So I’m sure you’ve guessed what Wednesday’s theme is. Yep — WRITING!!!
And reading, and authors, and anything having to do with putting pen to paper/fingertip to keyboard.
Since it’s what I’m in England to do, it seems only right (I just spared you the worst wordplay ever, btw. You’re welcome.) that I devote at least one post per week to all things writing/book-related. I love books and storytelling, and I’d really like to share some of my favorite reads, writing issues that are currently
bugging challenging me, and all manner of book-geekery with you. But I thought, for the sake of organization and to reduce the risk of nerd-overload, I should restrict my book blatherings to one day a week.
This week, I’d like to talk about the wonderful Little (and they mean little) Black Classics book series published by Penguin. If you’re in the UK, you’ve probably seen them at your local Waterstones.
Best thing about them? They’re only 80p!!! Amazeballs, right?
I only have four so far, but the numbers on their spines are 05, 19, 53, and 56… so apparently there are quite a few out there to collect (and at only 80p a pop, why not get your hands on a few?). Upon opening the cover of each, there is a quote from the book you’re holding. The books I chose are Aphorisms on Love and Hate (Friedrich Nietzsche), Olalla (Robert Louis Stevenson), Goblin Market (Christina Rossetti), and the one I want to chat about today, The Life of a Stupid Man by Ryunosuke Akutagawa. Akutagawa was the only author of those I chose whom I hadn’t heard of. But I love Japanese fiction (OK…I love Japanese everything) so I decided to take a chance on this author. Very glad I did.
“Ah, what is the life of a human being — a drop of dew, a flash of lightning? This is so sad. So sad.”
The book actually holds three short stories, one of which is the title tale. I enjoyed each of them — especially when I discovered that “The Life of a Stupid Man” was actually autobiographical — but my favorite is the first story, “In a Bamboo Grove.”
The story is told through a series of witness statements given in the first person regarding a man found dead in a bamboo grove. It begins with “the testimony of a woodcutter under questioning by the magistrate”; he was the one who found the body. With each “testimony” you learn more about what may or may not have happened in that secluded place. You hear from everyone, including the dead man’s wife and the robber who assaulted them. The final version of events is told to you by the spirit of the dead man himself through a medium.
What I love about this story is that every time you think you’ve gotten the facts straight, another person’s perspective throws everything out of whack. I was also glad to read the dead man’s perspective. A lot of the contemporary stories I’ve read tend to end in a decidedly ambiguous way. Lack of an ending seems to be a trend, and I don’t really like it unless it serves the story as a whole (often times, going by what I’ve read, it doesn’t). I don’t think any of the contemporary authors I’ve read recently would’ve included the dead man’s perspective if they had written this story. But the thing is, including it doesn’t tie a neat little ribbon around everything. The story still leaves you in a state of heartbreak and confusion. All of that to say, it’s interesting to see a story that gives you lots of information without truly giving anything away, even in the end. I still don’t know who to believe.
So that’s it for Wednesday’s writing post. If you haven’t already, check out the Little Black Classics book series; you’re bound to find something that grabs you. And they’re perfectly pocket-sized for your commute (unless you’re wearing really tight jeans, in which case you might wanna carry a bag or something).
Happy Wednesday 🙂