This is the second book by Murakami that I've read, and I am really in love with his characters and his style. This is the story of a man inside a mar...moreThis is the second book by Murakami that I've read, and I am really in love with his characters and his style. This is the story of a man inside a marriage as it falls apart, but also about all the unpredictable things that happen to him and the stories surrounding those events. Unexpected and interesting.
"It was a narrow world, a world that was standing still. But the narrower it became, and the more it betook of stillness, the more this world that enveloped me seemed to overflow with things and people that could only be called strange. They had been there all the while, it seemed, waiting in the shadows for me to stop moving. And every time the wind-up bird came to my yard to winds its spring, the world descended more deeply into chaos."(less)
I went on a Murakami reading binge in 2009, and suddenly found myself hitting a wall. What I had started out loving started to overwhelm and suffocate...moreI went on a Murakami reading binge in 2009, and suddenly found myself hitting a wall. What I had started out loving started to overwhelm and suffocate me. I knew I needed a break from him for a while.
I did take a break from the break to read 1Q84, which I really enjoyed. As I listened to the audiobook of this novel, I found myself wishing I'd read this prior to 1Q84. Some of the themes are the same, and I don't just mean the silly themes like cats and pasta and music, but shifting realities and not being sure about who you are on many levels. They seem more concise in this novel, and I think having this experience first would have made 1Q84 even better.
I enjoyed the audio. The two narrators bring completely different feelings to the different sections, and the novel shifts back and forth between the narratives of Kafka and Nakata. I enjoyed the haven of the library and the very helpful librarian, but that might have been the only moment of reality in this book. ;)
Murakami always sends me off to listen to music, not just by work but certain performances of a work. I spent the afternoon listening to the Archduke Trio (Beethoven) as performed by the "Million Dollar Trio." Great stuff.(less)
While I'm not sure I like this as much as Ghostwritten, I really enjoy reading David Mitchell. number9dream is a crazy ride through dreams and events...moreWhile I'm not sure I like this as much as Ghostwritten, I really enjoy reading David Mitchell. number9dream is a crazy ride through dreams and events that may or may not be happening, all surrounding the 20 year old Eiji Miyake as he looks for his father in Tokyo.
This had moments that made me laugh, particularly one where Eiji has witnessed something horrendous but then it is possibly having to do karaoke that puts him over the edge. It is all these little things that make Mitchell such a pleasure to read. There are also little ties to both Ghostwritten and Cloud Atlas in here, which I may not have noticed if I hadn't just read both of them, but made me smile.
The only place he almost lost me was when Eiji was reading stories written by the characters in the stories of his landlord's aunt. I think I have that right. (A chicken Scheherazade?)
"Yesterday, when I got off the coach at the bus station, I noticed that Tokyo smells of the insides of pockets." (less)
I really had to mull over this one before writing anything about it. To so many people it appears to be a love story, but I really take issue with tha...moreI really had to mull over this one before writing anything about it. To so many people it appears to be a love story, but I really take issue with that - this is a dark, twisted story really, with a lot of mental anguish for everyone except the main character. I am starting to take issue with the typical Murakami protagonist - they seem so bewildered about the world around them, particularly about women but people in general, and the only relationships they have are those that fall into their lives. I hate people who float around and let things happen TO them.
In this novel it seems somehow worse. Surely there is something Toru can do, but maybe Nagasawa is right when he says Toru only knows to think about himself. The ending, and several moments throughout the story, really made me sick to my stomach. I need to take a break from him for a while, I think.(less)
I never know what to expect from David Mitchell, and feel like I look forward to each of his novels, just ready to give myself over to it. To find mys...moreI never know what to expect from David Mitchell, and feel like I look forward to each of his novels, just ready to give myself over to it. To find myself reading a work of historical fiction was a bit of a surprise, but I really enjoyed the characters and setting - I definitely knew nothing about Japan in 1799-1800 or the history of their trade with Europe.
I loved the contrast of the story taking place on the port with the story taking place on the mountain, and the conflict between the cultures. I was glad I had already read The Pillow Book to add some context to the lives of the Japanese women. The medical/public health history aspect of it was also interesting.
Mitchell has said in interviews that he has some characters in The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet that will show up in future novels, and I enjoyed reading it with that in mind, trying to guess who I think might make another appearance. My money is on Enomoto and possibly de Zoet's fiance in the Netherlands. (less)
I didn't expect to like this. But Sei Shonagon was blogging centuries before blogs existed. Her writings in her pillow book vary from lists of unpleas...moreI didn't expect to like this. But Sei Shonagon was blogging centuries before blogs existed. Her writings in her pillow book vary from lists of unpleasant things to descriptions of fashions to funny stories from the Japanese court life. The tone is a mixture of self-righteousness and wonder, which is why I kept thinking of Harriet the Spy. I learned a lot about Japanese culture at the time, almost by accident. And the Morris translation is heavily footnoted.
"There's really something sad about a woman with an ugly face."
"If I do not come first in people's affections, I had just as soon not be loved at all; in fact I would rather be hated or even maltreated. It is better to be dead than to be loved in the second or third place. Yes, I must be first."
"Whatever people may think of my book, I still regret that it ever came to light."(less)
Two beautifully written novellas about people dealing with grief - Kitchen No. 1 and Kitchen No. 2, also known as "Moonlight Shadow." Something that s...moreTwo beautifully written novellas about people dealing with grief - Kitchen No. 1 and Kitchen No. 2, also known as "Moonlight Shadow." Something that stuck out to me is the lack of internal dialogue; you never know what is going on until a character tells you, and so a lot of little details are left to be discovered.
In Kitchen, Mikage's grandmother (and last living relative) dies, and she goes to live with Yiuchi and his transgendered parent. There are lovely bits about how Mikage understands people through their kitchens, and the preparation of food is a major theme throughout. In Kitchen No. 2 (Moonlight Shadow), Satsuki is dealing with the loss of her boyfriend, by talking more with his brother and a mysterious stranger she met on the bridge. All these little details, like the way her boyfriend saved a bell she gave him, make these really special.
As far as the Japanese setting goes, it comes through in every detail, from the descriptions of the homes to the schooling to the food, to the frozen landscape. I will definitely read more of this author.(less)
This is my favorite of the Murakami books I've read (and I've read about half). Where I sometimes feel distant from or frustrated with his characters,...moreThis is my favorite of the Murakami books I've read (and I've read about half). Where I sometimes feel distant from or frustrated with his characters, I loved Aomame and Tengo, as well as several of the characters in their periphery. I loved the alternate reality. I loved how music permeated everything, and I listened to the works mentioned during most of my reading of the book (it starts with Janacek and moves through Haydn 'cello sonatas before touching on the St. Matthew Passion and Horowitz's piano playing). I loved the way the story was told, alternating points of view with trailing threads between - it was mastery.
The usual silly themes of spaghetti and cats were present, but what Murakami does with cats in this book has to be read to be believed.
The only thing I'm not sure about is the little people... that whole idea wasn't resolved to my satisfaction. From what I've read in interviews with the author, they just showed up one day, and I'm not sure he knew what to do with them either.
"Aomame said, 'Even if things were the same, people's perception of things might have been very different back then. The darkness of night was probably deeper then, so the moon must have been that much bigger and brighter. And of course people didn't have records or tapes or CDs. They couldn't hear proper performances of music anytime they liked; it was always something special.' 'I'm sure you're right,' the dowager said. 'Things are so convenient for us these days, our perceptions are probably that much duller. Even if it's the same moon hanging in the sky, we may be looking at something quite different. Four hundred years ago, we might have had richer spirits that were closer to nature."(less)
This is a book of three stories that are more like novella length. It is a different type of Japan than I am used to reading about from authors like M...moreThis is a book of three stories that are more like novella length. It is a different type of Japan than I am used to reading about from authors like Murakami. I didn't know anything about the burakumin, which is an outcaste class in Japan, a background shared by the author. In fact, from what I read about Nakagami, he pulls from his own life for these stories.
The stories are memorable and disturbing, with themes of violence and complicated relationships. The end of the title story is uncomfortably so.
In Red Hair, I was regretful to be inside the character's head. I would have liked to know what the redheaded girl was thinking; she is often described as tearing up or acting slightly crazy, but I'm not sure I understand why. Kozo, on the other hand, is almost psychopathic in his impassivity towards the woman. (less)
I ended up reading the Hamada translation of these tales, originally published by Columbia in 1972. After adding the introduction and understanding th...moreI ended up reading the Hamada translation of these tales, originally published by Columbia in 1972. After adding the introduction and understanding the complete mastery demonstrated in the creation of the original in Japanese, I'm not sure I could ever get the same experience in an English translation.
That said, I enjoyed the blend of folklore, religion, and the supernatural. The demon-snake-woman was the most memorable character, and the frequent use of buildings and people who could transform into practically anything meant nothing was limited. I need to understand more about how the various elements of religion and spirituality worked together in this era in Japan.(less)
I read this with the group called The World's Literature, where we devote an entire year to the literature of one country. This year is Japan, and Nat...moreI read this with the group called The World's Literature, where we devote an entire year to the literature of one country. This year is Japan, and Natsume Soseki was given an entire month because of his prominence during the Meiji period.
I have to admit to skimming a bit because the stories were due back to the library, but I enjoyed the Ten Nights of Dream. In fact, I think everyone should try to make sense of dreams, unless they tell us we've killed someone, yikes.
"Under the influence of the weather, even the gods run mad." (first line of The Heredity of Taste)(less)
As part of our "Summertime in Japan" project in The World's Literature group, this book was on the list for Ishiguro. I had only read Never Let Me Go...moreAs part of our "Summertime in Japan" project in The World's Literature group, this book was on the list for Ishiguro. I had only read Never Let Me Go by this author, and while the stories don't have much in common, both are told in a non linear fashion and contain a lot to think about.
In fact, I'm still thinking about it. So much of what I will say is a spoiler, so I'll go ahead and stick it behind a spoiler tag. (view spoiler)[When you get to the end, there is a scene on a bridge where Etsuko's narrative seems to morph into Sachiko's point of view. All of the sudden, I thought, oh, are they the same person? For so much of the first half of the novel, I thought that either Sachiko or Mariko may be suffering from some form of severe mental illness. They definitely didn't interact like a typical mother-daughter relationship. Mariko doesn't go to school and frequently leaves, talking about some strange woman she has seen. Sachiko keeps making plans to leave that never work out.
Etsuko herself is telling the story from England, where she moved with her first child, and then had a second child from a second marriage. The younger daughter has come to visit her after her older sister's suicide.
So much of the book is about moving forward, about letting go of the past, an essential theme because they live in Nagasaki, not long after the end of World War II. Right before the bridge scene, Etsuko says, "Memory, I realize, can be an unreliable thing; often it is heavily coloured by the circumstances in which one remembers, and no doubt this applies to certain of the recollections I have gathered here."
In my mind, and who knows if this is what the author intended, Etsuko and Sachiko are the same. Etsuko has been retelling her history to herself to make it easier to stomach. Clearly her daughter's suicide is partly her fault, but it is clear that she doesn't think so from the way she tells the story.
I also wonder at the title. Throughout the book, the hills outside Nagasaki are described as pale, shrouded in clouds and fog. It seems as if the past could be described the same way. I don't think I'm reading too much into it! I think Ishiguro wants us to keep thinking about this story, and I have been. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
In trying to describe this book, I end up with a fairly long list - a journal of 16 year old Nao living in Japan, her great-uncle's diaries from World...moreIn trying to describe this book, I end up with a fairly long list - a journal of 16 year old Nao living in Japan, her great-uncle's diaries from World War II, a biography of her grandmother Niko, and a later-parallel story of Ruth, an author living in Canada who finds Nao's journal and other ephemera washed up on her island shore. Just these ideas and concepts were almost one too many, and then the author decided to throw in a touch of bizarre quantum mechanics, people struggling with Alzheimers, memory loss, suicide attempts, bullying, and a bizarre character trying to plant ancient plants.
If the list seems overwhelming, I do think it was too much for 400ish pages. At times it just gets to be a bit of an information dump. Add in the constantly defined Japanese terms and philosophers remembered by the plant-husband and the great-uncle in his letters (really, he quotes French philosophers verbatim!)... you would think it would be hard to cut through to the story. Nao's personal story still kept me reading, although she suffered from the same paralysis as the rest of the characters in the book, where instead of reaching out to solve their problems, they punish themselves.
One little tidbit from Nao's journal that is a good capture of her tone: "Whenever I think about my stupid empty life, I come to the conclusion that I'm just wasting my time, and I'm not the only one. Everybody I know is the same... Just wasting time, killing time, feeling crappy." (Quote from NetGalley version, may be altered in final.)
The presence of quantum mechanics in this book might seem puzzling, but her zen-nun grandmother teaches her, "to do zazen is to enter time completely." Nao takes that idea into her journal and addresses all her entries to the "Time Being," inviting the reader to travel with her. The title read that way becomes a play on the words.
ETA: The funniest thing happened when I went to NetGalley to post my review of this book - the book had disappeared from that database. Maybe the author knows what she's talking about, maybe my actions made it disappear. :P(less)
I started out liking this book, but the author started to grate on my nerves. He took an amazing trip on trains from Europe to Turkey to Iran through...moreI started out liking this book, but the author started to grate on my nerves. He took an amazing trip on trains from Europe to Turkey to Iran through Asia including Thailand, Japan, and Siberia. For a large portion of his journey, he is following the "hippie trail," popular in the 1960s and 1970s for people traveling from England to India. But his tone and commentary on the people he meets were not always the kindest. In fact he seemed rather uninterested in talking to anyone who wasn't already like him, but only wrote about the people who weren't!
He does mention why trains are perfect settings for conversations with strangers:
"The conversation, like many others I had with people on trains, derived an easy candor from the shared journey, the comfort of the dining car, and the certain knowledge that neither of us would see each other again. The railway was a fictor's bazaar, in which anyone with the patience could carry away a memory to pore over in privacy."
Still, it isn't as if you can board one train to see all these places, and I enjoyed reading about how the train itself changed as the country did. This is in 1973, and a lot of political upheaval has happened since then, so I'm still looking forward to reading Ghost Train to the Eastern Star where he revisits the same journey 30 years later. I'm hoping I'll find that he has matured too, but I'm not crossing my fingers.
In an interview on NPR, Theroux talks about how this train trip was one of the elements in his first marriage ending. Within the book he only mentions his wife once that I can remember, and perhaps I should have suspected something from her absence.
Examples of his racial stereotypes: "Money pulls the Iranian in one direction, religion drags him in another, and the result is a stupid starved creature for whom woman is only meat."
"...The commissar and the monk meeting as equals on the common ground of indolent and smiling unhelpfulness. Nothing happens in Burma, but then nothing is expected to happen."(less)