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My Year of Meats ?1

April 22, 2007

Welcome to our discussion on the book My Year of Meats by Ruth Ozeki.

Each chapter of My Year of Meats opens with an excerpt from Sei Shonagon’s The Pillow Book. Consider the interplay between these quotes and the narrative’s trajectory. How does this interjection from the past enrich the novel? How does the Shonagon voice shape your relationship to the characters?

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. April 23, 2007 10:09 am

    I found the quotes interesting and felt that they set the tone or “mood” of the upcoming chapter. For me, having read a few other books set in various parts of Asia at different time periods (Snow Flower and the Secret Fan and Memoirs of a Geisha) I thought it was interesting that measuring a woman’s self-worth only through having children (a theme from the past) seemed to persist, and maybe the Shonagon voice from the past somehow ties that theme into the present.

    This is my first book club discussion (EVER) so I hope that was clear or can at least get us started on this. It’s a hard concept to put into words.

  2. April 23, 2007 4:39 pm

    I first read this book years ago when I was first married before we had kids. The story had such a different meaning for me this time around. The first time I read it I was so focused on the meat and the meat industry. This time I was so focused on her as a half-asian person, as a potential mom etc..

    On to the ques :0)
    Can you believe I haven’t read the pillow book yet? I read a lot of asian literature and have a real interest in earlier works. I have read excerpts but never the entire book. I think it was a great link from the past how this little has changed even though this is a modern story.

  3. Nicole permalink
    April 23, 2007 11:48 pm

    I paid a lot of attention to the names of the months. To me, that seemed to tie in well with what was coming next.

  4. April 24, 2007 10:53 am

    These are some great questions. I read the book so long ago, I don’t remember too many specifics. But, I do remember reading the quotes in each chapter and finding them interesting a thought-provoking.

    I find it interesting that those quotes meant so much to the woman stuck in Japan with the abusive husband. And, how they seemed to help her get a handle on her own thoughts.

  5. April 24, 2007 10:25 pm

    I found that the quotes were helpful in thinking about the themes of each section of the novel. Also, I liked having Sei Shonagon’s voice as part of the story, since she, like Jane, was a woman who was standing apart from her experience far enough to observe and record what she noticed. I feel that the quotes were a good connection between Jane and Akiko’s experiences; that Akiko’s admiration for Shonagon led her to also admire Jane’s truthfulness, and gave her courage to try to be the same.

  6. April 24, 2007 11:52 pm

    I liked how the quotes gave kind of a “timeless” sense to the book, so that each chapter wasn’t just about a character’s particular story, it had a more of a universal meaning.

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