Tuesday 1 September 2020

Tsundoku #13 - September 2020

Autumn, cooler weather (perhaps, depending on where you are?) - back to school, back to work, back to some sort of new normal for most of us...and bookshops are open again all over. September is also a bumper month for new books - so many novels held back from spring and summer releases so let's get going....fiction first as ever which is the bulk of this month's new books...


The Fox Spirit of Bluestone Mountain (newly translated by Timothy Gouldthorp) is believed to be written by Zou Tao, a writer, educator, and newspaper editor. Born in Wuxi, Jiangxi Province, he moved to Suzhou at a young age and lived the latter part of his life in Shanghai. His works include novels, stories, and literary handbooks. Jade Fox, a nine-tailed fox spirit who dwells in a cave on Bluestone Mountain, transforms herself into a beautiful woman and seduces Young Master Zhou, a handsome and talented scholar. When their secret liaison comes to light after Zhou falls ill and Jade Fox injudiciously devours a little boy, Zhou’s loyal servant decides that an intervention is necessary. Neither villagers nor local Taoist priests prove any match for Jade Fox and her fox spirit sisters, and so Taoist immortal Lü Dongbin descends to earth to confront her. But will he be able to subdue the coquettish yet powerful Jade Fox? Moving and humorous, this lively story is steeped in traditional Chinese culture and folklore.


Tori Eldridge's The Ninja's Blade is the story of Lily Wong - a Chinese-Norwegian modern-day ninja - who has more trouble than she was bargaining for when controlling grandparents arrive in Los Angeles from Hong Kong at the same time she goes undercover in the dangerous world of youth sex trafficking. As she hunts for a kidnapped prostitution victim, a missing high school girl, and a sociopathic trafficker, the surviving members of a murderous street gang hunt for her. 


HS Norup's The Hungry Ghost tells the story of Freja who arrives in Singapore during the month of the hungry ghost, when old spirits are said to roam the streets. She's struggling to settle into her dad's new, 'happy' family, and dreams only of escaping home and leaving this hot, unfamiliar city. Then one night, a mysterious girl in a white dress appears in the garden. Freja follows this figure to lush, secretive corners of the city, seeking to understand the girl's identity. Her search will lead her to an old family mystery - one that must be unravelled before the month is over, to allow both girls to be freed from the secrets of the past.


Jayant Kaikini No Presents Please is a collection of stories not about what Mumbai is, but what it enables. Here is a city where two young people decide to elope and then start nursing dreams of different futures, where film posters start talking to each other, where epiphanies are found in keychains and thermos-flasks. From Irani cafes to chawls, old cinema houses to reform homes, Jayant Kaikini seeks out and illuminates moments of existential anxiety and of tenderness. In these sixteen stories, gaps in the curtains of the ordinary open up to possibilities that might not have existed, but for this city where the surreal meets the everyday.


Yoko Ogawa's The Memory Police - To the people on 'the island', a disappeared thing no longer has any meaning. It can be burned in the garden, thrown in the river or handed over to the Memory Police. Soon enough, the island forgets it ever existed.When a young novelist discovers that her editor is in danger of being taken away by the Memory Police, she desperately wants to save him. For some reason, he doesn’t forget, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for him to hide his memories. Who knows what will vanish next?


And a couple of new non-fiction titles.... 

Sarah Kovner's Prisoners of Empire is a pathbreaking account of World War II POW camps, challenging the longstanding belief that the Japanese Empire systematically mistreated Allied prisoners. In only five months, from the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941 to the fall of Corregidor in May 1942, the Japanese Empire took prisoner more than 140,000 Allied servicemen and 130,000 civilians from a dozen different countries. From Manchuria to Java, Burma to New Guinea, the Japanese army hastily set up over seven hundred camps to imprison these unfortunates.


And finally the latest book on the crisis in Hong Kong, Au Loong-yu's Hong Kong in Revolt. From the Umbrella Movement in 2014 to the defeat of the Extradition Bill and beyond, the protestors' demands have become more radical, and their actions more drastic. Their bravery emboldened the labour movement and launched the first successful political strike in half a century, followed by the broadening of the democratic movement as a whole. But the new generation's aspiration goes far beyond the political. It is a generation that strongly associates itself with a Hong Kong identity, with inclusivity and openness.