Last time out in Kakuzo Okakura’s magnificent the Book of Tea, I had a look at how the beverage has influenced the world over thousands of years. This time, I’m reviewing Jun’ichirō Tanizaki’s (1886 – 1965) In Praise of Shadows, which is another Japanese essay steeped in Eastern mysticism and other such delights.
I started drinking tea in 2008 having put off the habit for some time (23 solid years, to be exact). Being a young one, I was more interested in partying and living a hedonistic lifestyle than sipping at a cup of hot water with leaves in it. Of what possible interest could that be?
Right, my last three reviews have encompassed a lot of serious philosophising and whatnot. Charles Bukowski’s Post Office (1971) isn’t quite in the same league there, but what it does represent is a fine instalment in addiction, and down and out, literature, as well as something genuinely funny to read.
The former sprung forth through the likes of Thomas De Quincey in the 19th century, who candidly discussed his addiction to opium. The latter, down and out literature, I first came across when I read several of George Orwell’s works, which dealt with poverty and social and economic injustice – a sad situation which hasn’t advanced a great deal since Orwell’s day.
Sartre’s Roads to Freedom trilogy ends here, in an epic novel which advances the story of Mathieu Delarue on his quest for personal freedom. The Age of Reason and the Reprieve, over 600 pages, develop his character considerably, from a bumbling university professor to a man on the brink of war, before, finally, being thrown into battle for Iron in the Soul (also known as Troubled Sleep – for this review, I’ll stick with its original translation).
Sartre’s Roads to Freedom trilogy took a dynamic shift in tone following on from the Age of Reason. Inspired by the likes of Virginia Woolf, the French philosopher decided to try his hand at simultaneous prose. The result is the Reprieve, which is a chilling psychological examination of a nation prior to outright warfare.
With its existential themes and mission to examine and expose the nature of personal autonomy, Sartre’s epic Roads to Freedom trilogy was completed in a mighty flurry of activity, with the Age of Reason published in September 1945 shortly after the Nazi occupation of France and World War II ended.
It was joined immediately by the Reprieve, the writing style of which uses simultaneity as events unfold at the same time, with Sartre considering numerous characters at once as they jostle for position on page.
After the hedonism, madness, and squalor of the first two Moonshake Book reviews, this time out I’m having a detailed look at a delightful classic.
I first read My Family and Other Animals in the summer of 2005. University had ended for the second year and there were two months of peace and quiet before the onslaught of the third year began – I used this time to opportunistically cram in a few extra novels. Not as part of my English course (which, over three years, offered little of interest for me – Beowulf, anyone?), but more as a means to discover new writers.
Okay, my third literature post on here will be this weekend, but in the meantime I figured it’d be a glorious opportunity to put a bit of other-worldly genius music on the blog. This being the internet, the music had to be accompanied by some serious creative brilliance, so there really was only one place to turn.
Stephen Malinowski offers one of the finest YouTube channels out there – his videos (made using the Music Animation Machine) really are a modern marvel. He’s been making these educational animations since the early 1990s and received press interest in America back then, but with the advent of the internet and the arrival of YouTube, the popularity of his animations skyrocketed.
Welcome to the wild, unhinged, mental, and quite brilliant world of Venedikt Yerofeyev’s Moscow Stations.
The Russian writer (whose surname is also written as Erofeyev, Yerofeev, and Erofeev – there seems to be a tremendous amount of confusion about this) penned it in 1969, but it was first published 20 years later as a warning to the population about heavy drinking.
For the first Moonshake Books post, I’m covering Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell. This was a vital text for me as I first read it when I was 17 and, emerging from childhood and teenage years reading Brian Jacques’ wonderful Redwall series, it introduced me to an exciting and grown-up literary world.