Why does Haruki Murakami hit the spot so well for me, and for thousands of other readers worldwide? There's a common element in all his works; it's a...moreWhy does Haruki Murakami hit the spot so well for me, and for thousands of other readers worldwide? There's a common element in all his works; it's a bridge of fantasy and reality that has just the right delicate balance. There's something about that balance that's so mesmerizing. You can connect with it on a level that you can’t in pure fantasy, and there’s enough of a disconnect from solid reality to leave you in wonder. Of all the other writers that have been categorized as magical realism that I’ve read, Murakami is the one who masters this style the finest.
Sputnik Sweetheart is the type of book that I pick up from my nightstand a Saturday morning right after I wake up, and read it until the last page, sometime early in the afternoon. The voice, the prose, the mystery…it’s all AMAZING.
It's a story of an unconventional love triangle between the narrator, a young woman he loves, and the woman she loves, who doesn't have a drive for anyone. Bizzare things happen when the two women (the younger is the personal assistant of the older) go overseas for business and end up extending their stay on a Greek Island. The novel explores the concept of the "other side"; in terms of language and writing, in terms of being. (less)
Lamb is the warmest piece of humor writing I’ve read. What happened to that huge gap between baby Jesus and adult Jesus? Moore gives an adventurous f...more Lamb is the warmest piece of humor writing I’ve read. What happened to that huge gap between baby Jesus and adult Jesus? Moore gives an adventurous fictional version of these childhood, adolescent, and teen years, as told by Levi of Nazareth (known as Biff).
Biff tells the story in modern time, under the premise that he was resurrected by the angel Raziel to fill in the missing pieces of the gospel. The two stay in a motel while Raziel marvels at soap operas and Spiderman, and Biff sneaks the Bible into the bathroom, only to find out that he was conveniently left out of its pages. He recounts his journey along the Silk Road with Jesus (known in the book as Joshua), as the two take on a quest to get Christ “trained.” The training includes courses from China and India’s greatest religious leaders in spirituality and self-discipline. Both boys are shrewd in their own ways, and though Biff is quick to sin, Joshua only seeks to understand the nature of sin. He heals those who try to kill him and befriends all.
The best thing about the book is the way it humanizes Jesus—you get so attached to him as this gentle and often vulnerable guy. It’s the type of work that should appeal to anyone, despite religious backgrounds and beliefs…seriously, you’d have to be a real dried up fruit to get offended or deem Lamb as blasphemy. Lamb is filled with wit and heart, and I’m looking forward to reading more Moore.
Wow wow wow wow wow. Requiem for a Dream manages to be so painful and beautiful at the same time. Although I'd seen the film before I read this book a...moreWow wow wow wow wow. Requiem for a Dream manages to be so painful and beautiful at the same time. Although I'd seen the film before I read this book and knew the fate of the characters, I was still following their paths with such anxiety and hope. It's an account of people who dream big but lose much bigger.
It follows four characters in the Bronx. There's Sarah, a widow who spends her days living vicariously through her television while eating boxed chocolates. On the warm days, she joins her lifelong neighbors for chatting and sunbathing outdoors. When she receives a phone call informing her that she's been specially selected to participate in a new game show, her heart swells with anticipation. She recovers her red dress from her glory years, gets her hair colored a matching blaze, and begins obsessively dieting in order to fit into the dress once again, imagining herself being admired on TV and being the envy of the block. Sarah's son Harry, along with his best friend Tyrone and girlfriend Marion, are meanwhile doing some serious summer partying. Harry and Tyrone begin dealing heroin (plotting to score the pure stuff), and bringing in big bucks at first until the supply and demand of the streets catches up with them in the following winter months. Harry and Marion, who were once planning on taking the drug money and opening an artsy coffee shop, soon see their aspirations fade away. As their addictions worsen they become more and more desperate for a fix, going to extreme lengths they would have never stooped to in their purer days. Sarah remains on a parallel downward spiral, going back and forth between uppers and downers, practically oblivious to the devastating effects the pills are having on her health.
Selby's depictions of the 80s south Bronx are nightmarish--corpses in abandoned buildings, addicts faking each other out just so their lives can be spared. The writing style itself lends to atypical punctuation, marathon sentences, and street dialect, yet the style doesn't detract from the book's readability. The descriptions and the careful layering of the book's events will leave readers cringing as their hearts break for these characters.
The characters experience little warmth from the outside world of hospitals, medical clinics, and jails. While their need to be saved is so obvious, Selby paints a system that methodically grinds their faces in the dirt, whether it be to prejudice, profit, or just general apathy.
In the preface Selby states that "the book is about four individuals who pursued the American Dream, and the results of their pursuit." He ends the preface with: "Unfortunately, I suspect there never will be a requiem for the Dream, simply because it will destroy us before we have the opportunity to mourn its passing. Perhaps time will prove me wrong. As Mr. Hemingway said, 'Isn't it pretty to think so?'" (less)
The Fifth Child is a delightfully haunting little piece of literature that questions the nature of the family/family values on several levels. Though...moreThe Fifth Child is a delightfully haunting little piece of literature that questions the nature of the family/family values on several levels. Though Doris Lessing often takes the tone of a children's story, the vocabulary and themes of The Fifth Child make it an experience intended for adults.
Harriet and David, with old-fashioned style and old-fashioned (and naive) dreams, set out to buy a large Victorian home and fill it with happy children. They accomplish this a little sooner than planned, as Harriet keeps becoming pregnant before recovering from the last childbirth. Then the fifth child comes along, which--Harriet eventually assumes--must be from a race of the past, a vehement little beast with abnormal strength. It then becomes a story of how baby Ben affects the family and Harriet's sanity. Harriet's internal struggles are endless, as she must somehow distribute her attention to all her children while controlling Ben, decide whether or not to send him to an institution, and deal with consequences of her supposedly moral choices. Her regular doctor and a new doctor both make her feel that Ben is "completely normal" and that she is the one with the problem, while Harriet insists that she's done everything she can to nurture and love him. Who is right?
The book presents an irony (I won't reveal too much) that deals with the attempt to save someone, only to have that person turn into a destructor; so as a result, you preserve one life but ruin many. Lessing tells the story with charm and force, and I'm looking forward to reading the sequel. (less)
How to Be Lost grabbed my attention from the first sentence and absorbed it until the last. It's rare that I claim I "can't tear myself away" from a b...moreHow to Be Lost grabbed my attention from the first sentence and absorbed it until the last. It's rare that I claim I "can't tear myself away" from a book, but this one was amazing. It's touching, funny, and the characters are memorable. In part it's a chronicle of finding a lost sister, and in part it's a self-reflection of the protagonist. The structure is unconventional, which may confuse readers at first but ends up making sense. Amanda Eyre Ward doesn't attempt to mold fanciful endings, but rather leaves some mysteries in the air. (less)
Absorbing and experimental, Lunar Park is a fusion of memoir and illusion. The best park of this is the difference is unclear. The narrator (Ellis him...moreAbsorbing and experimental, Lunar Park is a fusion of memoir and illusion. The best park of this is the difference is unclear. The narrator (Ellis himself) is unreliable--not necessarily because he's lying to us, but because he is so haunted that his delusions are questionable. This sort of balance provides the most gripping of horror stories, making Lunar Park a true gem. I won't be so quick to categorize this in the horror genre, though. Reviewers seem to place it in the likes of a Stephen King novel, and while there might be similarities, the style is a completely different approach.
In the beginning, Ellis recollects his past, much of which is a blur of fame and drugs. He references his previous works--not because he's promoting them, but because they frame and reflect his life. Part of the novel's design is Bret Easton Ellis as a writer vs. his other identities, with the writer side wanting to create and the other side just striving to be good. The book shifts into the present, where Ellis marries the mother of his son and begins a suburban life. This new life, while ideal on the outside, is tortured with ghosts and mysteries. Local boys are missing. A toy seems to come to life. Someone keeps rearranging his furniture. He's getting blank bank statements at the same time of night that his father passed away.
One challenge for any writer is to make the reader interested in extremely flawed characters, or to root for the bad guy. Bret Easton Ellis is an expert at this. He doesn't try to paint a charming reflection of himself; he lets you know that he's been selfish, irresponsible, and pretentious. Yet the character is so interesting that you want to read about him and be on his side. (less)
No wonder Kafka on the Shore was on the New York Times "10 Best Books of 2005" list. It's one of the most engaging and magical pieces of literature I'...moreNo wonder Kafka on the Shore was on the New York Times "10 Best Books of 2005" list. It's one of the most engaging and magical pieces of literature I've read. Reality is unclear. The book presses the boundaries of what exists around the characters versus what exists in their minds. Powerful forces guide the characters--some known, some unknown. Odd things happen within the context of everyday Japan. Mackarel rains from the sky. A metaphysical overseer appears under the guise of Colonel Sanders; a villian under the guise of Johnny Walker. The forest contains ghosts. Everyday objects suddenly take on supernatural functions.
Fifteen-year-old Kafka Tamura runs away from home and finds himself in Takamastu, where he discovers a charming, privately owned public library to spend his days until things get complicated. Turns out the events in his life--and possibly even his body--is intralinked with a man named Nakata. When Nakata was a child during World War II, a mysterious force in a field put him and several other schoolchildren in a coma, but Nakata's mind was the only one erased entirely. As an adult, though mentally challenged, he has the ability to communicate with cats (along with several other larger-than-life talents). Surreal forces draw Nakata, all which relate to Kafka Tamura's world.
The desk assistant at the library, who immediately befriends Kafka, often references mythology--these references all end up being manifestations of the characters and the plot itself. Because of this, in many ways the book mirrors the spirit of Franz Kafta's works(how intentional these associations are by Murakami, I'm not sure).
I was drawn to this book for the mood that it presented. It opened my imagination and set my spirit spinning with possibilities and ideas. It's rare to find a story with this effect. The prose, as always by Murakami, grabs you from the get-go--it's charming, smooth, and intelligent without being pretentious. An amazing read. (less)
While I sometimes call BS on Chuck Klosterman's assertions, he explores topics in ways that are so fascinating, insightful, clever, and downright ente...moreWhile I sometimes call BS on Chuck Klosterman's assertions, he explores topics in ways that are so fascinating, insightful, clever, and downright entertaining that this is still easily a 5-star read for me, despite Klosterman's occasional flawed logic and forced parallels. After finishing Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, I was craving more of him and wanting to find every single published essay of his. I was sold in the first few pages, when he discussed ways in which movie characters set unrealistic expectations for romantic partners--not a novel idea, but the way he drew in references from John Cusack's Lloyd Dobler character, along with Woody Allen films, was hilarious and provided a lot of "aha" moments for me.
In several of the essays, he tackles different forms of "low-brow" entertainment and illustrates ways in which it resonates with people. For instance, how The Sims makes us reflect on our own lives the same way high-regarded art is supposed to; how we become emotionally attached to characters of The Real World, even though they are stereotypes; and how the lyrics of Dixie Chicks and Trisha Yearwood carve meaningful experiences in our minds much more so than other types of musicians. Similarly, he illustrates ways in which reality gets oddly conveyed in entertainment and the great lengths we're willing to do to suspend our disbelief (such as dissecting the "Tori paradox" from Saved by the Bell). He also rants about soccer and provides an amusing essay about the Celtics-Lakers rivalry, arguing that it represents far more than just basketball.
Whether or not I was familiar with the topics he covered, I found Klosterman's humor and writing style so engaging that I wanted to see how he approached everything, including the subject matter that normally doesn't interest me (which to me is the mark of a truly great essayist). His astute observations and his way of drawing together references make me think about the topics in detail long after putting down the book. I will probably annoy my friends in the next couple weeks by making too many references to this book.(less)