Saturday, 1 January 2011

Things I read last year

1. Patriotism, Yukio Mishima
This is a Japanese novella. It starts:
On the twenty-eighth of February, 1936 (on the third day, that is, of the February 26 Incident), Lieutenant Shinji Takeyama of the Konoe Transport Battalion -- profoundly disturbed by the knowledge that his closest friends had been with the mutineers from the beginning, and indignant at the imminent prospect of Imperial troops attacking Imperial troops -- took his officer's sword and ceremonially disemboweled himself in the eight-mat room of his private residence in the sixth block of Aobo-cho, in Yotsuya Ward.  His wife, Reiko, followed him, stabbing herself to death.
It's about the lead-up to their deaths, especially the last few hours.  Very good.

2. Cox's Fragmenta
This is a small miscellany of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century newspaper articles taken from scrapbooks made by a man called Cox. The font is a bit annoying -- I don't mind s+t and c+t ligatures, but s+p ligatures are taking it too far. I thought it was interesting that in the eighteenth century people in Birmingham gave up rum and sugar to try to decrease the economic reasons for slavery. Also on the 14th July 1817 the Morning Chronicle had an advert for the exhibition of a Sapient Pig at Charring-cross. It includes a poem that starts "Hail, Toby! truly sapient Pig!".

3. Memento Mori, Muriel Spark
I have suddenly discovered that I love Muriel Spark. This book is about a group of friends in the 70s or 80s. Someone keeps phoning them and saying "Remember you must die". It's a dark comedy. Muriel Spark is an odd one.

4. Rice's Architectural Primer
My brother got me this for Christmas. Hurray for amazon wishlists! It has a lot of pen-and-watercolour diagrams of buildings with features labelled. I now know what crocketing is, and that is good.

5. Nell Gwynne's Scarlet Spy
More Kage Baker. A novella and a short story about Lady Beatrice, a prostitute in an eighteenth-century brothel which is a cover for a spying operation.

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