Friday, November 20, 2009

 

What is Marie Mutsuki Mockett Reading?

A fun request--I was asked to list five books I'm currently reading. To be honest, I have not been the best reader of books this year--my attention span has been curtailed by the pregnancy. And as a result, I have tended to read the things I feel I just have to in order to keep the creative part of my mind working. But this was a fun exercise, and I was very pleased to share. Over at the Campaign for the American Reader, you'll find my recommendation for Hiroko Sherwin's wonderful "Eight Million Gods and Demons," a book that, to my mind, is one of the most under-appreciated novels I've ever come across. Then at Writer's Read, you can see the entire list (of five books).

A sample:

Ambiguous Bodies: Reading the Grotesque in Japanese Setsuwa Tales by Michelle Li

I do my fair share of reading literary novels; it's important to be supportive of your fellow artists. But I also do a lot of nonfiction reading. In particular, I will engage in what I sometimes call my "weird" reading. This year, I've been re-examining Japanese fairy tales in part because I realize just how much they impacted me as a child and subsequently as an adult, but also because I've started to deliver a one hour lecture on the subject. In this talk, I cover everything from animated poop cartoons, to Miyazaki's Spirited Away, to the classic Japanese fairy tale about the "Bamboo Princess." One day, while browsing on Amazon, I came across the title you see above. The product description is as follows: "This book aims to make sense of grotesque representations in setsuwa--animated detached body parts, unusual sexual encounters, demons and shape-shifting or otherwise wondrous animals—and, in a broader sense, to show what this type of critical focus can reveal about the mentality of Japanese people in the ancient, classical, and early medieval periods." I'm always trying to deepen my understanding of Japan--and consequently, find new and creative ways to tell stories. My own novel has demons and ghosts and I find that if I read good scholarly work on the things that are attractive to me-the bizarre and strange-and understand how they fit into the culture, then that will make my own creative work more precise, and more convincing. This book sounded like a fantastic read, and I'm eager to get started.


You'll note that the first book on my list was by Colum McCann, who just won the National Book Award. I've been a fan of McCann's for a long time, and was thrilled to see him honored. I don't know him at all, but know some of his students/friends, all of whom speak highly of him as a person. And that's always nice to know--that an artist you admire is one of the good guys too.

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