Murakami's a genius at not only describing, but also evoking dreamlike states using simple but nuanced language. This short story is more nightmarishMurakami's a genius at not only describing, but also evoking dreamlike states using simple but nuanced language. This short story is more nightmarish than most. Apparently an early Murakami story (really more of an exercise or a fragment) which seems to be of a piece with or thematically connected to A Wild Sheep Chase.
Chip Kidd has done some great designs for Murakami books in the past and his design choices are always informed by the content. Maybe I'm missing the subtleties (which was definitely the case with the cover to Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage with the hand and the windows and the train lines as a metaphor for how Tsukuru intersected with everyone's lives), but I think in this case the ostentatious design is little more than a calculated ploy to get Murakami fans to fork over $18 for a short story that had been gathering dust since 1982. Especially since it was released just before Christmas.
Obviously, if you're a Murakami fan, this book is worth it. If you're not a Murakami fan, start with any one of his novels and then, once you're hooked, you'll come back around to needing this in your collection. Best read alongside his early work, like Wild Sheep Chase of Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. Definitely a missing link for Murakami scholars. I'd love to see some more in-depth analysis of it, because I don't know what it all means, but I'm sure it means something. I'm looking forward to the re-release (and new translation) of his first two novellas, Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973....more
What can I say that hasn’t already been said about Terry Pratchett? Either you love his stuff or you’re missing out. I had been missing out until receWhat can I say that hasn’t already been said about Terry Pratchett? Either you love his stuff or you’re missing out. I had been missing out until recently. This was only my second Discworld novel, but I think it’s going to remain one of my personal faves, if only because it combines my two favorite themes: rock ’n’ roll and death. Maybe I haven’t read enough Pratchett (I definitely haven’t read enough Pratchett, but what I meant was maybe I haven’t read enough Pratchett to tell), but I wouldn’t call him a satirist. A satirist holds vices, follies, and shortcomings up to ridicule. Pratchett, on the other hand, celebrates his characters’ vices, follies, and shortcomings. He has such a love for his characters and all his humor comes from having fantasy characters experience real-life, human moments. His novels are so welcoming because they are so forgiving of the faults of the characters, which are our faults, as well.
He’s also not really parodying rock music or rock history, either (the music industry just a bit). Parody mocks or trivializes its target. Soul Music is really more of a love letter to rock music. It also features some heavy philosophizing (cleverly disguised by the author’s light touch) about what the music really means. That seems to be a hallmark of the author’s (that is, it’s present in the two books I’ve read so far): underneath the comedy are some weighty ideas that sort of fly by as you’re reading it, but also sit quietly at the heart of what the novel’s about.
Pratchett’s really only competing with himself. The only thing a newcomer like myself needs to know is: where to start? Thus, a ranking for all the Discword novels would be helpful, but also highly personal. Like I say, this one might be hard to top as a personal favorite just because of my own affinity for the subject matter. But, in all seriousness, as a rock music fan, I think Pratchett has described the music and its meaning with more depth and clarity than 99% of rock critics could ever hope to achieve. That is why I love genre fiction: it explains our world to us in ways that are only possible once you get outside it. ...more
For all its flights of fancy, The Eyre Affair is a surprisingly literal account of the power of a good book to change a person’s life. A good book canFor all its flights of fancy, The Eyre Affair is a surprisingly literal account of the power of a good book to change a person’s life. A good book can color your worldview, affect and inform your decisions, and help you come to terms with the pain in your past. Interacting with the characters from Jane Eyre certainly has that effect on our plucky heroine Thursday Next.
At first, the collision of so many seemingly random acience-fiction/fantasy elements (time travel, alternate history, dodos, vampires, steampunk dirigibles, the ’80s, you name it) strained my suspension of disbelief. But collectively, they serve to celebrate the whimsy and wonder of the imagination and things that are only possible in books. It’s very much a book about books and the power of reading, so ultimately it all kind of hung together thematically.
Fforde definitely has a wealth of ideas. For a first novel, The Eyre Affair certainly feels ambitious, confidant and fully formed. The writing itself seems a bit thin and uneven (especially for a book that openly invites comparisons and connections to Charlotte Bronte’s masterpiece) but that could be attributed to either inexperience or design. Fforde shows his film industry roots in making Thursday a Hollywood-style action hero and it’s the action scenes that really come alive.
Thursday is an intriguing character. The blurb on the back of the book bragged about her being part Bridget Jones, part Nancy Drew and part Dirty Harry. Initially, she seemed about as paper thin as each of those characters, but when you layer them on top of each other the way Fforde does, you get some interesting results. I think that over the course of the series she could definitely emerge as a unique and compelling character in her own right.
The Crimean War stuff was unexpected. I thought it wildly threw off the otherwise light and fun tone of the narrative, but it also added gravitas to the characters and events of the story. Ultimately, the way it tied into the emotional resolution of the story, it served to remind us that literature is not only fun, but also a powerful tool for self-reflection and emotional growth. ...more
Subtitled "a tall tale" and purpoted to be a tale of love between Hawaiian queen Lili'uokalani and Prussian bandmaster Heinrich Berger, I half expecteSubtitled "a tall tale" and purpoted to be a tale of love between Hawaiian queen Lili'uokalani and Prussian bandmaster Heinrich Berger, I half expected something torrid and over-the-top, like a Hawaiian-flavored "Fifty Shades of Grey." Instead, Tanaka gives us a compelling, apparently well-researched (sadly, there's no bibliography) and fully fleshed-out biography of Henri Berger, a musical genius who composed and arranged hundreds of Hawaiian music standards and preserved hundreds more native tunes for posterity.
Berger's time in Honolulu as leader of the Royal Hawaiian Band coincides with the most politically tumultuous decades in Hawaiian history. Tanaka explores the political history of the islands in detail as Berger interacts with all the major players and serves three kings, a queen, a provisional government, a republic, and finally a U.S. territory.
Tanaka is rather coy in is speculations about the relationship between Lili'uokalani and Berger. It seems like they hardly interact. The real focus of the novel is on the power of music. Every scenario in the book illustrates the Berger quote intoned in the preface, "The power of music melts hate and unites mankind." We see Berger's faith in this idea and the tangible effects of it in everything he does, as he transforms the lives of hardened young criminals, hopeless lepers, underprivileged school children, powerless native Hawaiians, and even the lovelorn Lili'uokalani.
Aside from providing an in-depth look at a fascinating historical figure, the real value of the book is to remind us of the transformative power of music....more