Sunday Salon: Cakes, Ukiyo-e and David Mitchell

(‘A Hundred Views of Edo’ – one of which is featured on the cover of Thousand Autumns)

After experimenting with tumblr for while, I’ve returned to WordPress. Why? Tumblr is convenient, but an organizational nightmare for archiving, comments, etc. So I’m back! For good, hopefully. Blog-wise, I’m in the process of cleaning out my old posts and reading projects. Will probably move a few of my tumblr posts over here, just for the sake of continuity. Book-wise, I’m currently immersed in David Mitchell’s The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, which I bought with The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro – my last purchases until I’ve cleared out the pile of unread books in my study. I even borrowed a whole stack from the library to keep myself from reading the Mitchell first; I wanted to save it for later, knowing that his next work won’t be available for a while yet.

BUT IT’S SO TEMPTING!

To use the fat kid and cake analogy, it’s like the fat kid leaving the cake on display in his room, and having to eat carrot sticks until he loses weight. I know right, how perverse and torturous to the little soul is that? So after finishing Ilustrado the other day, (and after half-heartedly opening and adamantly closing shut a few of the books lying around) I finally settled for the Mitchell. Yes, I try to fool myself into thinking I can ignore the cake. And yes, I usually fail.

I’m on page 30, so I have a long while to go before I reach the end. Already, my presumptuous thinking is getting me in a knot. Despite my love for Mitchell, I can’t help being cynical – would this really be considered a ‘masterpiece of our time’ (Richard Eder, The Boston Globe) if it weren’t written by David Mitchell? Can he really deliver, and meet my oh-so-high expectations? Will I be disappointed? Will I be ever more convinced of his genius? It’ll be interesting to see how this turns out.

For now, I’m enjoying the ride. I haven’t seen much yet, but there have been glimpses, here and there, of his love for word play and spectacular/flamboyant – verbose but delightful – style of imagery. And I have to say, I like the cover on my edition (the one with the Edo print) much more than that flaccid, lifeless powdery blue and ivory cover I’ve seen around. This one has so much more oomph to it, and makes it look less cutesy. Because cutesy is not a word I would use to describe David Mitchell’s literary prowess.

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11 thoughts on “Sunday Salon: Cakes, Ukiyo-e and David Mitchell

  1. I’m actually really happy that you’re back on WordPress… the last few times I tried to leave you comments on your Tumblr blog I either didn’t know how to do so or they didn’t seem to go through!

    1. Steph! Long time :) I’m actually really really happy to hear from you guys lol. It was very lonely over at tumblr….. I felt like I was talking to myself!

  2. I’m back! So glad you’re back to WP! It IS way easier to comment here. So what’s the verdict on Ilustrado, yay or nay? Though either way, I’ll have to read it and see for myself.

    I rather like the light blue and cream cover of Jacob de Zoet. But I also like this one. Haven’t decided yet which to get hehehe. Cover-picking as an obsession.

    1. The verdict on Ilustrado is neither yay or nay as of yet! I haven’t really decided what I think of it. It wasn’t ‘I’m neverrrr going to read this ever again’, more like ‘interesting, but not my thing’. If you get what I mean. I’ll write a post on it soon, will elaborate more clearly then!

      Yeah I guess the blue and cream one is prettier but I just prefer the cover of my one! Hahah irrational bias. It feels very gendered(though I don’t think they’d ever admit to it outright). Almost like they make one cover marketed for women, and then a less ‘pretty’ one so the guys won’t feel like self-conscious reading it on the train, or something.

  3. This is going to be my autumn read, despite reading mixed reviews. But I read a very interesting one recently that compares it to Wolf Hall and found many comparisons. I don’t have huge expectations, but know I want to read it.

    1. Actually re-read this one a while back, and it captivated me all over again! Thoroughly recommend it. The style is quite different from Wolf Hall (Mitchell being Mitchell as only Mitchell can be….) but they are both historical novels, I think :)

      1. Yes, I think that was the pretext of the comparison, not so much the style, I haven’t read Mantel yet, but I’m more tempted by Mitchell.

        Have you read Tan Twan Eng’s ‘The Gift of Rain? I just downloaded it to kindle today after a rave recommendation, he’s shortlisted for another title for the Booker prize, but I want to read this first. Said to be excellent.

        1. Nope! Saw Tan on this year’s shortlist, though, and I’ve put both books on my to-read list. Just have a lot of unread books piled up at the moment so I’m going to have to get through those first ;)

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