In the Woods of Memory tells of the rape of a teenage girl during the American occupation after the Battle of Okinawa and the subsequent attack on an American soldier by a young Japanese fisherman. Though the novel begins in 1945, most of it takes place sixty years later as Medoruma places us in the perspectives of nine Japanese and American characters, bridging the events across time. The novel’s real power unfolds as readers merge its events together on their own, pinnacling in the stream-of-consciousness Seiji chapter (originally written using Okinawan dialect) that evokes the most powerful modernist fiction.
In the Woods of Memory at Stone Bridge Press
Anne Sterling’s memoir/biography of her father, Twilight Zone host, creator, and writer Rod Sterling, does twofold duty: on the one hand, Anne shows her father the writer, social activist, and continual innovator, while on the other she shows his decidedly human, funny, fatherly side through anecdotes and the many jokes they shared. While I found myself most interested in Sterling’s early struggles to earn money for his writing and wrest creative control from the TV censors (and wish there was more to this section), Anne’s difficulties after her father’s untimely death also form a solid, more personal story arc.
Prior to this I’d only read Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and Hedda Gabler, and while these four plays are less significant, they built off of the other Ibsen I’d read while covering more thematic ground. Ibsen was a progressive decades ahead of his time, and today these plays seem more relevant than ever, covering environmental protection, the place of women in society, the dangers of populism, parents wielding control over children, and choosing money over love. I enjoyed the denser John Gabriel Borkman much less due to its heavy exposition, but maybe also because I haven’t gotten old yet.
An Enemy of the People
The Lady From the Sea
John Gabriel Borkman
I found Mrs. Dalloway more accessible than other Virginia Woolf novels I’ve read, possibly because it’s also shorter. The stream-of-consciousness novel shows a day in the life of a fiftysomething socialite reflecting on the mundanity of her married life, the passionate love of her youth, and her deeply hidden feelings for a female friend. My favorite scenes, though, were the surreal and hard-hitting takes on WWI shell shock in the hallucinatory ramblings of ex-soldier Septimus Warren Smith.
There’s a lot to like here, but it’s still high modernism and can get…dense.
Where I Got It
From a grad school friend who had two copies, Summer 2015.
Virginia Woolf on Wikipedia
Virginia Woolf Was More Than Just a Women’s Writer (essay)