Ogawa’s Fable

I loved Yoko Ogawa’s The Housekeeper and the Professor, which brought to mind a lovely old limerick:

There was a young man from Trinity,
Who solved the square root of infinity.
While counting the digits,
He was seized by the fidgets,
Dropped science, and took up divinity.

In any case, all those who attended the July 16, 2012 gathering of the Crandall Public Library Monday Evening Book Discussion Group seemed charmed by Ogawa’s spare mathamagical fable.  Major points of conversation include the following.

  • The attributes of attraction
  • Math as a lens on existence
  • The nature of names
  • Family is where you find it
  • The elegance of equations

Mention was also made of the challenges related to the translation of written works.  For the most part, I think that Robert Frost had it right when he opined that “poetry is what gets lost in translation.”  Thankfully, that did not seem to be the case here, and all in attendance commended translator Stephen Snyder for a job well done.  Bravo! 


Wikipedia on Yoko Ogawa

New York Times Review

More Yoko Ogawa

The Diving Pool

The Diving Pool won a Shirley Jackson Award in 2008, and according to a New York Times review:

“Still waters run dark in these bright yet eerie novellas, whose crisp, almost guileless prose hides unexpected menace…Stephen Snyder’s elegant translations from the Japanese whet the appetite for more.”

Hotel Iris

I think that Publisher’s weekly does a fine job of serving-up the skinny on this slender novel:

“Ogawa….explores the power of words to allure and destroy in this haiku-like fable of love contorted into obsession.”

Home Grown

He’s back!  Local genius and author extraordinaire James Howard Kunstler has penned what seems to be a follow-up to his classic The Long Emergency.  Although I have not had a chance to finish Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation, what I have read is pure dynamite.  He must be lauded for both the clarity of his reasoning, and the eloquence with which he expresses it.  You can expect a full review soon, but in the meantime Publishers Weekly sums it up nicely:

“With characteristic curmudgeonly enthusiasm, Kunstler brilliantly if belligerently shows us what a pickle we’re in and how inept we are at dealing with it.”

Check it out at LibraryThing

Fetch a library copy

Recomended Reading

Phyllis Funari wanted to let the group know that she really enjoyed Burn this Book, especially John Updike’s essay Why Write?.  I’ve already requested a copy.  Maybe you should too, and then we can talk about it.

Parting Thoughts

As ever, I am looking forward to our next get-together, which is scheduled for August 20, 2012, and will feature Beryl Markham’s extraordinary autobiography West with the Night.  Seriously, Ms. Markham has mad skills, but don’t take my word for it.  Check out what Papa Hemingway has to say on the matter:

“As it is, she has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished on the job and nailing them together and sometimes making an okay pig pen. But [she] can write rings around all of us who consider ourselves writers.”

Mr. Hemingway is not the only one to speak favorably about West with the Night, as group member Ann Davran seems delighted with what she’s read so far.  In her own words:

“I picked up “West with the Night” and started reading it, ten pages into the book I knew I had to own it….I must tell you that it is the style of the author, the sensitivity, and her ability to pull the reader into the narrative, which adds to the joy of reading ….the language is plain but captivating, her story is simple but engaging.”

With recommendations like that, you know that it’s got to be good.  I can’t wait to see you on the 20th!

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