Hello there allies, archenemies, and everyone in between! As avid readers, we all are fully aware of the benefits of literature to our character. But in all my readings of articles about readers (because I love affirming myself! HAHAHA) I have never come across one that balances the glowing “reviews” on being a reader. This post is brought to you by my realizations on the book twitter community!Continue reading “Readers Are Not Saints | Why The Act of Reading Does Not Absolve Anyone of Atrocity”
Hello there allies, archenemies, and everyone in between! Sometimes we all need palate cleansers whenever our reading mojo is sputtering out. Graphic novels, novellas, novelettes, and short stories have always been my dear friend during these dark times. On top of that, short stories are a a great introduction of authors’ writing style so readers can gauge early on if they would venture on the full length novels from authors.Continue reading “Fantastic Short Stories & Where To Find Them | A List of Free Stories To Save Your Reading Challenge”
Title: Convenience Store Woman
Author: Sayaka Murata
Translator: Ginny Tapley Takemori
Publication Date: July 5, 2018
She found sanctuary in a supermarket. Now she’s about to lose it.
Keiko isn’t normal. At school and university, people find her odd, and her family worries she will never fit in. To make them happy, Keiko takes a job at a newly opened convenience store where she finds peace and purpose in simple daily tasks.
But in Keiko’s circle it just won’t do for an unmarried woman to spend her time stacking shelves and ordering green tea. As the pressure to find a new job – or worse, a husband – increases, Keiko is forced to take desperate actions.
Hello there allies, archenemies, and everyone in between! I’ve been reading a lot of Japanese contemporary recently and I was genuinely surprised by their quaint beauty. Convenience Store Woman skillfully tickles the laughter inside of you while also making you contemplative of its undertones.
EFFORTLESS AND HUMOROUS WRITING VOICE
Sayaka Murata effortlessly pulls you in with her humorous and unflinching storytelling. I obviously don’t know though if the translation accurately captured the spirit of Murata’s writing voice but it was truly captivating to read.
(Seriously though, we all have to thank these translators for giving us access to these masterpieces!)
Keiko is a socially inept woman who doesn’t understand and believe the rules of normalcy. There were a lot of laugh-out-loud moments that hinged on the comical disconnect between her thought process and actions. Keiko may be an oddball but her personality aptly fits the contrast needed to propel the social commentary present in the book.
EXPERTLY DIVULGES A COMMENTARY ON SOCIAL CONFORMITY IN THE ALLURING GUISE OF A CONVENIENCE STORE.
Sometimes Convenience Store Woman has this atmosphere that makes it borderline dystopic even if the actual timeline is rooted in the present. In a sense, this book reiterates what our world now really is like and even go so far as to relate it in the little pockets of society we have, in this case, however, it is the convenience store.
The convenience store culture in Japan is highlighted here and creates this sense of normalcy and solidarity between the customers, the clerks, and even the store. There is an unspoken rule of order and everyone has to play their role seamlessly or else you will be evicted from the premises. It’s a truthful metaphor for our society without having the need to glamorize it because it’s so painstakingly obvious. Additionally, I really love the little details captured in the convenience store’s atmosphere, here’s an excerpt of it:
“A convenience store is a world of sound. From the tinkle of the door chime to the voices of TV celebrities advertising new products over the in-store cable network, to the calls of the store workers, the beeps of the bar code scanner, the rustle of customers picking up items and placing them in baskets, and the clacking of heels walking around the store. It all blends into the convenience store sound that ceaselessly caresses my eardrums.
I hear the faint rattle of a new plastic bottle rolling into place as a customer takes one out of the refrigerator, and look up instantly. A cold drink is often the last item customers take before coming to the checkout till, and my body responds automatically to the sound. I see a woman holding a bottle of mineral water while perusing the desserts and look back down. As I arrange the display of newly delivered rice balls, my body picks up information from the multitude of sounds around the store.“
While our MC, Keiko is the odd one out in the societal bubble of the convenience store, she has now deliberately put on masks of conventionality taking cues from her coworkers and her schoolmates. She has now camouflaged her way to survival and yet her status as a worker in this store for 18 years is what makes her even more conspicuous.
When an unexpected arrival of a new employee tips the scales of the convenience store, Keiko acts in the scripted norms of the management and I find it quite ironic how she plays her role in the store so neatly while “failing” in the normalcy present outside of it. Keiko then manages to take on more masks as the people she meets and the expectations imposed on her age increases until she is overwhelmed.
DELVES ON THE PORTRAIT OF FEMALE CONVENTIONS AND EXPECTATIONS
Another discussion here is how age and gender roles hold significance in our lives. Women here, for example, are expected to marry, expected to have jobs in the corporate world and not just in the simple confines of a convenience store, expected to bear children, etc. etc. etc.
Keiko lacks agency and her lack of emotional needs makes her the perfect vessel to illustrate how this kind of conformity for women is also restrictive. She has this fascination with imitation and that she changes the way women around her change as well. From her clothes, her manner of speaking, and her cultivated interests are all just a veneer for her to “survive”.
This attitude of hers accurately represents how our sense of individuality is also flawed in so many ways yet we still have this sense of control on what we absorb and what we project; this leads me to my last point.
HIGHLIGHTS THE SAFETY NET OF PURPOSE
In the last parts of the book, Keiko’s masks became more muddled but were only “fixed” in a way when she realized her purpose. Keiko may lack a lot of things that constitute a socially acceptable person, but she also found something that makes her life fit the puzzle–purpose. Even if that purpose may not be what society expects her, it’s what makes her feel comfortable in her own skin. And this is probably the main takeaway I gleaned from reading this little masterpiece.
Japanese contemporary is slowly gaining a lot of my love and I’m so excited to read more from this!
- Have you read Convenience Store Woman as well? What did you think of it?
- Can you recommend some Japanese contemporary books?
Title: Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982
Author: Cho Nam-Joo
Translator: Jamie Chang
Publication Date: April 14, 2020
Kim Ji-young is the most common name for Korean women born in the 1980s.
Kim Ji-young is representative of her generation: Continue reading “Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 by Cho Nam-Joo Book Review | A Feminist Reportage”
Title: A Little Life
Author: Hanya Yanagahira
Publication Date: March 10, 2015
Hello there allies, archenemies, and everyone in between! This post has been a long time coming and I really was just delaying it out of fear. I hope you all won’t shame me for this but I’m also well aware that my experience is valid. This isn’t like my usual discussions where I drop a condensed list of my thoughts.
This is more of a confession and I do hope that you would all hear me out. Continue reading “Do I Make Enough Effort? | My Struggles In Promoting Diverse Books”
Hello there allies, archenemies, and everyone in between! As most of you might not know, I’m actually a self-taught tarot reader. I started last year and its all thanks to my friends who are enthusiasts and of course all the Wiccan YouTubers I’ve subscribed to for introducing me to this!
This will be an ongoing series where I merge my (meager) tarot reading skills and the book community, so make sure to watch out for it! I’ve been meaning to do this for quite some time but only formed the idea recently after reading Nandini’s post on Fantasy Book Recommendations Based on Your Zodiac Sign make sure to check it out as well, it’s really enjoyable to read! Continue reading “Tarot & Literature | Pick A Card To Find Out What Kind Of Reader You Are”