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My first book for Christmas

December 16, 2009

I know that Christmas is still over a week away but last night I received my first book of the season…and that, I think, is a litblog-worthy event!

Actually, I tell a bit of a lie, because last week I was sent, by a very kind internet bookgroup friend who knows my likes, the British Library Jane Austen appointment diary for 2010. It is gorgeous, containing Regency era images, silhouette images, and quotes from Jane Austen (from her books and letters). Being an appointment diary it notes standard public holiday dates, but being a Jane Austen appointment diary it also records dates important to Austen’s life – such as the poignant (possibly!):

January 15: I am to flirt my last with Tom Lefroy (from letter to Cassandra)

It is a lovely diary and I shall treasure it way past its expiry date (that is, past December 31, 2010).

Haruki Murakami (Photo by Wakarimasita, Wikipedia, under Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0)

And now to the book I received last night. It is Birthday stories, an anthology of thirteen short stories “selected and introduced by Haruki Murakami“. (The givers knew that I like Murakami.) The book was originally published in Japanese, Murakami having both selected and translated the stories from English, but was later published in English with “a specially written introduction”. The stories all deal with birthdays and are by such luminaries as Raymond CarverDavid Foster WallacePaul Theroux, and William Trevor – as well as by Murakami himself. Each story has a brief – and delightfully personal – introduction by Murakami.

In his introduction to the anthology, Murakami writes that his inspiration for compiling the anthology:

was my consecutive reading of two outstanding stories that happened to be based on the theme of birthday: “Timothy’s birthday” by William Trevor and “The Moor” by Russell Banks. … Both stories left me feeling haunted.

I imagine that there will be various interpretations of “birthday” from the day of one’s birth to those days in which we celebrate our own or the births of others. I rather like themed collections of short stories, and so am looking forward to reading this book – perhaps by dipping into it over time rather than reading it all at once, so you’ll probably hear about it as I go.

Meanwhile, I’m thinking that if these are the sorts of gifts arriving before Christmas, some wonderful delights must be in store for me when the day itself arrives! After all, you can never receive too many books for Christmas – can you?

Haruki Murakami (ed)
Birthday stories
London: Vintage Books, 2004
206pp.
ISBN: 0099481553

15 Comments leave one →
  1. December 17, 2009 11:01 pm

    Nobody ever gives me books for Xmas any more because I’ve already got too many in the library, but if I get a book voucher I might buy some of the wonderful books being recommended everywhere on the Top Ten lists. My mum keeps me supplied with French perfume (in those nice little handbag sized bottles), and my son always gives me the latest Melways (this year in the large print edition LOL). (He gives me the James Halliday Wine Companion every year for my birthday too, predictable but just what I want). The Spouse, on the other hand, is UNpredictable but with a penchant for electronic thingies (iPod, digital radio etc)…
    It’s such fun, this time of the year!

  2. December 17, 2009 11:40 pm

    LOL, my spouse often gives me electronic things too – pretty much what you’ve got – Digital radio a couple of years ago, iPod last birthday, digital camera a few years ago, lovely new mobile phone last Xmas. Or, the occasional jewelry, or a special bottle of wine. As you say, a bit unpredictable – which is nice really. And, you are right about books. I get less these days than I used to – but brother often gives me one, and the kids too (but mostly if I give them a list of books on my reading schedules). This year though seems different. I got another book tonight – the 2009 Australian Poetry Book. Love it!

    • December 19, 2009 8:06 am

      re. the 2009 Australian Poetry Book.

      Nice work. My library gets those in and I’m grateful for it. Poetry is so below-the-radar it’s an easy thing to lose track of, particularly Australian poetry, which doesn’t have the prominent muscle of online outlets like Poetry Daily to push it into the spotlight.

      • December 19, 2009 11:42 am

        Yes, I am really thrilled to have it…we gave one a couple of years ago to my daughter … and I’ve always thought I’d like one myself one year. I might write a little post on it cos it deserves a bit of a push! I was attending some Poetry readings here a year or so ago and then a group I’m involved in changed its meeting night and that was that. I was disappointed but c’est la vie.

  3. December 18, 2009 2:24 pm

    And, as you failed to produce a Christmas Wish List this year, there’s certainly one child of yours who won’t be sending you a rectangular gift. Or a gift on time, for that matter…

    • December 18, 2009 3:53 pm

      As long as said child is having a good time, that’s all that matters…

      • December 18, 2009 3:59 pm

        Speaking of books and said child, I did actually come across Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil today in a souveneir-esque shop, but still have Cold Comfort Farm to finish, so aim to get through that first!

  4. December 18, 2009 9:28 pm

    So glad that you’re enjoying the diary Sue. I just knew it was perfect and needed to be sent your way.

    My DH won’t buy me books anymore. He claims that I “never” read the books he buys me. I always want them, they’re always specifically requested. It is perhaps true that there are a number of unread books lying about the house, and perhaps some of them may have been bought by him. But I still want these new ones, and don’t see much point in things I don’t really want, when I can have Books That I Mean to Read sitting on the shelf instead.

    • December 18, 2009 11:20 pm

      I couldn’t have said it better myself Louise! Just show him this response and tell him you are VERY VERY normal. Of course, if you can’t have a book a Dom might do instead.

  5. December 22, 2009 8:50 am

    Well, that’s a great present – I also admire Murakami’s writings and I’m sure you’ll enjoy his selection. I was wondering what to blog about next and your idea of Christmas books is a good one

    Thanks for visiting my blog – I’m apologising to everyone for not having returned comments recently, I’ve barely had time to write my entries let alone read others due to a period of extreme business now thankfully passed. My new year resolution is to participate more in the fascinating community of book bloggers.

    • December 22, 2009 9:36 am

      No apologies needed – I reckon we can have bloggers block just like reading blocks at times – and, at this time we are all very busy. I’m reading less and blogging less this month. It’s always lovely when you do pop in though so I’m saying you don’t have to apologise but I’m not letting you completely off the hook! SO, I like your new year’s resolution. (Mine might be more simply to read more books!!)

      I pop by your blog cos I enjoy reading it – you introduce me to some European writers in particular that I haven’t heard of, and you write well. I look foward to reading about your Christmas books.

  6. April 27, 2010 9:47 pm

    Hey. Nice post- and even nicer to know yet another Murakami fan. I quite like his works- novels, short stories. Any further suggestions- am on break from work right now and looking to catch up on reading. Thanks

    • April 28, 2010 12:03 am

      Thanks for popping by Mona … I could suggest all sorts of things to you but if you like Japanese works, have you read The Makioka Sisters, by Tanazaki. Straighter than Murakami, but a great read. A more contemporary Japanese book is Natsuo Kirino’s Grotesque. (I think I have the author right!)

  7. May 19, 2010 11:01 pm

    Hey- I read After Dark by Murakami- a great read. Couldn’t put it down. Thanks for the tip.

    • May 20, 2010 1:36 am

      Wow, thanks for getting back to me. It’s a thrill when someone takes up a recommendation AND lets your know. Some Murakami fans haven’t liked this, so I’m glad you did.

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