This is one of those books you just keep hearing about, the kind of book that’s always front row center on those beautifully curated Goodreads lists. You know, those lists that should be titled Great Books You Should Read Right Now, You Uncultured Genre-Reading Swine. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ll get to The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo eventually. Stop bugging me, geeeeeeez.)
Anyway. The Goodreads people might be on to something, since The Travelling Cat Chronicles is an adorable, touching read. If you’re wary of reading a translated book, fear not. Philip Gabriel is the translator, which means you are in excellent hands; for those who don’t know, Gabriel also translates for Japanese lit legend Haruki Murakami.
The premise is that Nana, a cat with a whole lotta attitude, is heading on a road trip alongside his human owner, Satoru. Why are they traveling, you might ask? The answer is revealed in time; this book is wholly about the journey and the people they meet along the way. That last sentence sounds way too wholesome for my normal (secretly gagging over here) but it’s accurate, I swear.
The book is very artfully written. I never thought I could admire head-hopping, but Arikawa knows what’s up—this is head-hopping with a purpose. I honestly don’t have one complaint. (Stunned.) So if you are a cat person, are looking for a palate cleanser, or like odd and adorable Japanese stuff, this is a must-read.
A small aside—if you haven’t seen the book trailer for Specter yet, check it out! Specter debuts July 7th, and the paperback and ebook are available for preorder at all major retailers and from Hidden Bower Press.
This week I left Tor.com (though probably only temporarily!) for a short story by Korean author Ha Seong-nan. She has a new short story collection out, and I’ve heard good things, so I wanted to try out a short story of hers to get a sense of her style, then maybe pick up the collection. I ended up reading “Bluebeard’s First Wife,” which you can read for free here…
I enjoyed this story well enough. It’s a smooth read for having been translated, and I especially enjoyed the imagery and the sense of displacement woven throughout the story. I did feel the plot progressed in a kind of dizzying matter; the MC is suddenly engaged to this guy, and you don’t have a sense of how it all happened. They met on a plane, and then… marriage? Their relationship has the weight of a cloud, but it works for the plot and feel of the story.
Even so, I guess I was left wanting a little bit more. Everything felt a bit too flat and matter-of-fact. The repeated poem also didn’t seem to have much relevance to me… or maybe I’m not picking up the symbolism for some reason.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
With stories like these, I’m sometimes left feeling a little bit stupid. Why is this not working for me? What does the author mean by this? At the same time, I feel that if I’m not gleaning at least some of the deeper symbolism on a first read-through, perhaps the story isn’t being told successfully. In any case, I would definitely read more short fiction by this author, as I am intrigued by some of the reviews I’ve seen of her other work, but this story was just so-so for me.