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What novels to start with

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RE: What novels to start with

Postby spin13 » Sat 01.26.2008 3:00 pm

I recommend 村上 龍 (Murakami Ryuu), especially the book Sixty Nine. It was famous enough to be made into a movie, though mention of the author seems to bring up a lot of, "Do you know Murakami Haruki?"-type questions. Thanks, that's not what we're talking about.

I do, however, give Murakami H. the honor of funniest title for a book about an earthquake (神の子どもたちはみな踊る, not that after the quake nonsense). I've gone through the effort of buying it, though I haven't gotten around to actually reading it yet. Who has time for that?

I have enjoyed not only the story of Sixty Nine, but also learning some 九州の西の端 dialect. I was quite surprised to learn that the grammar for continuous action and states are, unlike in standard Japanese, two separate constructions. The power of reading!

Yudan Taiteki wrote:
It depends. I don't think it's ever a necessary evil to "read" through something where you have to look up 75% of the words. There are other, more efficient, ways to increase your vocabulary than this...


Shirasagi wrote:
If you have to look up everything you read, then you're in over your head, but using a dictionary by itself is not a bad thing, IMO. I still come across terms I'm not familiar with in my reading.


While it's easiest to learn through understandable input, I don't know exactly what that is. Perhaps the next best thing is enjoyable input. I only ask myself only one question, "Do I want to [continue to] read this?" I don't even bother with, "Do I need to?" There are very few things one needs to do in this life; there are many more things which can be apologized for afterwards.

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RE: What novels to start with

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sat 01.26.2008 3:18 pm

Well yeah, that's the important thing. I was just pointing out that there are ways to proceed that don't require reading "75% incomprehensible without a dictionary" texts -- however, that does not mean that it's bad to use those kinds of texts, if they keep you interested.
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RE: What novels to start with

Postby AJBryant » Sat 01.26.2008 4:06 pm

I've always made the following two recommendations:

(1) Pick a book with a story you already know. That way, you'll have more "self-confidence" as you read, and be less likely to want to second-guess your possible understanding of any given passage. It also means you are at least guaranteed not to find yourself reading something you can't stand (see my earlier comment on Kokoro).

(2) Try to find a "junior version" of the book -- that is, a translation of an English book into Japanese which is aimed at a highschool age audience. The vocab will be easier and more basic, and you'll have less to look up combined with the satisfaction (and confidence booster) of being more likely to be able to read the book.


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RE: What novels to start with

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Sat 01.26.2008 4:45 pm

This isn't a novel, but one thing I always found useful for reading practice was the Tensei Jingo column in the Asahi:
http://www.asahi.com/paper/column.html

It's short, there's a new one every day, and because the text is online you can use things like EDICT to help you read it. The biggest drawback is that it often assumes cultural or current-events knowledge that you may not necessarily have, but that can be a learning experience too. (For instance, today's column is about 湯たんぽ, which is a hot-water bottle that you put in your bed at night for warmth.)
Last edited by Yudan Taiteki on Sat 01.26.2008 4:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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RE: What novels to start with

Postby skrhgh3b » Sat 01.26.2008 7:48 pm

inuinu wrote:
本題ですが、
私もskrhgh3bさんと同じく、星新一のショートショート作品をおすすめします。
仰るように、阜サは簡潔でわかりやすいし、話も短いので、飽きが来ないと思いますよ。
「午後の恐竜」という作品は、子供の頃に読んで、今でもかなり印象に残ってます。
短い導入部にも関わらず、読者にあの「異常の中の平常感」「平常の中の異常感」を
自然に受け入れさせてしまう文章告ャ力は凄いと思います。是非ご一読をどうぞ。


I feel vindicated :D
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RE: What novels to start with

Postby StrandedInATreetop » Tue 01.29.2008 7:34 pm

Big thank you to everyone who recomended or gave input!

Huge thanks to Shirasagi for the handful of things I havn't heard of (or at least havnt read) and all of which seem of interest to me.

I have plenty of things I'm going to check out now, but I'd be glad to hear any more recomendations and I'm sure others would be too.

I totally understand the murakami haruki recomendation for exactly those reasons (they seem to be written for a western audience) and they are exactly the level of difficulty I'm looking for but I really don't think I can enjoy another book with a prostitute that can see the future or a mentally handicapped person who can talk to animals. I love weird, but not when it has no purpose or unique style to it.





because I'm so slow to respond, this is for the one or two posts that just assumed I don't know any japanese because I'm using a dictionary- I'll admit I'm not ready to read a book the way i read one in english but I am in no way not understanding 75% of whats going on. I'd say its more like 10% that I don't understand in a book like ノルウェイの森。 I probably had about 8 or 9 words per page I didn't understand and I looked them all up and studied them then re-read it. That way I learned about 70 words in the first chapter and afterwords was able to read it almost 100% naturally and become more used to naturally flowing japanese. That's exactly why I asked for something on the easier side while still being enjoyable to someone in college (as in not a kids story). Even if I could understand only 25% I'd still like something to strive to be able to read.

I could stick to textooks for another 2 or 3 years and THEN try to read with 95-99% proficiency OR I could find something that really interests me and push myself to understand it as best as I can so there is real emotional investement in the learning that I'm doing (as opposed to my textbook which has articles about meryl streep and one thats basically "A tribute to water!!!!"....in a word: boring). It's not like I'm going to stop using a textbook, I just need a place where I can be exposed to natural flow of the language in an interesting context.

The one thing that has kept me learning Japanese is interest and true desire to understand someone. Its the reason everyone says "immersion is the only way to learn", because you HAVE to become fluent in order to do the things you want to do (or in that case have to do).

Also, I'm trying to get used to being bombareded with all japanese and a textbook does not feel real even if it is in all japanese. I need something to strive to understand and something that has no intention of teaching me so I can teach myself because thats how I learn best (and yes, I need a dictionary to do that, naturally).
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RE: What novels to start with

Postby AJBryant » Tue 01.29.2008 8:03 pm

Actually, you should probably expect to be looking up words.

After all, at some point -- when you have enough grammar down -- language learning becomes primarily a project of increasing vocabulary. One of the best ways to do that is by reading. Sure, you could listen to radio or watch TV, but things you don't understand fly by too fast to double check, whereas with books and magazines you are able to work at YOUR pace.

I was once given some wonderful advice by a professor, and I will pass it on.

Find a subject you are really interested in -- in my case, academically, it was history. Read books on THAT subject. If nothing else, you will be building up your "professional" vocabulary and that will stand you in good stead in future reading and work in that field. What that means is that while I can't with any grammatical smoothness discuss baseball or J-pop, I can discuss tactical moves, surrenders, invasions, and troop deployment issues (at least as it relates to medieval Japan).

By all means, read.

Oh, hey... an idea has just hit.

While you try to find something longer, see if you can get your hands on some of the Japanse weekly newsstand magazines. The articles tend to be fairly short (a couple of pages) and are written VERY much in the vernacular. These magazines are, after all, the Japanese equivalent of People and Us.

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RE: What novels to start with

Postby Shirasagi » Wed 01.30.2008 6:39 am

Total agreement with Tony:

Two things that really helped my reading (and speaking) ability when I came to Japan were reading the TV Guide (as I watched a lot of Japanese TV) and Ozumo magazine (as I enjoy watching sumo). Reading the TV Guide in particular was very helpful in learning various kanji readings because of the many names in interviews, articles, and pre-season previews. Ozumo magazine was so helpful, I find it difficult to discuss sumo in English without resorting almost completely to Japanese terminology.

Total disagreement with Tony:

I, for one, enjoyed (and still enjoy) こゝろ. I think the immortal line, 「君、黒い長い髪で縛られた時の心持を知っていますか?」 is something just about every guy on this forum can relate to, in a myriad number of ways and numerous levels. I also think his dialogue is marvelously natural, despite writing 100 years ago, in a different era, and a different Japan. I think it's good for every lad to read it when they're in the bloom of youth, in their early 20s, and then read it again when they enter middle age.

That said, Soseki certainly is dark. But then, who of the modern classical writers wasn't? Akutagawa, Dazai, Soseki, heck, even the guys who didn't commit suicide or die young, like Kawabata and Tanizaki, could hardly be called inspiring or uplifting reading. But these guys lived and wrote in one of the most fascinating times of any period in history anywhere, so I highly recommend reading their works in the original Japanese.

The thing with Soseki, though, is that he's hit or miss when it comes to difficulty level. I think こゝろ reads very easily, while 吾輩は猫である is tougher. Here's their opening passages to illustrate:

こゝろ
私はその人を常に先生と呼んでいた。だからここでもただ先生と書くだけで本名は打ち明けない。これは世間を憚かる遠慮というよりも、その方が私に取って自然だからである。私はその人の記憶を呼び起こすごとに、すぐ「先生」といいたくなる。筆を執っても心持は同じ事である。よそよそしい頭文字などはとても使う気にならない。

吾輩は猫である
吾輩は猫である。名前はまだ無い。
どこで生まれたかとんと見当がつかぬ。何でも薄汚いじめじめした所でニャーニャー泣いていた事だけは記憶している。我輩はここで始めて人間というものを見た。しかもあとで聞くとそれは書生という人間中で一番どう悪な種族であったそうだ。この書生というのは時々我々をつかまえて煮て食うという話である。然しその当時は何というかんがえもなかったから別段恐ろしいとも思わなかった。

Of course, part of that is because "the cat's" style is much more stuffy and dense than "Soseki's" style, but still, sometimes he's easy, sometimes he's hard.
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RE: What novels to start with

Postby Shirasagi » Wed 01.30.2008 7:00 am

inuinu wrote:
Soseki.

心について、こんな英文の解説がありました。
http://ci.nii.ac.jp/naid/110004836178/
新しい視点から読み解くのも面白いと思いますよ。


私も新しい視点が面白いと思いますが、言わせてもらえれば、
こういう「〇〇=A、△△=B、××=Y」という評論はちょっと無理がある感じがします。
「心」は確かに「明治の精神」がこもっているとは思いますけど...

One reason I like Amy Yamada is that when she first broke out on the literary scene, people made a big deal about the fact that she wrote about things like SM clubs, or Japanese heroines dating black men. And interviewers would ask, "What does it mean? What are you trying to say by having your characters date black men?" And she said, "It doesn't really mean anything. I wrote about an SM club because I used to work in one. I wrote about women with black boyfriends because my boyfriend at the time was black."

Tolkien once said that the best stories (or at least the ones he liked) dealt with applicability, not with allegory, because, "the former resides in the freedom of the reader, while the latter in the purposed domination of the author." I whole-heartedly agree.
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RE: What novels to start with

Postby Yudan Taiteki » Wed 01.30.2008 9:19 am

ぼっちゃん, as I said, is relatively easy. Although I read it while I was in Japan on the JET program, and some of the things in there hit pretty close to home.
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