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January 2024: Convenience Store Woman By Sayaka Murata, translated by Ginny Tapley Takemori

Another re-read yippee! I know that I am very much not alone in relating to some of Furukura's attitudes towards life, so I'll just get some ramblings on that out of the way first. The first time I read the book, I couldn't help but feel relieved that someone had put into words the thoughts and feelings I've felt that I was supposed to feel guilty about for much of my life, even if Furukura is not exactly written as a role model of a character. Hell, the quoted reviews on the back paint her life as a comedy and the other characters in her life see her as a failure in need of curing. Nevertheless, it was somewhat comforting to see echoes of my life in the book. I am particularly thinking about feeling worried when you are not feeling the same thing as everyone else and having to just say BS to show that you too are feeling something. "Hearing the two of them speak with such feeling, I felt a twinge of anxiety. There wasn't a trace of anger in my body. "I stole a glance at Sugawara and tried to mimic the way she moved her facial muscles as she spoke, the same way I did in training, and parroted, "Really, he left us in the lurch again? I can't believe he'd do that knowing how short-staffed we are." (pg ?? 27 and 28 in my online copy). I am also quite shameless in just saying the most vague, non-answer responses to people who ask questions I don't feel like answering even if they technically have authority over me if it means that they can draw their own ideas or make up a narrative without bothering me about it. I think the most resonant idea was that of of the convenience store mask. God I love predictability, stability, and knowing exactly what the expectations are. I definitely take pleasure in The Act in a way that I think Furukura doesn't and just experiences her mask as the path of least resistance that turned into her life. Perhaps it is cruel, but I enjoy the feeling of consciously doing all the things expected (to an extent lol. I'm talking about saying the right things, having the right facial expressions. not getting married and having an "appropriate" job). All that, however, made Furukura's realisation that her convenience store worker mask was beginning to be insufficient all the more distressing. That, "Oh, I thought absently, I've become a foreign object," (pg 69??) hit a deep seated fear of mine that I spend a not insignificant amount of time trying not to think about. I don't imagine that I will experience that moment any time especially soon, but I do worry for future me and If I will be able to keep my mask/game up forever. Especially since when I think about my future in the workforce, my ideal job doesnt look a whole lot different from Furukura's situation.

moving on from me. damn Shiraha is annoying. It irked me a bit that he and Furukura are sort of placed on the same rung of societal failures, especially with Furukura not seeing much of a difference between them. But on the other hand, when they are both old (or whenever idk i'm just saying stuff) and needing assistance, it's not like any branch of bureaucratic aid will see them much differently. I think that this also plays into the ending of the book, which is written with similar tone to a typical happy ending, but isn't exactly happy... the cyles, etc. For Furukura, starting back in a convenience store is a good thing, but it is not a sustainable job. She know's that it is not possible to have that job as an old woman, and that there is little to no job/income security if she gets hurt or is otherwise no longer able to work. And yet she can't leave the convenience store. I think that it was meant to a a sort of meloncholic ending. She gets to avoid the embarrassment and difficulty of forming a new mask (if she even can) for a more stable future, instead choosing to live on borrowed time in the safety of what she knows. I sound judgemental, but I can't imagine myself acting differently from her in this situation if it came down to it tbh. Given the choice between something new and scary that will help me in the long-term, or something familiar with only short-term benefits, you'll catch me in the convenience store very time.

December 2023: Crime and Punishment translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky

it's january 6th, but better late than never.

I found Crime and Punishment to be an very immersive read. During Raskolnikov's fevered chapters, my memories and of the murder were swayed by his ramblings and disconnected thoughts. I was especially surprised to find that I had forgotten that he had also killed Lizaveta Ivanovna and not just the landlord until Sonya brought up that she had also been murdered, as he did not dwell on that death as he did Alyona Ivanovna's. I hadn't realised that my own recollection of the events that I had previously read were so easily changed by Raskolnikov's account of the murders.

Not to bring politics into this (but politics are in everything, so not fully sorry), but this had been on the mind: I know that Crime and Punishment was written in the 19th century, but I still felt a bit of whiplash when the feeling of overwhelming compassion the characters show for each other was interrupted by antisemitism and anti-polish sentiments. I was excited to find that this juxtaposition had recently been written about by a scholar that I usually like (Gary Saul Morson), but was disappointed to find that he in turn related this to people today who claim to be guided by compassion but are really just "hamas sympathizers." the cycle continues, i suppose. how do you take the blinders off people

Nevertheless, it is the compassion in Crime and Punishment that draws me into it. That, and Raskolnikov's struggle to avoid it. How he tries to distance himself from Razumikhin, his sister, and his mother by being cruel to them, in not wanting Sonya to come to Siberia with him, and in refusing to believe that he had truly committed a sin and that his only crime was confessing until he finally gave in to God and sought forgiveness.

My copy of the book ended up being filled with too many sticky tabs pointing out favourite quotes and interesting moments to actually make anything coherent out of them oops. However, I would still say that my favourite scenes were in chapter 4, part 5 one of which was where Porfiry Petrovich and Zamyotov rib Raskolnikov about his article on "great men." This section was fun in how frustrating and dangerous it was for Raskolnikov, as well as in how it reminded me of tearing apart ridiculous arguments with friends that we had heard or read for class. My other favourite part was at the end of that same part/section where Razumikhin realizes that it was Raskolnikov who committed the murders, which went straight for the gut. Razumikhin had been so accommodating and defensive of Raskolnikov while not knowing what the root of his illness was, and even after finding out, he still dedicated himself to Raskolnikov's family and remained loyal to him while he was in Siberia.

I've been trying to figure out how I feel about the epilogue. I'm not sure what to make of the character witnesses (Razumikhin + Raskolnikov's former landlady) bringing up all the selfless things Raskolnikov had done in the past when they had never been hinted at before (unless i just don't remember... it's a long book). I suppose that could just be because Raskolnikov doesn't see himself as a bad person and thus doesn't have to argue with himself how he wasn't irredeemable. Perhaps that just speaks to how I had come to see him as a distant and at times cruel person over the course of the book when I was just being shown a sliver of an exceptional time in his life.

When I read this book for class nearly 4 years ago, one of the discussions we had was whether Raskolnikov's come-to-jesus moment was real or not. Now having read a bit more Dostoevsky, I think that there is no way that it was not written to be genuine, which, as unsatisfactory as some people (many classmates included) find it, I have to say I much prefer.