“There are books you haven’t read yet that will enrich you, films you will watch while eating extra-large buckets of popcorn, and you will dance and laugh and have sex and go for runs by the river and have late-night conversations and laugh until it hurts. Life is waiting for you. You might be stuck here for a while, but the world isn’t going anywhere. Hang on in there if you can. Life is always worth it.” Matt Haig, Reasons To Stay Alive.
I haven’t been posting as regularly just recently. The truth is I’m having a bit of a rough patch with regards to my anxiety disorder.
I know how that sounds.
Firstly, this is not a usual Halloween list. There is not a zombie or werewolf in sight.
It is not that I dislike fantasy horror characters, I just don’t find them scary at all. So here are 5 books that I found genuinely disturbing.
I’m very excited to be going back to Kyoto for my honeymoon next week! Here are 5 non fiction books I would recommend reading about Japan, in no particular order.
A Geek In Japan
The geek of the book is Hector Garcia whose original blog was called kirainet.com (it is now called ageekinjapan.com). His blog documented his move to Japan and the interesting things he found there. His posts were often about Japanese popular culture and all things otaku. This book covers all aspects of Japanese culture, from a photographic explanation of ‘how to bow’ to a history of robots and Manga. The final section of the book is very useful for making a trip to Tokyo as it explains the various shopping districts and sights that would interest anyone who calls themselves otaku such as the Ghibli Museum and Akihabara.
CultureShock! Japan A survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette
Did you know that blowing your nose in public in Japan is frowned upon? Or that Kentucky Fried Chicken is a traditional meal on Christmas Eve in Japan? Or that buying an ill person a potted flower is a terrible faux pas?
What I love about this book is its honesty and humour. It is full of lots of personal anecdotes as well as practical information about visiting Japan, whether short or long term.
Kawaii! Japan’s culture of cute.
This is another gorgeous book, filled with colour photographs about all aspects of kawaii culture. It is full of interviews with people such as the editor of the fashion magazine ‘Fruits’ and the creators of some of well known kawaii characters. *Obviously*, it has a section on Hello Kitty but did you know about Gloomy Bear, who is guro-kawaii (grotesque cute) and looks like the love child of Hello Kitty and Hannibal Lecter? This isn’t essential for travelling to Japan but is a fun book if you are interested in kawaii culture and Harajuku fashion.
Hokkaido Highway Blues
This is a travelogue that came about as the result of a drunken night out! During the celebration of the cherry blossom season, after too much sake, Will Ferguson decided to follow the blossoms as they came into bloom across Japan, hitchhiking all the way. This chronicles the people he met and places he stopped off at and explains a bit of Japanese culture along the way. I’ll be packing this to reread on the plane next week.
Tokyo On Foot
This is more of an art book than travel guide. It is a collection of the detailed sketches that Florent Chavouet made during his stay in Tokyo. Of course, one can’t help feeling that he should have Cultureshock! beforehand, as some of his stories such as the time he ‘borrowed’ a bike because it wasn’t locked up and unsurprisingly was arrested, reveal total ignorance of Japanese culture and etiquette. But it does allow for interesting stories and sketches.
Hope you enjoy my recommendations. See ya when I get back!
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King Rating 2/5 stars.
A lot of people are real snobs about Stephen King. I’ve never understood why. A good yarn is a good yarn no matter who it is by or what shelf it appears on in the book shop. This time, however, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed.
I remember reading The Shining for the first time and having to have long breaks in the sunshine, so affecting is the tension and nightmarish atmosphere of The Overlook Hotel. The infamous horror finale (yeah the famous part with the axe from Kubrick’s film) only takes up the final third of the novel. Until then the focus is on building up the tension and introducing the reader to characters that are simultaneously sympathetic and sinister: the emotionally sensitive child Dan Torrance (REDRUM!) and his creepy imaginary friend Tony; his father Jack trying to restrain his angry outbursts and thirst for alcohol. Stephen King has himself spoken on how Jack Torrance was reflection of himself and his own battle with alcoholism.
And here is the problem I have with Doctor Sleep: is it impossible to judge the sequel without always thinking of, always comparing with, the original story. King himself writes in the ‘Author’s Note’ at the end of the book:
I like to think I’m pretty good at what I do, but nothing can live up to the memory of a good scare…And people change. The man who wrote Doctor Sleep is very different from the well-meaning alcoholic who wrote The Shining…
Almost as though he knows no matter what he writes it cannot possible live up to the original.
WARNING: SOME MINOR SPOILERS!
So the book catches up with Dan Torrance as an adult some years after the end of The Shining. He (like his father) is a recovering alcoholic who helps the dying elderly pass over to the other side. He is also getting ‘the shine’ from a young girl called Abra, who needs a mentor to help her understand her place in the world. Much like Dick Hallorann did for Dan.
Problem is that Doctor Sleep has none of the subtle tension of the first book. Only 4 pages in, the lady from room 217 makes a cameo appearance, having somehow travelled from the burnt Overlook (where presumably all spirits were meant to have been destroyed) to pop by and say hello. After seeing a decaying corpse sitting on your loo, where can you possibly go after that?
Well, apparently its gonna go like that 1980’s film Near Dark. The main plot of Doctor Sleep involves a group of hippies in an RV called The True Knot, who gain strength and youth from murdering people who have the shine. Basically psychic vampires.
Of course, these vampires are super strong. Super smart. Super psychic. But guess what is their one weakness?
I kid you not.
There are other things I could write about here, where a large amount of suspension of disbelief is needed but this would mean this review would be riddled with spoilers. The ones I’ve mentioned do not really give too much away about the plot should you wish to read it for yourself.
So is there anything good? Well, I still read to the end which means it is somehow still compelling despite it’s lack of subtlety. It also tries to give insight into the psychology of an alcoholic and what really goes on in AA meetings.
I keep wondering if I were able to judge it as a standalone book rather than a sequel, if I would be more impressed but I think that depends on what you are looking for. If you want to be scared out of your wits, then this book isn’t going to do it. Likewise, if you want a cracking good yarn, then King has written better.
And if you really want a scary Stephen King story, reread The Shining instead! 😉