Posts Tagged ‘Haruki Murakami’

11th Decade Roundup!

It’s that time of my reading life again, where I review the last ten books I read, pretend I can remember them all, and then take stock of what happened. It’s also that time of my blogging life where I’m incredibly frustrated because WordPress has eaten three of my blog posts in the last two days. C’mon, guys, get it together.

This was a pretty good batch of books. It was a good mix of books I knew I’d enjoy, books that were just enough of a digression from my usual taste to be a challenge without being annoying, and books that I really liked but never would have read otherwise. It’s pretty much what you’d want in a book grouping.

I started out with What I Loved, which was fine while I was reading it, but very much on the “meh” portion of the scale. It wasn’t awful but I didn’t love it. I’m glad I read it, I suppose, but I doubt I’ll read it again. Another book in the category of, “glad I read it, now let’s move on” was The Girls of Slender Means. It was more enjoyable than I expected it to be, but I’d be surprised if I ever revisited it.

Then there were the books about two very different boys who were actually pretty similar, in some ways. Huck Finn is always a classic, and if you dialed up Huck’s delinquency and sense of adventure and combined it with a bit of crazy, you’d have Francie Brady of The Butcher Boy

Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye was a bit of an emotional read, but it was okay because it was followed by two zany books by Douglas Adams. It’s always fun to revisit Dirk Gently and his friends, and it’s even more fun to try and explain what you’re reading to people who don’t know Douglas Adams.

Finally, I was thoroughly sickened and shocked by Lolitabefore being captivated by some Murakami magic in Kafka on the ShoreI rounded out the bunch with the amazing Kurt Vonnegut’s Breakfast of Champions. I think Vonnegut is swiftly becoming one of my favorite authors.

My favorite book out the batch was definitely Breakfast of Champions. Vonnegut knows how to spin a phrase and play with language at least as well as Douglas Adams does, but there’s something about the way he weaves chaos through order and brings crazy insights into his work that I adore.

The reward for biggest shock goes to Lolita. I went in with bravado thinking that I was prepared and certainly wouldn’t be shocked like all those prudes who are sickened by books about sex. I was wrong.

And the book I liked the least was probably What I Loved. Like I said, it’s not that I didn’t like it, it’s just that it didn’t do anything for me. Not every book can.

Now I’m off to (hopefully) catch up on my post for the next book, House of Leaves, assuming WordPress stops eating my posts.

Book #109: Kafka On The Shore

I love Haruki Murakami. In fact, my first ever post on this blog was actually about his 1Q84 It’s not on the list, but probably only because my version of the list predates the book.

I like Murakami because his books are really metaphysical and they always take me to this weird headspace where I’m never quite sure what’s real or what’s going on in the book. Reading Murakami can really mess you up for a bit, if you let it.

I read Kafka on the Shore in college. It was my first Murakami, and I loved it. I liked it just as much this time around. Murakami does something where he takes you into a world that could be ours, and it seems like it is ours, but things are just different enough that you wonder if there are so many things we don’t know about in this world.

It’s actually really hard to write about Kafka on the Shore, because there’s a lot going on and so much to think about, but it’s hard to get anywhere without just describing the entire book in detail. Certain books can only really be discussed with other people who have read them. This is one of them.

Kafka on the Shore deals with two separate storylines that converge in the end. The first story is driven by runaway Kafka Tamura, the “world’s toughest 15-year-old.” Kafka runs away from his wealthy father, hoping to escape a horrific prophecy. He winds up at a small library in a small city in Japan, where he’s offered work by the mysterious owner and her assistant.

The second story is driven by an elderly man named Mr. Nakata, who, following a mysterious incident when he was in elementary school, has been left mentally challenged but with a special talent – talking to cats. After a disturbing event, Nakata meets up with a trucker named Hoshino, and they embark on a mysterious journey in search of the entrance stone, which must be closed before reality is affected.

The storylines converge in strange ways as the world becomes stranger and less and less like ours. It rains leeches and fish, ghosts exist and interact with the living, and spirits break free from their bodies. It’s really a book you have to read to appreciate.

It’s also a book that I can’t say more about without giving things away, and I really want people to read it, so I’m not going to.

Kafka on the Shore is beautiful. It’s well-written and metaphysical and metaphorical, with beautiful observations about music, reality, love, and so much more. At the same time, it’s also a page-turner in parts, and as Kafka, Nakata, and Hoshino are drawn closer to the center of things, it gets really hard to stop reading and return to reality.

Rating: *****
Up Next: Breakfast of Champions

Quotes I’ve Loved, 2014

“…I attempted briefly to consecrate myself in the public library, believing every crack in my life could be chunked with a book.”
– Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible

“…to this day there is something illusionistic and illusory about the relationship of time and space as we experience it in traveling, which is why whenever we come home from somewhere we never feel quite sure if we have really been abroad.”
– W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz

“Darkness does not lift but becomes heavier as I think how little we can hold in mind, how everything is constantly lapsing into oblivion with every extinguished life, how the world is, as it were, draining itself, in that the history of countless places and objects which themselves have no power of memory is never heard, never described or passed on.”
– W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz

“Although I had no regrets, I told myself sadly, that growing up was not the painless process one would have thought it to be.”
– Maya Angelou, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

“The twenties are as frenetic a decade as the teens. You have a voice inside your head repeating I want, I want, I want,  but you don’t know what you want or how to get it. You hardly know who you are. You go on instinct. And your instinct mostly pushes you toward adventures you won’t grasp until you look back on them. Life can only be understood backward, but it must be lived forward, some sage once said.”
– Erica Jongafterword, Fear of Flying

“What you imagine is what you remember, and what you remember is what you’re left with. So why not decide to imagine it a little differently?”
– Jennifer Dubois, A Partial History of Lost Causes

“‘Louis XVI was executed because they considered him to be a criminal, and a year later his judges were killed too for something. What is wrong? What is right? What must one love, what must one hate? What is life for, and what am I? What is life? What is death? What force controls it all?’ he asked himself. And there was no answer to one of these questions, except one illogical reply that was in no way an answer to any of them. That reply was: ‘One dies and it’s all over. One dies and finds it all out or ceases asking.’ But dying too was terrible.”
– Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

“History, Stephen said, is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.
– James Joyce, Ulysses

“By eight Greg and I were in Truckee. By eleven we were still standing on the hot side of the road trying to hitch a ride to Sierra City.
‘HEY!’ I yelled maniacally at a VW bus as it whizzed past. We’d been snubbed by at least six of them over the past couple of hours. Not being picked up by those who drove VW buses made me particularly indignant. ‘Fucking hippies,’ I said to Greg.
‘I thought you were a hippy,’ he said.
‘I am. Kind of. But only a little bit.'”
– Cheryl Strayed, Wild

“What if I forgave myself? I thought. What if I forgave myself even though I’d done something I shouldn’t have? What if I was a liar and a cheat and there was no excuse for what I’d done other than because it was what I wanted and needed to do? What if I was sorry, but if I could go back in time I wouldn’t do anything differently than I had done? What if I’d actually wanted to fuck every one of those men? What if heroin taught me something? What if yes was the right answer instead of no? What if what made me do all those things everyone thought I shouldn’t have done was what also had got me here? What if I was never redeemed? What if I already was?”
– Cheryl Strayed, Wild

“I began then to think of time as having a shape, something you could see, like a series of liquid transparencies, one laid on top of another. You don’t look back along time but down through it, like water. Sometimes this comes to the surface, sometimes that, sometimes nothing. Nothing goes away.”
– Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye

“Knowing too much about other people puts you in their power, they have a chain on you, you are forced to understand their reasons for doing things and then you are weakened.”
– Margaret Atwood, Cat’s Eye

“Let us think the unthinkable, let us do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable, and see if we may not eff it after all.”
– Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

“I’ve had the sort of day that would make Saint Francis of Assisi kick babies.”
– Douglas Adams, The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

“Works that have a certain imperfection to them have an appeal for that very reason — or at least they appeal to certain types of people. [. . .] You discover something about that work that tugs at your heart — or maybe we should say the work discovers you.”
– Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

“You’re afraid of imagination. And even more afraid of dreams. Afraid of the responsibility that begins in dreams. But you have to sleep, and dreams are a part of sleep. When you’re awake you can suppress imagination. But you can’t suppress dreams.”
– Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

So, I’m going to kick things off with a post that’s NOT about a book from The List. I really want to get started on this project, but I have to finish the book(s) I’m currently reading first. I just feel like blogging, so, here we go.

I’m about a third of the way through 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami.

The book is captivating. I don’t want to do anything but stay home and read it. I’ve only read one other Murakami – Kafka on the Shore – but I get the feeling that most of is stuff is like that. In terms of prose he is just SO GOOD

1Q84 is hard to explain. It’s about two people – vigilante assassin/personal trainer Aomame and ghostwriter/cram school math teacher Tengo. The story begins when Aomame exits a taxi during a traffic jam and the driver warns her that “things are not what they seem.” Soon she discovers that she has entered a bizarre world with two moons and past events she does not remember. Meanwhile, Tengo takes on a suspect ghostwriting project and sets into motion events he could not have foreseen. There’s also a religious cult and hints of a dystopia.

I’m assuming the two plots will converge at some point. Right now the only connection is that Tengo and Aomame went to school together. In fifth grade he stopped kids from making fun of her, and she has been in love with him since. Likewise, he is in love with her. Unfortunately, they have not seen each other since they were ten.

This book does something to you. Ever since I started reading it, I’ve been living with this weird awareness that things are not what they seem. A big part of the book, earlier on, was Aomame realizing that the world is slightly different than she remembers, but no one else notices. The police uniforms are different and officers carry semiautomatic guns. This is the result of a deadly shootout between police and political radicals three years ago. She does not remember hearing about this shootout. As she digs deeper, she realizes that other little things have shifted and, at night, she notices that there are two moons.

I’ve noticed some odd things since I started reading this book. I haven’t been sure what is real and what’s not. When I see things that strike me as odd, I wonder if may they aren’t actually so odd and that maybe I’ve entered a world like 1Q84. Last weekend I was driving to a wedding. I was stuck in a traffic jam in the suburbs of Chicago and I saw a building that housed university offices. It was odd because this university is not far away from where I went to school in northern Iowa.

Weird. They must recruit here, I thought. But it seemed weird. This school doesn’t seem the type to have out of state offices – it’s relatively small and, frankly, not that great. I started to wonder if maybe, somehow, something was a little bit off. Maybe that university was actually in Chicago. Maybe it always had been and I was delusional or mistaken.

Ever since I started reading this book, I’ve wondered about the things in the world that I find odd. Are they actually odd, or am I just in some weird, unfamiliar world that I don’t remember entering?

I’m enjoying this book immensely. I warn you, though, things WILL seem different to you once you start reading it. But then, maybe this is a good thing. After all, T.S. Eliot said it best: Humankind cannot bear very much reality.

But, as the taxi driver tells Aomame, There is always only one reality.

That doesn’t mean that it’s the reality we want, or even the reality we remember.

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