I just this morning started reading A True Novel by Minae Mizumura and I’m already finding it hard to put down. I’ve been intrigued by this one for a while and the stars finally aligned* and I grabbed a copy. One of those books I wasn’t about to take out from the library; the beautiful slip-case edition needed to find a home on my shelves.**
The book is pitched as a 20th century reimagining of Wuthering Heights set in post-war Japan. To be honest I read Wuthering Heights probably in high school and I remember hating it, and today I probably couldn’t actually tell you anything real about it, but I’ve been assured enjoyment or even knowledge of Heights is not a prerequisite for the Mizumura book.
So far, I’m still in the lengthy prologue,*** but it feels like remarkably smooth reading, like, for being 800-plus pages, it’s going to feel like a much quicker, shorter, denser book? Even without getting into the frames and layers that I believe creep up as the book progresses, it’s already rich with detail and a complexity of characterization, focusing so far to some degree on the experience of being Japanese in America in the middle of the century–of feeling like a stranger in a strange land, period–and of seeing class and economic shifts as they’re happening from an intriguing perspective. And also gender relations and also the importance of story and story telling and escaping into a story. And. I kind of just want to escape into this story for a while.
* – Last year, and this is something I would have blogged a lot about last year, if I had been blogging last year, I took a year off from reading any book that wasn’t on my TBR pile as of January 1, with an exception or two for a book club pick or two. It was interesting, and, given some time and focus, I’d like to say more about it. Where it’s got me now though is that I’m trying to keep the (literal, physical) TBR pile at its current (relative) height: only acquiring books as I’m going to read them, be they from the library or the store or borrowing or whatever. And honestly after a year of having “limited” “access” to books having the world at your feet is a little, well, Shawshank Redemption-y, what with the terror of the openness of it and all. So when I say that the Mizumura book was on my radar for a while, I mean it in the sense that, according to the “rules,” it was out of reach. And then this that and the other and because I read for pleasure and not much for review these days and so I go by my whims with these things it took a while before I was able and willing to say, okay, now, do it, now. And now here we are.
** – It’s really, really physical, this book. A sight to hold.
*** – It’s over a hundred pages, told from the point of view of Mizumura, or “Mizumura,” hard to say which, hard to say if it matters yet. Major personal knowledge gap: role or importance of “modernism” and “post-modernism” in non-Western literature.