Reading & Writing, 2105


I’ve always meant to do it: keep a list of the books I have read during the year and I finally managed to do it in 2015!

  • Christopher Goto Jones: Modern Japan
  • Miyuki Miyabe: All She Was Worth
  • Barbara Ehrenreich: Living with a Wild God
  • Gillian Rose: Love’s Work
  • Marina Warner: Fairy Tales
  • Minae Mizumura: The Fall of Lanugage in the Age of English
  • Marilynne Robinson: Lila
  • Ngugi wa Thiongo: Decolonisation of the Mind
  • Teju Cole: Open City
  • Ian McEwan: Sweet Tooth
  • Kevin Crossley-Holland: Gatty’s Tale
  • Robert Galbraith: The Silkworm
  • Alexander McCall-Smith: The Big Tent Wedding
  • Sebastian Faulks: A Possible Life
  • Ilia Delio: Making All Things New
  • Pope Francis: Laudato Si
  • Ian McEwan: The Children Act
  • Anne Enright: The Green Road
  • J.M Coetzee: The Childhood of Jesus
  • Mary Costello: Academy Street
  • Anne Tyler: A Spool of Blue Thread

(11 women, 10 men)

Opened, begun and in process . . .

  • Maggie Ross: Silence: A User’s Guide
  • Andrew Shanks: Against Innocence
  • Julia Kristeva: Teresa, my Love (I might have to wait for retirement to absorb properly what this book invites)
  • John Felstiner: Paul Celan: Poet, Survivor, Jew
  • Romano Guardini: The End of the Modern World

My literature seminar in Young Adult literature has been focused on the following books:

  • Michael Ende: Momo
  • Madeleine L’Engle: A Wrinkle in Time
  • Philip Pullman: The Subtle Knife

Part of my tsundoku shelf includes these:

  • Clarice Lispector: Complete Stories
  • The Omotesenke Tea Tradition
  • John Haughey: Where is Knowing Going?

and two books based on Gifford Lectures,

  • Rowan Williams: The Edge of Words
  • Raimon Panikkar: The Rhythm of Being



And, just because, why not . . . I wrote over 40 blog posts and had two papers published. One was a reading of Tolkien’s essay ‘On Fairy Stories’ and the other was on a short story by the Brazilian writer, Clarice Lispector, called “Love” which examined the themes of freedom and containment in love. She is a crazy, good writer. Read her and see for yourself.

A couple of papers have been accepted for publication early next year, too. One is entitled “Language, Letters and Loss” and was inspired incited by Minae Mizumura’s book (see above) which annoyed me terribly in the beginning but was rescued by a reviewer who advised that after the first 2 or 3 chapters things got a lot better. And so they did. I was interested in the  ideas of English eating into (cultural and linguistic) diversity, its shadow connections with capitalism and the creep of monoculture. (Perhaps I am just waking up to these fact?) As is my wont, I crammed the paper with (too many!) ideas: interpretations of the (biblical) Fall which I related to the development and ruptures in the Japanese language in modern history (which I found really interesting) from the Meiji period in the C19th through World War II and into the Internet Age. Ended with a call for ‘deep reading’ – hello, lectio divina, anyone?! – as essential to our humanity. . .  ESPECIALLY in this text saturated age!

The other paper I had not planned to write but was so taken by the story of Jules Isaac, the French-Jewish historian, I felt compelled to. I was regretful that I was not more fluent in French so that I could have read from the one French biography of him by Andre Kaspi. I was writing it for a Jewish literary journal (yes, we have one in Japan!) and found the history of the Christian (Catholic, in particular) relationship with the Jews fascinating.  Couldn’t help thinking that there was a movie waiting to be made about this man, Isaac; the scene of Isaac’s meeting with Pope John XXIII was particularly moving. Those excellent octogenarians and what they had lived through in Europe and what they were able to accomplish: truly life-giving change. I empathised fully with Isaac’s nerves and his preparation before the audience and was so relieved by the Pope’s warmth and understanding  of the issues and adding it to the agenda for reform at Vatican II. It is a cracking good story and all of that came out of the 50th anniversary of  Nostra Aetate, a document which I had never heard of before the end of October, 2015. Pure serendipity!




Lady Tatsuta’s Last Laugh

Lady Tatsuta, the Japanese goddess of the Autumn, has gone to sleep. Today is the winter solstice: her bedtime.

Ochre, siena and umber are the colours of the leaves; those that are still attached to the branches. Such lovely words for these colours.  I favour this earthy palette most, though soon and already its drabness signals change, deep rest, a hiatus from lively colour.

The unseasonably warm weather has made for a long fall, but Lady Tatsuta is sinking ever earthward bound, her eyes now, childlike, resistant, flickering shut. Darkness is upon us, even while we’re entering the light here at solstice. Winter, such as it is, pulls her down. She must sleep.

Nature offers us a seed of light now. We, though, in our animal natures, are drawn to a certain hibernation. I thought about Advent peaking as the light of the world arrives in the dark at the very season when kindling and light is most needed.  The seed we receive now grows with slow attention into a quickening, but that is a story for another time. There are depths yet to be plumbed for us in the Northern hemisphere.

As the cold grows and the darkness thickens, the perfume of the mulch begins to rise in the wild, unkempt, precious spaces, a sharp, bitter and unfailingly pleasing seasonal incense. The bamboo remains profuse, wildly abundant, quite unfazed by the turn of the sun. I noticed an enormous clump stream- side on a walk: oh, noble weed of ten thousand good uses.

The green curtain formed a backdrop to the remaining persimmons, natural Christmas lighting, perched on their skeletal frames. An imperceptible twitch made me look twice at one fruit. All at once I realised that was no fruit! It was a kingfisher, its wings tucked tightly in, its orange breast fluffed out, enjoying a brief moment of very amusing camouflage. The longer I stood, the more it began to fidget until it burst into a blaze of flight and disappeared down into the thickets. I heard it giggle.

I thought indeed, there is laughter at the heart of things. This bright orange insight arrived on rather a downhearted and exhausted afternoon as I, like Lady Tatsuta, flicker toward the year end rest.