29 May 2008

Fantasy Reading List

Some people have fantasy sports teams. Every once in a while, I come up with a fantasy reading list. This is usually a group of novels (who reads non-fiction?!) that I would like to read together in order to see how they inter-relate, or not. My most recent fantasy list developed out of my recent trip to the US, where I attended a comparative literature conference and walked through too many airports looking at bookshops. It was mainly inspired by an interesting conference talk that discussed variations on the sleeping beauty theme. Somehow, this lead right to teenage prostitution, but, honestly, in interesting ways.

The first story on my list is, The House of Sleeping Beauties by Yasunari Kawabata. According to my sources, the House of Sleeping Beauties is a Japanese brothel where teenage girls are drugged to sleep. Patrons, mostly impotent old men, who visit the brothel pay for the privilege of spending the night with these girls, but penetration (of any kind) is prohibited. The premise is intriguing. In fact, so interesting that it appears to have been adapted for film, stage, and pornography.

The second book on my list is Gabriel Garcia Marquez's Memories of my Melancholy Whores. Here's a review by John Updike. Apparently, after being told that his writing was similar to Japanese writing, Garcia Marquez spent a year reading Japanese literature. When he was done, Kawabata's short story was the only one he wished he had written himself. Memories is Garcia Marquez's response to Kawabata's story. It tells the tale of an old man who wants to sleep with a young virgin for his 90th birthday, but ends up falling in love with her instead.

The last book on this fantasy list is Natsuo Kirino's Grotesque. Kirino is a Japanese crime fiction writer with a truly morbid imagination and a great style. I ran across Out a couple of years ago and was completely blown away by it. When I saw in the airports that a new book had been translated, I knew I wanted to read it. As it turns out, it fits my fantasy list theme. Grotesque tells the story of how two students from an elite Japanese high school both ended up working as prostitutes and how both of them were murdered. I'm reading it now and find it's more a tale of jealousy, manipulation, and questions of truth, but quite interesting nevertheless.

So, that's my current fantasy book list. My plan was to get all three books and read them in the order described here, but I wasn't able to find a copy of Kawabata's book while I was home. So, I'm inverting the list and starting with Kirino. Garcia Marquez is on the shelf and I'll read it next. Stay tuned for my thoughts on both books!

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