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A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING: A Novel ~ Ruth Ozeki

Monday, December 5th, 2016

A nearly perfect read, which came into my awareness with nearly perfect timing, and gave me a nearly perfect excuse to do nothing else except read; Exquisite.

The story begins with a 16-year-old girls voice saying:  “Hi! My name is Nao, and I am a time being. Do you know what a time being is?  Well, if you give me a moment, I will tell you.” This child’s story is compelling and sometimes funny and sometimes very difficult.  Nao is trying to figure out life and how to live it after having been living the “good” life in California and now whisked back to Japan in the dot com bust.   Her father is extremely depressed and it is affecting the whole family.  The guilt, the anger, the shame is difficult to understand and yet it draws one into the story.  The bullying and shaming that Nao must endure is horrific.

There is a second story that takes place on an island on the British Columbia Coastline.   Ruth, a writer, is wandering the beach and finds a “Hello Kitty” lunch pail in a heavy plastic shipping bag.  When opened the lunch pail contains a journal and a Kamikaze pilot’s letters and watch, it appears to be debris from the Japanese tsunami of 2011.  It is Nao’s journal and her story and history.

The story is also about the Zen experience of life as shared by Nao’s lessons from her 104 year old great grandmother, who is the mother of the Kamikaze pilot.  How can there be humor in such a story?  There is a great deal of humor in the story.  The characters on the island truly come alive and participate in the story.  Ruth and her partner Oliver are strong characters in their own right.  Fact and fiction twirl about as compliments to understanding the deeper issues facing each person-culture.  Is Nao still alive and well?  How could this person be tracked down and could they all be on the Internet?

My book group chose this book and so it is apart of my own library.  The other members of the group discovered that there was a reader’s play of this story being performed in the city and they bought tickets and went to the performance.  We cannot stop talking about this book and we all agree that there is perfection in the writing of this story, which makes it a huge recommendation and a must read for so many people I know.    I just had to share it with you

Bursting with symbolism, a story for our time – full of topics to discuss; breaks the barriers and expectations of traditional thinking.

Ruth Ozeki Webpage
Ruth Ozeki Twitter

From the website:

“Ruth Ozeki is a novelist, filmmaker, and Zen Buddhist priest.Her first two novels, My Year of Meats(1998) and All Over Creation (2003), have been translated into 11 languages and published in 14 countries. Her most recent work, A Tale for the Time-Being (2013), won the LA Times Book Prize, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the National Book Critic’s Circle Award, and has been published in over thirty countries. Ruth’s documentary and dramatic independent films, including Halving the Bones, have been shown on PBS, at the Sundance Film Festival, and at colleges and universities across the country. A longtime Buddhist practitioner, Ruth was ordained in 2010 and is affiliated with the Brooklyn Zen Center and the Everyday Zen Foundation. She lives in British Columbia and New York City, and is currently the Elizabeth Drew Professor of Creative Writing at Smith College.”

“Tantalizing”– The Washington Post
“A spellbinding tale.” – O, The Oprah Magazine
“Fractures Clichés” – ELLE
“Delightful.” – The New York Times Book Review
“Terrific”– The Seattle Times

Related:
Breakfast with Buddha
Lunch with Buddha
A Piece of Sky, A Grain of Sand

FOG ISLAND MOUNTAINS: a Novel ~Michelle Bailat-Jones

Friday, December 5th, 2014

“…and it is amazing how easily, how quickly really, a person can be turned inside –out and rewritten completely.” (Page 59)

In my life a daughter, wife, mother, social worker, friend died today after a prolonged battle with breast cancer. I am sharing this story about death with her family after the service; it is a profoundly, deeply touching love story integrated with a Japanese folktale – I cried and found release.

From the Advanced Uncorrected Proof copy cover:

“What if you could rewrite a tragedy? What if you could give grace to someone’s greatest mistake?

A haunting and beautiful reinterpretation of the Japanese KITSUNE folk tale tradition, FOG ISLAND MOUNTAIN is a novel about the dangers of action taken in grief and of a belief in healing through storytelling.

Narrating this story is Azami, one of Komachi’s oldest and most peculiar inhabitants, the daughter of a famous storyteller with a mysterious story of her own.

Inhabitants of a small town, Komachi, are waiting for the biggest of the summer’s typhoons, when the cancer diagnosis is received.  South African expatriate Alec Chester has lived in Komachi for nearly forty years, he considers himself an ordinary man, with common troubles and mundane achievements.  His wife, Kanae, disappears into the gathering storm afraid to hear the diagnosis and avoids the truth.”

FOG ISLAND MOUNTAIN is the winner of the Christopher Doheny Award, which recognizes excellence in fiction or nonfiction on the topic of serious illness by a writer who has personally dealt or is dealing with life-threatening illness (either his or her own or that of a close relative or friend).  The judges for the 2013 Christopher Doheny Award included acclaimed writers Dani Shapiro, Meghan O’Rourke, and Ann Hood.

Michelle-Bailat-Jones is a writer and translator.  Her novel FOG ISLAND MOUNTAINS won the Christopher Doheny Award from the Center for Fiction in New York City.  She translated Charles Ferdinand Ramuz’s 1927 Swiss classic BEAUTY ON EARTH (2013). She is the reviews editor at the webjournal/Necessary Fiction, and her fiction, poetry, translations, and criticism have appeared in a number of journals, including the Kenyon Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Quarterly Conversation, PANK, Spolia Mag, Two Serious Ladies, and The Atticus Review.  Michelle lives in Switzerland.

Michelle Bailat-Jones Twitter

Thank you Lisa at TLC Book Tours – I needed this one; perfect timing. Stunning writing.  Very Highly Recommend

Related:
The Long Goodbye
All Gone
So Far Away
WILD

THE GODS OF HEAVENLY PUNISHMENT: A Novel ~Jennifer Cody Epstein

Friday, May 24th, 2013


The horrendous atrocities of war and the delicate strength of the human spirit are all wrapped up in this novel about the firebombing of Tokyo during World War II.  THE GODS OF HEAVENLY PUNISHMENT is a work of art and beauty and I will read it again to ease the tensions which continue to cross my mind and disrupt my awareness.

“I dare you to read this and not be swept up. THE GODS OF HEAVENLY PUNISHMENT is shocking and delicate in equal measure.”  Debra Dean, author, of THE MADONNAS Of LENINGRAD (on the book jacket)

This is the story of Yoshi and how war and a host of people will direct her experience of war and lead to her survival.  She is the daughter of a Japanese builder who has worked with an Architect to change the skyline of Tokyo (Yep! Frank Lloyd Wright’s Imperial Hotel is part of the story) and her mother who is the granddaughter of a Samurai Warrior who has a troubled past; she speaks many languages fluently.  It is the story of the architect who builds the new vision, then works on its destruction and how he knows Yoshi.  It is the story of Cam a fighter pilot who has wanted to fly an airplane his whole life; he is one of the downed pilots after an initial bombing raid.  On this list of Yoshi’s journey, I must include Billy who was born in Japan and returns as an occupation soldier for the rebuilding process.

I do not read the book covers or the promo pages that come with the tour book I agree to review.  I find that those words often color the read for me and I think they often tell far too much of the story line and cancel my minds ability to imagine and discover.  I quite often read each book twice, as I did for THE GODS OF HEAVENLY PUNISHMENT.   The second read looks through eyes of what research the author acknowledges and the personal notes on hopes and expectations for the book and thanks to the editors and publishers.  This novel was extensively researched and then rendered with a divine stroke of the pen to give the reader a crystal understanding faceted with elegance and grace.  The book jacket uses the word meditation to describe this story telling and I would have to agree.

All the shocking horror of war and that experience is right there and in one page you know it, and by the next page the reader is moving on and integrating the disgust and shock into the child’s growth and understanding.   How could we ever have another war?  This story does not leave the mind; it stays put.

“Jennifer Cody Epstein depicts the firebombing of Tokyo and concurrent events in unflinching but delicately rendered detail.  Immaculately researched and deeply imagined, this is an astonishing novel whose battles and intimate encounters alike carry the force of electric jolt.  I have never read anything else like it.”  Angel Davis-Gardner, author of BUTTERFLY”S CHILD (book jacket)

tlclogoTLC online book tours and W.W. Norton & Company sent me a preview copy to review.  Thank you very much for this honor and privilege to read this book.  I am sure I will read it for a third time.

If you only read one book in 2013 make sure it is THE GODS OF HEAVENLY PUNISHMENT

If you purchase anything from Amazon or Powell’s from this site, I will receive a few beans in my bucket.  Thank you.  Donations also welcomed.

Related Reading:
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena
Hannah Coulter
Thirty Days With My Father (PTSD)
The Bequest of Big Daddy

2 Memorial Services, an Earthquake and Hope

Monday, March 14th, 2011

lambs

I have found this to be true, whenever you get quite discouraged or worried or overly concerned seek out a Memorial Service to attend.  Try to pick out one for someone who made a difference in the world wherever they went.

I have just attended two services for 2 great souls who passed through my life made change happen for the better.   My Aunt made each person she was with feel valued and important, she had a special joy in living and in sharing the arts and beauty with everyone she encountered.  She loved what she chose to do in life and she loved the work she had to do in her life.   We were inspired to incorporate her gracious values into our daily lives and make a renewed effort to encourage all who we encountered in our living.

My Neighbor Dr. Bob died on Valentine’s Day.   The family wanted to pick a date when everyone could gather – so the service was just this past Friday.  Dr. Bob was a funny guy – not quite standup comedian, but because he loved a gentle tease and a practical idea.  He was a General Practice Physician and he took the word “practice” to a new art form.  He was always practicing to give his best and be his best at his art.   He was an inspiring listener and teacher and oh how he could promote one to their best effort.  He was a loyal friend and he just radiated love for his children, grandchildren and the children in the neighborhood.  He loved movies – especially westerns, and corn on the cob (he was born in Indiana) and having cob tossing parties from the deck.  My children raced to rake the leaves in his yard, bake cookies and take a plate full over, and when he fell cleaning roof gutters and broke both his legs, they delivered fresh DVD’s to his door daily.  He built our hospital into a fine institution and always took a peanut butter sandwich with him wherever he went.

Both of these fine people “let go” of life, they chose not to have hundreds of thousands of dollars of medical care heaped upon them, when so many people who were suffering could not get the care they needed.  They gave gifts to others as their last moments of living and embraced dying.

Our shores were touched by the tsunami waves from the massive earthquake in Japan.  We were moved by the pictures of devastation being sent to us and organized and phoned and began the process of support for the victims and the rebuilding.  I scurried around the internet to see if those living on boats in the path were safe and okay and I called my friends in Hawaii to check with them.  The personal were safe and sound.   We prayed for and blessed the rescue workers and then said, “What can I do?”

I lost heart and was discouraged by the doomsday criers; witnessed the fear promoters ramping up their stylish ways.   Actually, I felt exhausted and alone.

I took the puppy for a walk and I forced my eyes to notice the pink camellia in bloom, the many crocuses, the pink caste to the plum trees and the hours and hours of pruning work going on in my neighbor’s yards.  Everyone here believes Spring is coming, and that energy is bursting forth.  They are planning on it as a matter of fact and taking steps to embrace it.  All this rain is cleaning the air, all this wind is pushing us along, all this anticipation is creating belief.

I went to a birthday party and there I heard other folks sharing similar concerns and figuring out ways they could participate and share their beliefs too. 2 guests were losing their jobs and health insurance, one was job hunting.  Those gathered talked about how to share with their children, how to create open dialogue, and create patterns of change that would work for their new grandchildren too.  Each person was celebrating that birthday by challenging themselves to find an action that used their gifts – we laughed and felt hopeful.

This morning I read The Comma, a local blog with this story about a minister shearing her sheep: Two flocks and a fleecing

I thought the following quote was a profound metaphor for my thinking

“And my own observation, related to the ram: “If a sheep doesn’t give up its wool, eventually the wool will kill it.” (Sheep that have been bred for centuries to produce wool are not like sheep in the wild. Wool sheep must be sheared every year, or the weight of the wool will eventually cripple, then incapacitate, and then kill them. And if you skip even just one year, the wool you get is heavy and dirty and completely useless.)”

If I do not remove the wool from my eyes, I cannot see the hope and the process beginning a new.  It will eventually kill me and my spirit – because I need to find the gifts and spring forward. There is always something budding forth – but I need to see with fresh vision to find hope.

What gift of yours do you use to refresh your hopes and dreams?

Related Reading:
People are Often Unreasonable
The Work of Everyday
We Have Met The Enemy
The Wisdom to Know the Difference

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