I found this to be a genuinely funny book, a very rare thing indeed. It sometimes even managed to convey the sense of loss and desperation to me. In tI found this to be a genuinely funny book, a very rare thing indeed. It sometimes even managed to convey the sense of loss and desperation to me. In the end however, the constant absurdity was just too much, highlighted by the scenes between Yossarian and Nately's whore. Seriously, what was the point of that?
Through the use of absurd characters and situations, Heller aims to condemn the adsurdity of war and its resultant bureaucracy, and I applaud him for it, since he actually manages to pull it off. The non-chronological nature of the chapters in the first part of the book, though extremely hard to follow, does add to the general feelings of confusion and desperation in Yossarian.
Yossarian, by the way, is the only person in the entire book who turns out to be more than a caricature. The other characters all have a specific quirk or character trait, and that's all there is to them. They keep doing or saying the same things over and over again. Perhaps Heller did this on purpose. Perhaps he did this to emphasize that war itself is a caricature of real life. Or perhaps there is some deeper hidden meaning I didn't get. But after a while, I found it to be very annoying. I could not relate to any of them, as I perceived them to be little more than cardboard figures.
I can't help but think that perhaps this book would have had more of a lasting impact on me if it was 150 pages shorter. ...more
**spoiler alert** I have a story that will make you believe in God.
Though not entirely true in the most literal sense, it does illustrate nicely what**spoiler alert** I have a story that will make you believe in God.
Though not entirely true in the most literal sense, it does illustrate nicely what this book is about. On the surface, this is a story about a boy trying to survive the ocean with a tiger in a lifeboat. A story about despair and struggle, hope and survival wrapped in a magical package. That in itself is already quite a feat. Read through to the end however, and you'll realize this is about something even larger. What story do you believe in, or perhaps more accurately, what story do you choose to believe in? The answer will tell you a lot about yourself, about you own personal beliefs and faith. And based on your convictions, everyone may get his or her own personal message out of this story.
For me personally, I choose to believe in the 'normal' story. I regard the one with the tiger as largely symbolic, although a part of me wants to believe in the more fantastic story (except the island with all the meerkats, that one was just too weird for my taste). That pretty much sums up my view on religion and the world in general. The following excerpt sums it up pretty nicely for me:
A part of me did not Richard Parker to die at all, because if it died I would be left alone with despair, a foe even more formidable than a tiger. If I still had the will to live, it was thanks to Richard Parker... He pushed me to go on living. I hated him for it, yet at the same time I was grateful.
I believe we all have our own Richard Parker within us, whatever form and strength it may take. When the going gets tough, we need to dig within ourselves to seek this inner entity and draw strength from it, which is the true source of any faith rather than any external deity. It's not a coincidence that Pi explores several religions instead of limiting himself to any one doctrine. This, for me, is the message I choose to take from this wonderful book. ...more
After reading The Shadow of the Wind, I was left with somewhat mixed feelings. On the one hand, this is such a beautifully written book, and is in essAfter reading The Shadow of the Wind, I was left with somewhat mixed feelings. On the one hand, this is such a beautifully written book, and is in essence an ode to literature. On the other hand, there are some serious flaws which distracts from the whole experience.
The best thing about the book, in my opinion, is Zafon's skill in artistic writing. It reminds me of why I love to read in the first place, and makes me wish I could write as beautiful as this. The book contains lots of memorable quotes as well, definitely a good thing as far as I'm concerned.
So after about 50 pages in, I was ready to love this book as I seldom loved another book before. But as the story progressed, that resolution started to diminish slowly but surely. Ironically, one the more obvious flaws is Zafon's overuse of stylistic writing. It seems like everyone acts or talks in a very elaborate manner, even in the simplest of situations, and this can really become tiresome after a while.
The plot also isn't as ingenious as the hype would make you believe. Zafon does a good job creating a sense of mystery early on, and there are obvious parallels between the main character Daniel Sempere, and Julian Carax, the writer whose past he is trying to uncover. But ultimately, the stories of Daniel and Julian are seperate ones, and they just happen to interconnect with one another more by chance than by design.
By far the most troublesome flaw is the way the mysteries are "resolved". All too often, answers are given by having some side character or another tell his or her story for pages. Nowhere is this more evident than at the end of the book, where literally every single detail is revealed in the form of a (very) long letter, even details which the writer of the letter never could have known, since she wasn't even involved in those events. It's as if Zafon did not have a clue or the motivation to write a logical conclusion, and decided to just dump all the information in one place.
With a bit more attention to actual plot and character development, this could have been one of my favourite books. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed reading the Shadow of the Wind. It's just a shame that it falls some way short of its potential....more
Ah, my first Murakami. The anticipation was great as I opened the book. I had high expectations, yet I had no idea what to expect, and I was afraid thAh, my first Murakami. The anticipation was great as I opened the book. I had high expectations, yet I had no idea what to expect, and I was afraid that it could only end in disappointment. But it didn't take long before I was captivated by Murakami's beautiful melancholy writing style. Every single word weaves a simple image, yet at the same time hints as a deeper symbolic meaning, and I realized that Norwegian Wood is the work of a true artist.
The reason why I was so captivated at first is that I instinctively identified myself with the protagonist Toru Watanabe. On the outside, he seems relaxed and laid back, and for some may even seem uncaring. Yet on the inside, he is insecure and lost, but people who know him well are drawn to his inner kindness, even though he has trouble expressing his feelings. We follow him in his relationship with Naoko, the girlfriend of his best friend who had already committed suicide when the story begins. Naoko ends up at a sanatorium called the Ami Hostel, and it seems his love for her will forever remain elusive. When the spunky Midori enters his life however, he is confronted with his lethargic lifestyle, and he now has to rethink his own life and future.
Murakami touches on a lot of different subjects, and all the different characters represent a different part of the story. The parts that Naoko and Midori play are obvious at first glance, as Toru seemingly has to choose between one of them. Naoko represents the elusive past, an ideal that Toru seems desperate to cling on to. Midori, on the other hand, represents the tangible future, if only Toru would just reach out and grasp it. But in the end, is this really the choice that Toru is supposed to make? Naoko and Midori both stand at opposite ends of the same spectrum, and neither relationship can reach a satisfying point. Not with Naoko, because she is ultimately always just out of reach, no matter how close Toru comes to her. Even when they share an intimate moment, Toru still wonders if it has actually happened at all. And not with Midori, because it is too obvious that she is the one in love with Toru, who seemingly remains oblivious to her feelings until he almost loses her. But is he truly afraid of losing her as a lover, or just as a friend? Even when they get back together after falling out, he can't help but comment that 'she even looked more relieved than I felt', and any advantage Midori may have gained over him is lost again in a single instant. There's no doubt he does care for her, but any intimacy they share is because Midori requests it and he just wants to oblige her, and never because he truly wants it.
Nagasawa, a man who he befriends at the university, represents the opposite side of Toru. Outwardly, they may seem similar, but they can hardly be more different inside. Nagasawa is arrogant and egotistical, always putting his own interests above those of others. He has a strong sense of what he wants from life, which is the complete opposite from Toru. They are opposite sides of the same coin, and yet they are separated, which symbolizes how unbalanced Toru really is. The significance of this character is illustrated best in the scenes with Hatsumi, Nagasawa's girlfriend. First off, in the dinner scene, we see her finally standing up to Nagasawa, while at the same time trying to draw Toru out of his shell. It is her who confronts Toru with his actions and his feelings, as if trying to restore the balance. As the scene went along, I wondered whether Hatsumi isn't that middle ground between Naoko and Midori that Toru doesn't even realize he's looking for until it is too late. He downplays his feelings as wishing 'I had had an elder sister like you'. However, he never seemed to be more happy than he was alone with her, and 'this was a marvelous experience for me, as though I had been drawn up to a higher plane of life.' In the end however, neither Toru nor Nagasawa were able to save her from committing suicide. Not Nagasawa, because he is too enveloped within his own ego. And not Toru, because he did not have the courage to realize what Hatsumi really meant to him.
And then there is Reiko, Naoko's roommate, who symbolizes the fine line between normal and abnormal that's such a prevalent theme throughout the whole book. On the one hand, she is supposed to be the crazy one, who has lived at the Ami Hostel for years already. Yet amidst all the tumult in Toru's world, she remains the one objective voice of reason. In fact, it is to her that Toru turns to whenever he is in need of guidance. She never tells him outright what to do, but always urges him to listen to his own feelings and to decide for himself what is the right path.
In the end however, the story left me with a empty, unsatisfied feeling. I couldn't quite put my finger on it at first, as I enjoyed every second reading the book. After spending some time to think things through, I finally realized why. All the characters are all in search of an ideal, and are trapped in a pattern none of them can escape from. Reiko is the only person who seemed capable to break out, and for a moment it seemed she might be able to save Toru as well. But the moment she left, Toru falls back into his old pattern - although there is much debate on what the ending actually means. In the end, the tragedy is that there is no redemption, as none of them are able to go through the necessary process to transform themselves, a haunting warning what could happen if you stay too fixated on the ideal....more