Reading Kyrgyzstan: Restless Valley

Central Asia is endlessly fascinating to me, so I was super happy to Kyrgyzstan up on my reading list. I landed on Restless Valley: Revolution, Murder, and Intrigue in the Heart of Central Asia, by Phillip Shishkin as my introduction to this corner of the world.

But, second destination in a row where the locale is way more intriguing than the book I picked. I swear I’m not being curmudgeonly! Or at least I hope that’s not it…

There was a lot to like about this book, don’t get me wrong. The author obviously knows his way around the political and social terrain of a very, VERY complicated place. I doubt that any one viewpoint could fully embrace all of the intricacies baked into the cake there.

That said, this just read oddly to me. A bit repetitive perhaps? The author didn’t trust the reader to remember people he had introduced earlier, leading to awkward second meetings. I hadn’t realized before this book that would bother me, but indeed it does. Good to know, huh?

I am glad to have had the chance to learn what I’ve learned, and I look forward to some fiction titles I have picked out by Kyrgyz author, Chignhiz Aitmatov. Now, I have a bit of a sense-of-place before diving in. Onward and upwards!

Bei Inylchek, Tian Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan
Bei Inylchek, Tian Shan Mountains, Kyrgyzstan (image by Jürgen Grösel, via Wikimedia Commons)

Country #46: Kyrgyzstan

Central Asia: SO INTERESTING. And so not-talked about here in the U.S. very often, even though I’m sure our government is up to all sorts of things in that part of the world.
Very ready to dive in and learn as much as I can. Let’s do this!

Reading Singapore: The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye

Going back over some older ground…because I never read a book about Singapore. Which is ridiculous.

The wait was worth it! On the recommendation of very smart book blogger, Bibloglobal, I picked up The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chey by Sonny Liew and I’m so very glad I did.

Dazzling. Brilliant. A complete vision executed flawlessly.
I don’t know – I COULD GO ON AND ON.

I’m blown away. It’s that good. And I won’t discuss it further, because I might ruin it for you. Just one more thing: don’t read any other reviews before you dig into this graphic novel. Wait until after and all shall be illuminated…trust me!

Cover of The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye
Cover of The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye (image from http://www.sonnyliew.com)

 

Reading Japan: Shipwrecks by Akira Yoshimura

It’s been my practice with this blog to just read one book per country, since I’m already walking this long path at a very slow pace. But not for Japan!

After really enjoying my first selection, which I found courtesy of OhioLINK, I decided to check out my own bookshelves. I’m definitely a proponent of tsundoku, a Japanese word that roughly translates to buying a lot of books and leaving them stacked up everywhere, unread. It’s not just a habit for me; it’s a lifestyle. Because of that, my search yielded many excellent choices, but I went with Shipwrecks by Akira Yoshimura, translated from the Japanese by Mark Ealey.

A 16th-century Japanese Atakebune coastal warship.
A 16th-century Japanese Atakebune coastal warship. (Image in the Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Stark is the main word I would use to describe this book. Mr. Yoshimura is a masterful writer; the chilly tone and repetitive scenes he puts to paper convey perfectly the experience of the protagonist, a young boy named Isaku. I’ve not quite experienced such brilliant use of language and structure like that in a novel; when I realized what he was doing, I almost stopped and clapped. The translator deserves a well-earned shout-out as well, for keeping that framework so beautifully intact.

As I often tell you at the end of my reviews, read this book!