Monday, July 14, 2008

News, Reviews and Intrepid Travellers

As Calgary breathes a collective sigh and returns to work with a post-Stampede hangover, I note that it has been a while since I’ve posted anything here. This is something I am changing right now. Even blogging is writing, right? It’s what I am going to blog about that should hopefully be of interest.

Asian Echoes has always been about bringing the Asian experience* in literature to the average Western reader. There are many Western and Non-Western novels about Asia and Asians or written from an Asian perspective and I want to introduce many of them to you – one book at a time.

So, what I intend on doing is introducing them to you through book reviews. But aside from the ubiquitous star ratings (which are still only my opinion), I also plan on taking a cue from Intrepid Travel and using a Culture Shock rating. This is not a rating about how good it presents the culture or how accurate it is. Instead, the Culture Shock rating will let you know just how much Asian culture is present between the pages. Does it gloss over the facts and history or does it present a detailed look at Asian life and use many foreign words and phrases? Does it have Japanese characters with Japanese names and no other mention about culture, or do the concepts in the novel require more than a passing familiarity of Japanese customs and mores?

Each short review, aside from a description and recommendation, will include some mention of the cultural aspects present in the novel.

All the novels and books to be reviewed were originally written in English or translated to English and all should be easily accessible at your local book store or at online book sellers.

Here is the Culture Shock Rating:

1 star: The author uses Asian characters and names and not much else. Very easy and very familiar.

2 stars: The author uses Asian characters, names and simple foreign words and phrases most Westerners would find familiar.

3 stars: The author uses Asian characters, names and settings. Some foreign words and phrases are sprinkled throughout the book, but their meanings are apparent or easy to understand from context.

4 stars: The author uses Asian characters and settings. The author liberally uses foreign words and phrases throughout the book, the meanings of which are either understandable in their context or may require a glossary. Basic understanding of culture and history would go a long way to appreciating some of the concepts addressed in the book.

5 stars: The author uses Asian characters, settings and language. Complex cultural and historical information is imparted to the reader (sometimes in the form of info dumps). A good understanding of mythology, culture and history may be necessary to appreciate the nuances in this book.

Watch right here for the first review later this week.

* “Asian” in this case means Chinese and Japanese as these are the cultures I was raised in and am most familiar with. I know there are other cultures such as India which also fit under this classification, but I know very little about them. Since they say “write what you know”, I defer to those who know better.


Amy said...

I forget if I asked this already, but have you read Tomoe Gozen by Jessica Salmonson? I quite liked it, and would be interested to hear your opinion.

Welcome back to blogging! :)

Xiaolung said...

Hi Amy:

I read Tomoe Gozen many, many years ago and have it in my collection. My recollection of it is fuzzy at best, but I remember liking it a lot.

I'm looking for the other Salmonson books as well - The Golden Naginata, Thousand Shrine Warrior, and The Swordswoman.