If my experiences with The Brothers Karamazov Readalong is teaching me anything, it is that any gigantic, scary, daunting book can be handled and beaten down by breaking it into small chunks and chewing it slowly but steadily.
I have another big scary book that I decided to read this year: Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa. Rather than attempting it on my own (but I will if no one wants to join in this readalong … which I fully anticipate might happen), I thought I’d see if there was anyone else out there who would like to read Musashi with me.
This is a book that my dad loved and wanted me to read someday. After he died last year, I decided that to honor his memory and to attempt to maintain a connection with him, I would read some of the books that meant a lot to him. The Brothers Karamazov was one. Musashi is another.
My brother Chris swears that Musashi is a very readable book and that I will love it once I get over my fear of it. He says it reads like a really good adventure story. So what is Musashi about? Here is a description I found on Amazon:
The classic samurai novel about the real exploits of the most famous swordsman.
Miyamoto Musashi was the child of an era when Japan was emerging from decades of civil strife. Lured to the great Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 by the hope of becoming a samurai–without really knowing what it meant–he regains consciousness after the battle to find himself lying defeated, dazed and wounded among thousands of the dead and dying. On his way home, he commits a rash act, becomes a fugitive and brings life in his own village to a standstill–until he is captured by a weaponless Zen monk.
The lovely Otsu, seeing in Musashi her ideal of manliness, frees him from his tortuous punishment, but he is recaptured and imprisoned. During three years of solitary confinement, he delves into the classics of Japan and China. When he is set free again, he rejects the position of samurai and for the next several years pursues his goal relentlessly, looking neither to left nor to right.
Ever so slowly it dawns on him that following the Way of the Sword is not simply a matter of finding a target for his brute strength. Continually striving to perfect his technique, which leads him to a unique style of fighting with two swords simultaneously, he travels far and wide, challenging fighters of many disciplines, taking nature to be his ultimate and severest teacher and undergoing the rigorous training of those who follow the Way. He is supremely successful in his encounters, but in the Art of War he perceives the way of peaceful and prosperous governance and disciplines himself to be a real human being.
He becomes a reluctant hero to a host of people whose lives he has touched and been touched by. And, inevitably, he has to pit his skill against the naked blade of his greatest rival.
Musashi is a novel in the best tradition of Japanese story telling. It is a living story, subtle and imaginative, teeming with memorable characters, many of them historical. Interweaving themes of unrequited love, misguided revenge, filial piety and absolute dedication to the Way of the Samurai, it depicts vividly a world Westerners know only vaguely. Full of gusto and humor, it has an epic quality and universal appeal.
What Is The Schedule?
I’m not going to lie to you–Musashi is a long book (970 pages). However, it is broken up into seven different books (which range in length from 106 pages to 188 pages). In coming up with a reading schedule, I decided that I would give myself (and you) 9 days to read each book. By starting on September 20th, the book would be done the week of Thanksgiving. After finishing each book, we would write a post about it–providing a summary of what is going on and our thoughts. Here is the schedule I came up with:
- Sept. 20-28 — Book I: Earth (106 pages) (Write a post by Oct. 2)
- Sept. 29-Oct. 7 — Book II: Water (120 pages) (Write a post by Oct. 11)
- Oct. 8-17 — Book III: Fire (151 pages) (Write a post by Oct. 20)
- Oct. 18-26 — Book IV: Wind (188 pages) (Write a post by Oct. 30)
- Oct. 27 – Nov. 4 — Book V: Sky (169 pages) (Write a post by Nov. 8th)
- Nov. 5-13 — Book VI: Sun and Moon (112 pages) (Write a post by Nov. 18)
- Nov. 14-22 — Book VII: The Perfect Light (124 pages) (Write final post by Nov. 30th)
Need More Convincing?
OK, here are 10 reasons why you might want to join me:
- Out of 132 reviews on Amazon, 117 people gave Musashi 5 stars.
- You’re doing the Japanese Literature Challenge.
- You think samurai are cool.
- You want to read a biography that is a bit different.
- You need a Y author for your A to Z Challenge.
- You’re a readalong junkie who needs a new fix.
- You like taking chances on your reading.
- You really liked Shogun. (Actually, I have no idea at all if this is like Shogun but that is another big book about Japan.)
- You are interested in reading “The Gone With The Wind” of Japan (as described by Edwin 0. Reischauer)
- You don’t want me to have to read this book alone.
If you want to join me, sign up with Mr. Linky below.