Already read most of these before. Favorite new Bolaño quote: "Being a writer is pleasant--no, pleasant isn't the word--it's an activity that has itsAlready read most of these before. Favorite new Bolaño quote: "Being a writer is pleasant--no, pleasant isn't the word--it's an activity that has its share of amusing moments, but I know of other things that are even more amusing, amusing in the same way that literature is for me. Holding up banks, for example. Or directing movies. Or being a gigolo. Or being a child again and playing on a more or less apocalyptic soccer team. Unfortunately, the child grows up, the bank robber is killed, the director runs out of money, the gigolo gets sick and then there's no other choice but to write. For me, the word 'writing' is the exact opposite of the word 'waiting.' Instead of waiting, there is writing. Well, I'm probably wrong--it's possible that writing is another form of waiting, of delaying things. I'd like to think otherwise. But, as I said, I'm probably wrong." (pg. 61-62)...more
I read most of this book in a terrible rush, eager to have it over and done with. This... is never a good sign for me. It was a book I looked forwardI read most of this book in a terrible rush, eager to have it over and done with. This... is never a good sign for me. It was a book I looked forward to finishing, as opposed to a book I relished. In terms of Good Things: I really appreciate David Mitchell's (almost painful at times) sincerity. He has SO much imagination and ambition--Australia, Colombia, Iceland, Russia... it's like he's read an essay about how to write a global novel and is attempting to do just that. And the way he tries to pay homage to 'The Dark is Rising' with a population of Old Ones-inspired characters--that is cool, but I think VERY, VERY difficult to pull off. But respect to him for trying. I liked the "Black Swan Green"-like opening section, and the apocalyptic closing section. I liked the characters Hugo Lamp and Crispin whatever when they were huge dicks (less so when they became softies). The passage when Hugo Lamb is on the dance floor is very, very strong and really moved me when I read it. But motherfucker... what the fuck am I supposed to do with sentences like these? "Crush them like ants!" "Run, little mouse." And while I appreciate the world-building and the specific terms pertaining to the fantasy world sections, explaining them takes SO... MUCH... EXPOSITION. SO, SO BORING AND TEDIOUS TO READ. And there are WAY too many scenes with similarities with bad action movies, particularly in Part 4. I read this part in a freaking zombie fugue state, automatically turning the page, praying for it to end. CHARACTER > ACTION, still, always. The assassination via rolling pin part was PAINFUL to read. Embarrassing almost. Kudos to Mitchell for at least acknowledging in the text through dialogue that it was twee, but still, not enough to save it for me. I can't recommend this book, man. I don't wanna read it again and I don't want to tell other people to read it either. BUT I liked how he ended on a depressing rather than uplifting note. And I will still probably read his next one....more
4 1/2 stars. What an enjoyable read! What a tightly plotted, expertly crafted book. It sounds so cliché and redundant to even say this at this point,4 1/2 stars. What an enjoyable read! What a tightly plotted, expertly crafted book. It sounds so cliché and redundant to even say this at this point, but Murakami is truly a fiction master. Damn.
This book draws you in a with a simple mystery that in typical Murakami style gets more and more layered and complex as the book progresses. We meet our titular hero, Tsukuru Tazaki. during a time in his life when he is experiencing profound melancholy and verging on suicidal depression (this was a part of the book I really enjoyed--it's strange that I can't think of more examples in fiction where authors try to depict melancholy... I guess because it's very difficult to capture). We jump into the future, when he's on a date with a woman, and via his conversations with her we learn that his sadness was due to him being abruptly cut out by his four best friends from high school. These four friends each had different names that mean different colors in Japanese: red, blue, white, black (colors that are all opposite from each other--this theme of balance comes up again and again throughout the book). Tsukuru's name means "builder," or "he who makes things" (something like that; I'm too lazy to flip through the novel and check right now). This is where the "Colorless Tsukuru" of the title comes from.
Anyway, so that's one of the first things to respect about this novel: how the plot is kicked into high-gear in a classic, verging on detective fiction style. We have a mystery (why did Tsukuru's friends cut him off?) and a motivation (the woman Tsukuru is on a date with tells him he needs to find out what happened, or else she won't be able to date him since she senses there is a part of him that is closed-off and emotionless due to this incident). This is such a great way to make the reader want to keep reading--you want to find out the answer.
The other thing I really respect about this book is the subplot that occurs early on, right before Tsukuru begins his quest to track down his four friends in their current day lives. I can see how some people might read this subplot and go WTF, but it reminded me of that part in "Fargo" when Frances McDormand goes out with that childhood friend of hers, who turns out to be a compulsive liar. It may initially seem to be TOTALLY random and like it has nothing to do with the main thread of the story, but it actually provides essential knowledge and experience for the main character later on. GENIUS. The sub-plot in question deals with a friendship that Tsukuru forms with another guy shortly after his friends abandon him. I can't speak highly enough about the way this friendship is handled, and the way it foreshadows and hints at what becomes the biggest, most important question in the book (I won't give away any spoilers, but the question has to do with one of the four friends in the group, in terms of her motivation and her ultimate fate). We aren't given many definitive answers in this novel, but I definitely feel like Murakami gives us enough information for us to be able to draw our own conclusions. It also helped that I was reminded of "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle," and its theme of people's subconscious emotional selves being projected as actual physical beings, running around and doing crazy-ass things (and now I really will say no more!).
The final chapter of this book dragged a little for me, as if Murakami couldn't figure out how to end it. There are only so many pages of Tsukuru reflecting about his father in the train station that I was willing to read at that point. But on the whole I feel extremely satisfied but this novel, and really enjoyed reading it. I haven't even gotten into the theme of balance that keeps popping up (the five friends are frequently compared to the five fingers on a hand, which is interesting since a lot of them end up in jobs that involve working with their hands--as a potter and pianist respectively). The theme of creation, or making things, was also one I found really interesting. In a way this book reminded me most of Murakami's running memoir, "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running." I love how mysteries are left unanswered (what's with the theme polydactylism, or people with six fingers?! What was in the jar on top of the piano?!).
I highly recommend this book. A lot more enjoyable that "IQ84", which was still respectably ambitious but if I'm honest I can barely remember anything about it now....more
Amazing, gut-wrenching. The kind of book that makes me want to write (the highest compliment I can think of). The kind of book that makes me glad to rAmazing, gut-wrenching. The kind of book that makes me want to write (the highest compliment I can think of). The kind of book that makes me glad to read. I didn't always understand what was going on (there were definitely some chapters I had to read twice) but it didn't matter; the author gave me just enough. Such a simple premise (a house in Germany, generation after generation of inhabitants), such complex execution. Fucking genius, man. This book blew me away. Such cold, factual narration that is a complete contrast to the emotional devastation that is taking place. Would totally assign this book for people to read in graduate school. Epic themes like exile, time, history, family identity. OH MY GOD. The hypnotic rhythm of the gardener's chapters! The way he comes off as this mystical, immortal, fairy-tale guardian of the house, his arrival symbolizing the house's beginning and his departure initiating its end. The sudden violence with which certain chapters end, like being slapped in the face. The way the Holocaust feels real and present and tragic and alive, as opposed to done-to-death. What does it mean to visit? What does it mean to have a home? I've run out of words to talk about this. Read, read, read this book.
Quotes I underlined: "To tame the wilderness and then make it intersect with culture--that's what art is." (pg. 18)
"Now finally everything is being dragged back out again: clothes, jewelry, bicycles, livestock, horses and women. Now everyone else sees it, and they themselves are being forced to see it as well. Everything is being dragged out into the light and put to use, anyone still alive stops washing himself, and anyone buried beneath the rubble rots and thus also begins to stink." (pg. 74)
"Home had been transformed into a time that now lay behind him, Germany had been irrevocably transformed into something disembodied, a lost spirit that neither knew nor was forced to imagine all these horrific things." (pg. 89)
"It's certainly better, at any rate, to be a stranger among strangers than in one's own home." (pg. 101)
"Things can follow one after the other only for as long as you are alive in order to extract a splinter from a child's foot, to take the roast out of the oven before it burns or sew a dress from a potato sack, but with each step you take while fleeing, your baggage grows less, with more and more left behind, and sooner or later you just stop and sit there, and then all that is left of left of life is life itself, and everything else is lying in all the ditches beside all the roads in a land as enormous as the air, and surely here as well you can find these dandelions, these larks." (pg. 103)
"In the end there are certain things you can take with you when you flee, things that have no weight, such as music." (pg. 108)...more
3 1/2 stars. Epic and entertaining. Way more fun to binge on this than any TV series. There were A LOT of descriptions of the Mars landscape, though.3 1/2 stars. Epic and entertaining. Way more fun to binge on this than any TV series. There were A LOT of descriptions of the Mars landscape, though. I guess the author did a lot of geological research and wanted to include it? But it was cool. I loved the theme of cyclical history and ecology-based economics. Loved the character archs, especially Sax's (who arguably has the most gripping storyline in the novel). I was sort of confused by Art's storyline--I thought he really was a spy...? I think I misunderstood this somehow. Anyway, all in all this is a fun, fun read that aims to ask deep and complex questions about our current society....more
3 1/2 stars. My review of the stories, one by one:
"Summer" - Five stars. One of the best short stories I've ever read. SO haunting and unforgettable.3 1/2 stars. My review of the stories, one by one:
"Summer" - Five stars. One of the best short stories I've ever read. SO haunting and unforgettable. Like something out of a nightmare. The basic plot is a horse that appears in a house in the middle of the night. Trippy shit. Almost like an elephant-in-the-room type story. "In the Name of Bobby" - Four stars. Creepy, almost like a horror movie. Narrated by an aunt, the story follows eight-year-old Bobby, who keeps having nightmares about his mother being cruel to him and is continuously staring at a knife in the kitchen in a highly unsettling way. Well plotted and cleverly narrated. "Liliana Weeping" - Four stars. A story about a narrator with a terminal illness that he keeps hidden from his wife. A great example of a story that cleverly uses prolepsis (i.e. a futuristic vision). "A Place Named Kindberg" - Three and a half stars. A middle-aged man picks up a young female hitchhiker and Things Happen until the story ends in a shocking suicide. Would love to read this in Spanish--the word "teddy bear" ("osito de peluche?") is repeated over and over again in a way that becomes hypnotic, haunting. "Second Time Around" - Three and a half stars. Short and sweet. Cleverly switches between the first person perspective of a bureaucrat and third person limited of a woman. Is this a commentary on the arrests and the political climate of Argentina in the 1970's? I initially read it more as a medical mystery-horror story akin to 'Contagion.' But the final disappearance at the end is haunting and memorable. "Severo's Phases" - Maybe my second-favorite story after "Summer." A highly uncanny piece and a fascinating commentary on the ways we deal with death. The plot is basically this: the sickly Severo is attended by friends and relatives gathered around his bed, who enact a series of bizarre rituals that are never explained. SO trippy and mind-blowing, and a great example of how a story can intrigue you by following the maxim of "the less said the better." "Butterball's Night" - Two stars. Didn't feel this one. About a boxing match. Almost felt like a bad action movie. Maybe something clever is going on here that I didn't get. "Trade Winds" - Four stars. Brilliant. A couple tries to recapture the enthusiasm of their early life via designing an elaborate game in which they assume false identities and pretend not to know each other at the vacation resort. Haunting commentary on the fluidity of identity. "Manuscript Found in a Pocket" - Two stars. Didn't dig this one too much. The narrator follows an obsessive game in which a relationship can only happen based on the possibility of whether or not he randomly sees a woman again in the Metro. Ugh, I didn't explain that to well, but this was a very Obsessive-Feeling story that was difficult for me to read. "Apocalypse at Solentiname" - Five stars. The other brilliant classic and the other story along with "Summer" I would assign folks to read in class. Bolaño would love this. Photography, art, war, images, empathy. Great themes. "Footsteps in the Footprints" - Two stars. Didn't care for this either. A Bolaño-esque story about an academic writing a biography about a famous Argentine poet. "Encounter Within a Red Circle" - Two stars. Didn't get this AT ALL. Will probably have to read it again. I just read a summary online and apparently it's a vague homage to vampires?? It's dedicated to a painter called Jacobo Borges that I guess I maybe have to research. Yeah, this was too clever for me. "The Faces of the Medal" - Three stars. A clever story about a couple that switches back and forth between their individual limited third person perspective and a plural perspective that they share. This is what I love about Cortazar--I've seriously NEVER read anything like this before. "Someone Walking Around" - Two stars. Sort of boring. Maybe I have to read it again and pay better attention. I think this was maybe about disappearances in Latin America, vaguely narrated like a heist movie. "The Ferry, or Another Trip to Venice" - Two and a half stars. Clever, but SUPER long. A cool example of a story in which one of the characters makes comments on the plot as it develops. Was really troubled by the depiction of a woman enjoying her rape. This is the second Cortázar short story I've read that depicts this (the other was the closing story in "We Love Glenda So Much")... "There But Where, How" - One star. Didn't care for this one at all. The language made my head spin. "Throat of a Black Kitten" - Three stars. Interesting concept. Another short story that begins in a metro and deals with hands that seemingly have a life of their own. Almost a horror movie-like climax....more