mjj (flemmings) wrote,

Return of Reading Wednesday

Finished in the last two weeks?
Damned little.

Laurie King, Dreaming Spies
-- King's Holmes, like Cumberbatch's, is convincing enough until one returns to the real thing, or even a pastiche of the real thing, and then just no. This book had Japan and Japanese and the crown prince Hirohito in it, but the plot-- well actually, the plot reminded me of a university friend's first novel, influenced by Pyncheon, that had unlikely conspiracies and obscure cabals formed for unclear reasons, which somehow required making the author's *ahem* self-insert believe something or other so he would go do something else (have sex with one of the plotters, was it?) The mastermind said the self-insert was indispensible to the conspiracy, but his actual role was so tangential he could have been left out altogether- a fact the author naturally didn't twig to. Here Holmes and Russell prove quite unnecessary to unravelling the mystery they're hired, under very unlikely circumstances, to solve. (Two large English people dressing as Buddhist pilgrims in Taishou Japan and being greeted enthusiastically on their pilgrimage route stretches my belief to the limit.)

But up to that point it was at least fun.

Colin Cotterill, The Coroner's Lunch
-- mystery set in '70s Communist revolution Laos. Had heard this and that about the series, but had not heard that mid-book it turns into Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. I am enchanted.

Reading now?
A.C. Graham (trans), Poems of the Late T'ang.
--been on the shelf for years, thought it would be the usual 'yes this is a Chinese poem' read as in Waley. Turns out to be unexpectedly meaty. These poets are definitely not Li Bai or Du Fu or Wang Wei. I have to read them slowly to see what they're saying, and in a way try to guess back to what the Chinese might be like-- neither an easy task when the classical allusions come fast and furious and not always footnoted. (*And* in Wade-Giles, which now irks me more than pinyin.) Li Ho is especially harrowing, but I'm looking forward to reading more Li Shang-yin. Graham has a version of the 'You ask me when I am coming. I do not know' poem that Witter Bynner reworked and that I like so much.

The preface is also enlightening now that I've read some of The Pound Era: but I really think there's a generation of translators that revere Pound much too much. Pound wasn't a translator; he was writing his hommages to Chinese poetry at two removes. And Waley, for my money, was doubtless a good translator but not really much of a poet, or not the kind of poet I much care for. Probably more recent translators get away from the literary biases of their mid-century forebears: I have a bunch of books of Chinese verse to study the question with.

Cotterill, Thirty-three Teeth
-- I know I should wait and let the first Dr. Siri Paiboun book settle but hell- we are in the end times, my everything aches, and I am not in the mood for work. Or no more work than Chinese poetry in translation.

And next?
Would vaguely like to read The Book of Life before the snow flies so I can stick the trilogy in somebody's Little Free Library and have it off the shelf. But if Cotterill can keep it up and not turn Boonmee into a schtick, I shall probably continue reading Cotterill.
Tags: china, holmes, meme, reading_16, verse

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