This post is mostly about a book I'm excited to read: Snakes and Earrings by Hitomi Kanehara, but it's also about how I heard about it and why I decided to buy it today. I like reading work in translation, and especially Japanese contemporary fiction. I still remember reading Kenzaburo Oe's A Personal Matter in high school, and finding its sparse, elegant prose to be a revelation. More recently, I really enjoyed Kitchen, a deceptively slim book by Banana Yoshitomo.
I suppose it's kind of ironic that I primarily make my living as a publicist these days and yet I hardly ever read the newspaper. What could possibly be there that is actually news to someone like me, who spends most of her life online, following (at my leisure, of course - not just first thing a.m.) the constantly unfolding, hydra-headed network of available information 24/7? The answer: Not much.
Frankly, I find little in my local newspaper, The New York Times, to interest me on a given day. For business coverage and analysis, I prefer The Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Economist -- three publications whose print editions I would pay for, but only hypothetically, because print is dead and I don't want all those dead trees cluttering up my apartment.
The vast majority of the cloying, achingly un-hip New York Times' Styles section is just an embarassment, and the only feature I ever read regularly, Choire Sicha's condensed cultural listings known as "The Guide," was seemingly replaced by its inferior predecessor of context-lacking, Yellow Page-style event listings. Take the time to look for it, and you will soon discover that everything the Times does is done better somewhere else.
Like most media consumers my age, I get information from a wide array of sources that it is both in flux and closely attuned to my definition of "fair and balanced." It's a mix of dozens of major papers' and magazines' websites (often filtered through Google News), significant blogs covering a number of issues from a variety of perspectives (most of them aggregated by Bloglines to suit my preferences), and occasionally, television.
One place that I have consistently found new books and (and trends in literary culture) is Dan Wickett's Emerging Writers Network (established in 2000), an email-based interview and review pipeline that is constantly bursting at the seams with new content and fresh voices. Even with the rampant competition on the crowded media landscape, it's actually quite easy to filter out the static of the majority of hum-drum, designed-for-print, advertising-driven, newspaper section book reviews by comparison.
I first heard of Snakes and Earrings when Dan mentioned upcoming interviews with both the author, and the translator, David Karashima (the latter is here). A day or two later, I noticed the interview in my inbox, but because I have been both traveling and working this weekend, I hadn't had a chance to read it yet. However, that was all I needed to take a closer look at the book while browsing today; close enough to see that Snakes and Earrings was precisely the type of book I might like to discover. I'll let you know what I think after I've read it.
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