March meeting report

Our March meeting was held on the 2nd, and we read and discussed the beginning of Alice Munro’s short story “To Reach Japan”.  We read up to the part where Greta thinks it is safer to be a woman than a man when it comes to writing poetry, a matter which we discussed at length.

Our next meeting will be April 20th. We will continue reading “To Reach Japan”. See you then.

February meeting report

The February meeting, the first of 2016, was held on Feb. 3rd. We read and discussed Robert Browning’s poem “A Toccata of Galuppi’s”.

After this, we decided we had had enough poetry for a while, and one member suggested we read some short stories by Alice Munro, a Canadian writer who is famous for her short stories and who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2013, the most recent of a long list of awards and prizes.

As none of us have read any stories by this writer, I have selected the story “To Reach Japan”, which is the first story in the collection “Dear Life. You can buy it on Amazon Japan (the Kindle version is more expensive than the paperback, for some reason, but you can also buy a 2nd-hand edition for 700 yen).

Our next meeting will be March 2nd, and we will read and discuss “To Reach Japan”. One question we will no doubt be discussing is why that is the title when the story takes place in Canada and none of the characters go to Japan, plan to go to Japan or have ever been to Japan.

To change the subject, I’m getting rid of about 300 books, mostly in English but some in Japanese. They are listed on my blog and on Amazon Japan.  You are of course welcome to buy them on Amazon, but my main purpose is to find a new home for these books, so if you are interested in any of them, please let me know and I will glad to let you have them for free.

All my books are listed here (this list is constantly updated):

The books in Japanese are listed  separately here:

All profits from these sales go to charity. Both lists are updated regularly.

Enjoy this life and see you in March.

New Year’s welcome 明けましておめでとうございます

What do you see in this photo? What do you feel when you see it? What do you imagine when you see it?

photo credit:

THe Japanese for “Happy New Year” is a phrase that means congratulations on the rebirthing of the year. The year was thought to have died on Dec. 31st, and then be reborn the next day. A fortunate event, indeed, worthy of celebration, and of congratulating one’s fellow beings, those who are still around to witness it.

What does January 1st mean for you?

December reading report

In December’s reading report, we read and discussed “The Windhover”, a poem by British poet Gerard Manley Hopkins. This is a very difficult poem, and was bravely tackled by all participants. There was a lot of dictionary work today!

Next meeting: Feb. 3rd, 2016 (no meeting in January).

Next materials: “A Toccata of Galuppi’s” by Robert Browning, 1855 (click the link to read it online).

Thank you to all who took part in today’s meeting, and to all of you who have participated this year. Very best wishes to all of you for the New Year, and I look forward to seeing you in 2016.

Peace and health to you all.


November meeting report

Dear readers,

Our November meeting took place Nov. 4th. We read and discussed Dylan Thomas’ poem “Fern Hill”. (See also here)

Our December meeting will be December 9th at the usual time. We will read and discuss “The Windhover“, and any other poems from the list that we have time for.  I hope you can make it.


Until then, best wishes. And here are some blogs by some of our readers:

April meeting report

Our May meeting will be May 13th.

Today, we read some articles about Hemingway’s writing style, which has been described as “hard-boiled”, and based on the iceberg principle (Hemingway_handout_2015-04-08). We decuded that perhaps “hard-boiled” was not an accurate description of Hemingway’s style or his intention. What he actually wrote was “boiling it down always, rather than spreading it out thin”.

We discussed some famous hard-boiled writers, especially the detective writers such as Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Chandler’s most famous stories, many of which featured his hard-boiled private detective Philp Marlowe, were made into movies:

  • The Big Sleep
  • Farewell My Lovely
  • The Long Goodbye

Hammett’s most famous story, also made into a movie, was “The Maltese Falcon”, a mystery story featuring the “hard-boiled” private detective Sam Spade.

Humphrey Bogart played both Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe.

Then we read 3 more pages of the story, up to “And just then it occurred to him that he was going to die.” We argued about what else the man had received in addition to security and comfort, and why he did not seem to know what else he had received, even though he tells the reader. We also discussed what the “return of acquiescence” and “this life of pleasant surrender” referred to. Does he mean surrender to death? Or to the comfort and security of his unproductive, non-writing life with his rich wife whom he does not love?

Humphrey Bogart as Philip Marlowe, private-eye.


March Meeting report

Our April meeting will be on Wednesday April 8th at the usual time.

In our March meeting, first we read two chapters from “The Art of Fiction” by David Lodge:

  • chapter 25 “Staying on the Surface”, and
  • chapter 26 “Showing and Telling”

and we discussed how Hemingway uses these two techniques, to what extent, and why. The beginning of the story “The Snows of Kilimanjaro” shows rather than tells, i.e. it uses mostly dialogue and very little narrative. In addition, Hemingway stays on the surface: he adds no adjecctives to “he said” “she said”, so we have no clues as to the feelings or thoughts of the characters except as revealed by their words.

Towards the end of the first section, Hemingway introduces some narrative summary which gives us some insight into the main characters thoughts. This is followed by a long narrative summary section which seems to be flashbacks or memories of past experiences in various European places.

Then we read a bit more of the story: from the beginning of the third section (“It was evening now”) to the end of the paragraph that ends “than when he had really loved.” (in my copy, it’s line 2 of page 61).

Next time, we’ll talk and read about Hemingway’s “hard boiled” theory. Image


See you April 8th.

A blog for my informal reading group