I'll be honest - the bulk of the fourth star is for the beautiful hardcover edition's design. The book design evokes images of old library books, compI'll be honest - the bulk of the fourth star is for the beautiful hardcover edition's design. The book design evokes images of old library books, complete with stamps and due date slips. There's a note at the back saying that most of the old illustrations, "including marbled papers and old pages", came from books sourced from the London Public Library. The page and chapter numbering seems to come from old library stamps, and there's even a card pocket attached to the front cover. I am a sucker for this stuff, as anyone who has read my partial review of S., or indeed anyone who has ever met me, will tell you.
Just look at these pictures..
As for the story itself, it's classic Murakami. It has that sense of quiet magic which you expect from a Murakami novel, but it's in the form of a short story, almost suitable for children. I say "almost", as it contains sections which are quite dark, but then so do many of the classic fairytales, and let's face it - what do I know about children?
Overall, it's a gorgeous little book with a magical feel. You can read it in one hit and spend a lifetime with this beautiful thing sitting on your bookshelf. Why would you not buy this?!...more
I enjoyed this book, but it was a very gentle read. Not that there's anything wrong with that - there just weren't a lot of peaks and troughs, with thI enjoyed this book, but it was a very gentle read. Not that there's anything wrong with that - there just weren't a lot of peaks and troughs, with the tone being somewhat lighter than it could have been, given the subject matter. It's quite difficult to review a book that is more-or-less all about atmosphere.
It actually reminded me quite a lot of another book I read recently, Ghost Tide, which was rather unfortunate timing on my part. The other book similarly focussed on the life of a Chinese boy who grew up knowing that he was in the wrong body for his true gender, and it had a similarly dreamy quality about it. While Ghost Tide was set in a Chinese village, and this book is set in a Canadian small town, there aren't that many major differences to set the two books apart in my mind. What this book lacks in the spiritual allegory of the other, it makes up for in other ways, mainly the portrayal of family relationships.
The main character in this book, Peter, has oddly distant yet worshipful relationships with his three sisters, which I found both quirky and compelling. Peter's hero-worship of his older, cosmopolitan sister - the two of them on different continents, exchanging wordless post-packs of random photographs and artefacts - was quite poignant. Likewise, the ending was quite beautiful and unexpected.
This is a solid novel about family relationships and identity, just not a particular stand-out for me.
This is an interior monologue. There. That's the one piece of information I think you need to know before going into Teipei. If you understand that, yThis is an interior monologue. There. That's the one piece of information I think you need to know before going into Teipei. If you understand that, you understand where the author's coming from.
Is it honest? Yes. There's no denying that if you transcribed your own inner monologue word for word, it probably wouldn't be too different from this, in style if not substance (abuse). Is it self-indulgent? Fuck yeah. It's an interior monologue. That's what they are - the self. Indulging. Is it good.....? That really depends on what you look for in a piece of literary fiction.
My initial thought on Teipei was that it reads as if written by The Onion News Network's Autistic Reporter, Michael Faulk. The book's central character, Paul, is jarringly disconnected from the people around him. He's oddly specific about small details, and lacking in emotion or empathy. This is eventually explained, somewhat perfunctorily, through a two page potted history of the main character, (the sole piece of exposition anywhere in the novel), explaining more or less that, yes, Paul does indeed have "issues". This stands out to me as something Tao Lin may have been required to add by his editors, to give some sort of context to the main character.
As I read on, I found my own internal monologue synching up with Paul's. At times, I would even catch myself daydreaming in ways that could have been lifted straight from the novel. I think that's this novel's great strength - the interior monologue device gives an instantly deep connection to a novel where very little of emotional import takes place. If it weren't for that aspect, there really would be very little appeal to reading the neurotic ramblings of a self-indulgent, drug-addled, twenty-something, even if those ramblings have the ring of absolute authenticity.
On the subject of authenticity, I've since spent some time skimming interviews etc online which could easily be read as extensions to the novel. Taipei's "Paul" is obviously Tao Lin, and some of Tao Lin's own well-documented exploits match up to those cited in the book. If you don't enjoy Tao Lin in these interviews, I suspect you'll dislike the book. [NSFW] Interview with VICE
My favourite parts of Teipei were the convoluted analogies, like: "Cleveland's three tallest buildings, each with a different shape and style of architecture and lighting, were spaced oddly far apart, like siblings in their thirties, in a zany sitcom. After spending their lives "hating" one another, in a small town, they moved to different cities and were happy, but then got coincidentally transferred by their employers to the same medium-size city. They were all named Frank." The book needs that sense of whimsy to balance out what can sometimes be excruciatingly specific and banal details.
Overall, this is an experiment akin to recording yourself narrating your own internal monologue over a trashy weekend, then having the whole lot transcribed. Which is essentially what Tao Lin has done. I enjoyed it, but many won't.
I listened to this being read and discussed by Ben Marcus via The New Yorker's Fiction Podcast, and I'm very glad that I did. Had I read this on its oI listened to this being read and discussed by Ben Marcus via The New Yorker's Fiction Podcast, and I'm very glad that I did. Had I read this on its own, I doubt that I would have spared the energy to really consider the depth and possibilities that make up this intriguing little story. Taking the time to ponder all the possible meanings is absolutely essential to enjoying this story. Seriously - if you don't like stories that can have multiple interpretations, this is not for you. Ishiguro leaves a lot open to interpretation here.
Ben Marcus and The New Yorker’s fiction editor, Deborah Treisman, are really able to tease out the possibilities and some of the more subtle messaging, as well as giving some context to Ishiguro's writing. I feel that I've learned something about Marcus' own writing having listened to this too.
This is a stunningly good book that mixes visceral and disturbing psychological landscapes with an extremely intelligent, almost farcical story structThis is a stunningly good book that mixes visceral and disturbing psychological landscapes with an extremely intelligent, almost farcical story structure. I have never read anything quite like it.
The two main characters (and there really are only two characters in this rather short book) are both acutely damaged from childhood trauma and abuse. Each sees the world in an entirely different way, and each perceives the other's actions through a lens of their own psychological damage. This leads to an almost comical and certainly suspenseful, continual escalation of events that you feel can only ever end in disaster.
The way "The Other Murakami" writes about the effects of abuse is detailed, specific, unflinching, matter-of-fact and yet extremely visceral. Murakami gives the reader a sense of the utter physicality of mental health issues. There's a recognition that it's not just a matter of having unhealthy thoughts, but that these issues have physical elements: sweating and dizziness, the sound of blood rushing in ears...... I have the strong feeling that only someone who has been through some extreme trauma themselves could have written this. It's an uncomfortable feeling, but that's a large part of what gives this book such impact.
It's a short book, it's not heavy-going, and it's brilliant. What are you waiting for?...more
This is a really fun read, yet very different to the other Ryu Murakami book I have read, Piercing. PHotSE sits further toward the "light entertainmenThis is a really fun read, yet very different to the other Ryu Murakami book I have read, Piercing. PHotSE sits further toward the "light entertainment" end of the spectrum, but I enjoyed it very much all the same. The storyline centres around two groups of very dysfunctional people: a group of young men who are socially...... retarded, and a group of catty, self-absorbed 30-40ish women (oba-sans). In both cases, the members are disconnected from each other as well as society. When war erupts between the two groups, however, the members unite against a common enemy, finding what they've been lacking in their own lives. Murakami writes with his usual humour, insight and irony, not to mention a strong dose of violence and gore.
"If you were drinking at some oden stand you've never been to before, and some homeless guy comes by and sneaks a skewer of oden, and a thug with no pinky finger beats him half to death, this is the kind of song you'd want to be listening to."
PLAYLIST for Popular Hits of the Showa Era I've had to use a bizarre mixture of YouTube clips and Spotify tracks, (including two which are cover versions), but here are the songs from each of the relevant chapters. Please enjoy!
Oh, this is gut-wrenching. Magical and gut-wrenching. It's a very short story, but packs a huge punch. Just please take a few minutes to read this 201Oh, this is gut-wrenching. Magical and gut-wrenching. It's a very short story, but packs a huge punch. Just please take a few minutes to read this 2011 Nebula Award winning story. I promise you it's worth it. And have some tissues handy.
Where do I even start with this? Wait. I know. Let's start with:
THINGS I WISH SOMEONE HAD TOLD ME BEFORE I PICKED THIS BOOK UP *It is a Young Adult boWhere do I even start with this? Wait. I know. Let's start with:
THINGS I WISH SOMEONE HAD TOLD ME BEFORE I PICKED THIS BOOK UP *It is a Young Adult book. And by that, I mean it reads as if it was written by a ten year old boy. *It is set in Australia, and contains huge swathes of "facts" about Australia, presented in encyclopaedia form, many of which are incorrect. *It is culturally offensive to the Indigenous people of Australia, and not always by accident. At one point the book references the "Black Boy" tree, points out that this is culturally offensive and that the modern name is "Grass Plant", and then proceeds to call it a "Black Boy" tree for the rest of the book. It also constantly uses the term "aborigine/s" as a noun (lower case too), instead of an adjective - the equivalent of saying "blacks", with an inflection of the n-word when used in an Australian context. *The translation is terrible. But then so is the original from what I can see. *It contains the stupidest protagonist I have ever encountered. I don't believe this is intentional.
I gave up halfway through (which I VERY rarely do). I tried to stick with it, I really did. I wanted to see what happened, when the game actually started. It still hadn't started by the mid-way point. And I love Battle Royale, and Running Man. But I was just getting so angry. Seriously - my right eye has a tic now.......more