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Tokyo Love Story


Convenience Store Woman is a Japanese literary sensation about an unconventional woman who finds contentment in an unexpected place

Tokyo Love Story


Convenience Store Woman is a Japanese literary sensation about an unconventional woman who finds contentment in an unexpected place

Culture > Books


 

Tokyo Love Story

September 12, 2018 / by China Daily Lifestyle Premium

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata just might be the most surprising and unexpected love story you’ll ever read. Intriguingly, there’s no relationship in the novel between two characters in any conventional sense of a loving narrative; there are no marriages or divorces; there’s no mother/father or son/daughter tales of growth and parental/child love; and nobody dies. 

Keiko Furukura has never really fit in. At school and university, people find her odd due to her penchant for bizarre actions – at the former, she bashes a boy over the head with a shovel to stop him from fighting. At one point, she even asks her mother if she can cook a dead budgie she has found in the park. Her family, understandably, worries she’ll never be normal.

To appease them, 18-year-old Keiko takes a job at a convenience store, Hiiromachi Station Smile Mart. Here, she finds peace and purpose in the daily tasks of shelf restocking, product promotions and routine interactions with customers and staff. She comes to understand that she’s happiest in the mundane role at which she excels, with its morning chorus of Irasshaimase!, meaning “Welcome!” 

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Murata writes: “When I can’t sleep, I think about the transparent glass box that is still stirring with life, even in the darkness of the night. That pristine aquarium is still operating like clockwork… When morning comes, once again I’m a convenience store worker, a cog in society. This is the only way I can be a normal person.” Keiko’s response is sensitive to the store’s aura, as she becomes a “convenience store animal” who can “hear the store’s voice telling me what it wanted, how it wanted to be.”

Therein lies the problem. Keiko is now 35 and, in the constraints of her social circle, it just won’t do for an unmarried, childless woman to spend her life stacking shelves and reordering green tea, a job ordinarily performed by part-time students. Friends and family pressure her to seek therapy, find a new job or, best of all, a husband. 

At which point in lollops the character Shiraha, an unusually lanky, lazy and opinionated sort who thinks humanity hasn’t evolved from the Stone Age and whose truculence soon gets him sacked, only for Keiko to take pity on him. 

In the standard narrative, our two protagonists would overcome their idiosyncracies or be drawn to them, and fall in love. But that has nothing to do with this story. With echoes of Kaori Ekuni’s Twinkle Twinkle, Keiko tells the misfit Shiraha he can move in with her, where she will provide and keep him “hidden from society”. In return, her family and friends will consider her normal for having a man in the house. “If a man and a woman are alone in an apartment together,” she tells him, “people’s imaginations run wild and they’re satisfied, regardless of the reality.” Shiraha concurs, telling Keiko that on a functional level, “Everyone will assume you’re a sexually active, respectable human being. That’s the image of you that pleases them most. Isn’t it wonderful?” 

A bestseller in Japan and the winner of the prestigious Akutagawa Prize, Convenience Store Woman, Murata’s eighth novel in Japanese, marks her English-language debut and she’s been hailed as the most exciting voice of her generation. Remarkably, the author is also a convenience store worker and wrote her novella from 2am until 8am each night, after which she would go to work at the convenience store, which she has credited as being an antidote to her former shyness. 

Blindingly good and strangely comforting from start to finish, the novella is clever, terse, quirky, poignant, poetic and funny, Keiko’s world of total contentment – with nary a tweet, Instagram or social media platform in sight – and its luminous linearity stays with you long after reading it. And zen some. 

Keiko couldn’t be any more unconventional when it comes to the expectations of the contemporary Japanese female. Convenience Store Woman is a mini-masterpiece of intimacy, a revelation at hand. Read and relish the love story of the century – a compelling marriage of convenience.

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Top Table


A scion of the Missoni clan spills the beans on some well-guarded family recipes

Top Table


A scion of the Missoni clan spills the beans on some well-guarded family recipes

Culture > Books


 

Top Table

July 18, 2018 / by China Daily Lifestyle Premium

The famed Italian fashion family of Missoni lives life in colour. Just as their style is recognised and admired throughout the world – think the brand’s iconic zigzags – that same streak of easy glamour inspires the family’s entertaining techniques. Francesco Maccapani Missoni, the son of creative director Angela Missoni, has collected numerous family recipes and assembled them in The Missoni Family Cookbook, which arrives just in time for summer. Whether you’re hankering for gnocchi verdi, zucchine alla parmigiana or pesce bollito con maionese, these delicious, well-guarded recipes allow epicureans to indulge in authentic Italian fare and join the Missonis a tavola.

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The Missoni Family Cookbook

Available at Assouline stores or
from
assouline.com

Images: © 2018 Assouline

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A New Light


Discover the unseen early work of acclaimed French photographer Guy Bourdin

A New Light


Discover the unseen early work of acclaimed French photographer Guy Bourdin

Culture > Books


 

A New Light

July 4, 2018 / by Zhang Yen

  © The Guy Bourdin Estate, 2017

© The Guy Bourdin Estate, 2017

Though he’s most celebrated for his colour images shot for French Vogue and brands including Charles Jourdan, Issey Miyake, Chanel, Versace, Emanuel Ungaro and more, self-taught French photographer Guy Bourdin (1928–1991) launched his career in black-and-white in the early 1950s. Until quite recently, however, much of that period had gone unknown and unseen. 

Untouched, published by Steidl and digital artist Pascal Dangin, explores this body of work and gives insight into the early development of Bourdin’s photographic eye. Carefully constructed images that were initially conceived as an exhibition series reveal his artistic motivation, years before he began working on assignments for top titles including Vogue and Photo Femina, and convey striking graphic layouts and narrative cinematic portraiture. 

The later and more familiar periods of Bourdin’s work have been shown in numerous museums and galleries, notably the Tate Modern and the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, the National Museum of China in Beijing and the Getty in Los Angeles. But these images emerged from an unexpected treasure chest. A yellow Kodak box was discovered, within which were a series of brown paper envelopes that each contained a negative with a corresponding contact print taped to the outside, often with cropping guides. 

  © The Guy Bourdin Estate, 2017

© The Guy Bourdin Estate, 2017

Untouched for 50 years, the images are intimate, personal and authentic reflections of Bourdin’s broader visual interests prior to his commercial career as a fashion photographer. There are poetic portraits of the city of Paris, in which Bourdin plays with the viewer’s gaze like the surrealists and the artists of the subjective photography school who so inspired him. His experimentation appears to be endless, as though his future artistic signature was as yet unformed or still nascent. 

Explains Philippe Garner, the long-time photography auctioneer and author of the book’s essay Unique Perspectives: “Though Guy Bourdin is widely acknowledged as an artist of exceptional inspiration, he has remained in many ways an enigma. His individual images can be compelling, disquieting, haunting; cumulatively, they constitute a strange, off-kilter, yet totally credible parallel universe – our recognisable world dramatically reconfigured through the powerful imagination of this artist. Untouched unveils a compelling narrative regarding his formative years. Painstakingly salvaged and dusted down, sorted and examined as the precious archaeological fragments that they are, these photographs illuminate the crucial first years of Bourdin’s image-making.” 

Dangin, the creative director of Untouched, assesses Bourdin thus: “My many years of working with some of the greatest photographers gave me the points of reference and a certain critical distance to appreciate Bourdin’s unique and avant-garde approach – his constant eye for detail, the visual metaphors that he managed to create, and the clues that he incorporated across his work to hold our attention and to propose an alternative way of engaging with a fashion image.”

  © The Guy Bourdin Estate, 2017

© The Guy Bourdin Estate, 2017

 

Guy Bourdin: Untouched
Published by Steidl
(steidl.de)

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Saving the World


Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No – it’s the meteoric rise of comic book powerhouse DC Comics

Saving the World


Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No – it’s the meteoric rise of comic book powerhouse DC Comics

Culture > Books


 

Saving the World

May 26, 2017

  75 Years of DC Comics. The Art of Modern Mythmaking  Paul Levitz Hardcover, 25 x 34.2 cm (9.8 x 13.5 in.), 720 pages Published by Taschen (  taschen.com  )

75 Years of DC Comics. The Art of Modern Mythmaking
Paul Levitz
Hardcover, 25 x 34.2 cm (9.8 x 13.5 in.), 720 pages
Published by Taschen
(taschen.com)

For countless comic-book fans around the world, DC Comics remains one of the format’s holy names alongside Marvel. Established in 1934 as National Allied Publications, in February 1935 founder Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson debuted New Fun: The Big Comic Magazine – a tabloid-sized comic book of all-new material in an era when the majority of comics were castoffs from the newspaper strips. In the latter half of the 1930s, the name (and the size) evolved, creating the famed titles Adventure Comics, Detective Comics and Action Comics. DC was headquartered in Manhattan for more than 80 years, though in 2015 it upped stakes and relocated to Burbank, California.

In 1935, the American publisher has long been associated with its two most popular – and oldest – characters: Superman and Batman. However, DC has created numerous other famed superheroes and superheroines with whom you may be familiar, including Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash, Aquaman and Cyborg. These names have either already been brought to the big screen, or are in the process of making their movie debuts in the next year or two. 

As its long-time fans have grown up and new fans have joined the fray, DC’s top two world-savers have been supported by growing audiences around the world for decades. According to Box Office Mojo, Superman’s first major film in 1978 brought in more than US$300 million at the global box office, while the 2016 film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ranked the seventh highest-grossing film last year, marking a new record for the Superman franchise with a take of more than US$873 million worldwide. As for Batman, 2008’s The Dark Knight still leads the pack at more than US$1 billion globally.

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Celebrating DC’s 75th anniversary in 2010, art-book publisher Taschen released Paul Levitz’s stunning oversized volume 75 Years of DC Comics: The Art of Modern Mythmaking. Long out of print, what’s claimed to be the “single most comprehensive book on DC Comics” – and indeed, Levitz worked in a variety of roles at DC for 38 years – has received the re-edition treatment. 

This time around, the rich content of the massive original, which won the Eisner Comic Industry Award for Best Comics-Related Book of the Year, is presented in a more compact hardcover form. Generously measuring 25cm by 34.2cm, it features 720 pages with more than 2,000 original full-colour images. Multilingual translations in German, French or Spanish will also be available. This is one tome you’ll want on your shelf for life. 

Images: Painting by HJ Ward/courtesy Taschen (Superman); © 2017 DC Comics, all rights reserved (Batman, The Flash, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern); Taschen

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Set in Stone: 100 Contemporary Concrete Buildings


Concrete and the finest buildings created from it

Set in Stone: 100 Contemporary Concrete Buildings


Concrete and the finest buildings created from it

Culture > Books



Set in Stone

July 10, 2015

Concrete was first used in ancient Egypt, the Romans mastered its use, and with their fall its secrets were lost until the early-19th century when methods for making the “artificial stone” were rediscovered in Britain.

It has its detractors and proponents, yet when properly handled this “liquid stone” is one of the noblest of materials in contemporary architecture. Its many forms make it malleable, durable, and suitable for some of engineering’s most prodigious feats.

This two-volume edition highlights some of the finest concrete architecture of recent years. Including examples by starchitects such as Zaha Hadid, Herzog & de Meuron and Steven Holl, alongside Russian newcomers Speech, respected up-and-coming international architects such as Rudy Ricciotti from France, and artists such as James Turrell, who turned the famous concrete spiral of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim in New York into the setting for one of his most remarkable pieces.

100 Contemporary Concrete Buildings
Philip Jodidio
Hardcover, 2 vols. in slipcase, 24.0 x 30.5 cm, 730 pages
Published by Taschen
(taschen.com)