more books waiting on my nightstand: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith (a reread) and The Magic Lantern an autobiography by Ingmar Bergman (in commemoration of his passing on July 30th of this year). Only recently have I started really to consider rereading books. There are simply so many books in existence and the incredible amount that comes out on a weekly basis is simply extravagant. However, I have been allowing myself to dip into the past and it’s incredible what a girl can discover while rereading a book.