The premise to Battle Royale is irresistible: a futuristic Japanese government holds an annual “Program” in which a selected junior high class is takeThe premise to Battle Royale is irresistible: a futuristic Japanese government holds an annual “Program” in which a selected junior high class is taken to an island and the kids must kill each other off until there’s a winner. Each of this year’s 42 students is given a backpack with food, water, and a random weapon (guns for some, a fork for another). And suddenly you can’t *really* trust anyone, not even your closest friends.
The book is wildly entertaining, not only in its intricate plot but the way it manages to make each student distinct. Some of them Takami focuses on for us to get attached to, and still not know what the fate of the characters may be from page to page. It’s the type of book that could have been predictable, yet never was, at least for me. The only negative factor was the frequent hokey dialogue (e.g., “You’re the most stylin’ girl I’ve ever known!”), which could have been due to translation, but at least it gave some comic relief. ...more
Beauty and Sadness tells of how people damage one another--through greed, seduction, and even through art. All of the characters in this look are maniBeauty and Sadness tells of how people damage one another--through greed, seduction, and even through art. All of the characters in this look are manipulative to a certain degree, even our favorites. One of the characters was so blatently irrational that I couldn't tell if Kawabata meant for her to be a farse.
It's the type of book that I appreciate more after I've read it and start thinking about it, rather than during. I know in the future certain scenes or quotes will pop into my mind.
A defining characteristic of Kawabata is how he evokes feelings of isolation and sadness through his landscapes and descriptions of natural settings. Though he might go overboard at times with this, when it's done just right it can be extremely powerful. ...more
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'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'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. ...more
Murakami is a master of the "series of bizarre events unraveling upon an average Joe" story, and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is one of his most complexMurakami is a master of the "series of bizarre events unraveling upon an average Joe" story, and The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is one of his most complex tales. Each chapter is beautiful, strange, and engaging, fueling the imagination and stirring the curiosity.
For Toru Okada, life has been mostly simple and convenient. But he begins to receive a series of suggestive phone calls from a stranger. Then his wife leaves him, and things become more random and unpredictable, particularly in the people he meets. After a visitor (a veteran who is a friend of an old friend) describes the experience of being a prisoner in a well, the concept of a well has an alluring quality to Toru--so much that he ventures to the bottom of a dry well in a neighboring vacant mystery lot. This well becomes a basis of the story, as it seems to unleash a metaphysical force in Toru's world.
This novel won't gel well with people who need their stories to make perfect sense and have all loose ties connected at the end. While events of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle are all linked, they don't fit together as perfect puzzle pieces. His style is sometimes compared to a David Lynch film in this sense. For me, this is part of Murakami's appeal. You're presented with the scenarios, characters come and go, and though the end may not be a digestible conclusion, it's always satisfying. ...more
Murakami's South of the Border, West of the Sun chronicles the very extent of human desire. How even with time and absence, a human spirit can be drawMurakami's South of the Border, West of the Sun chronicles the very extent of human desire. How even with time and absence, a human spirit can be drawn to another with such great force that the novel's protagonist, Hajime, is willing to risk everything to "have" a woman. It's a beautifully written and memorable piece of work, with Murakami having the ability to put abstract concepts into such elegant and tangible prose.
It begins with Hajime's narrative of his childhood, where he spends hours with his childhood friend Shimamoto. Shimamoto is a precocious girl with polio-sourced limp (traits that continue to draw Hajime even into adulthood). A type of attraction exists between the two than only reaches the extent of a youthful crush, bound with curiosity and confusion. They lose contact once they begin attending separate junior highs, and eventually Hajime begins dating Izume, who he betrays. Into middle-age, these two women--Shimamoto and Izume--remain ever-present in Hajime's mind, and even show up literally in haunting and unexpected ways. But it's Shimamoto that grasps his psyche and determines his fate.
For me, the highlights of South of the Border, West of the Sun are its intimate moments. Not always intimate in a sexual sense, but evocative interactions between two characters. Hajime's life feels so real and honest. Is the thing that destroys him really a tragic flaw, or is it a trait inherent in everyone, just waiting to act out in the right moment? This is a quick read, but it manages to be intense and complex nonetheless. ...more
I absolutely adore Murakami's way of creating bizarre incidents that aren't necessarily explained or tied together nicely like a typical mystery novelI absolutely adore Murakami's way of creating bizarre incidents that aren't necessarily explained or tied together nicely like a typical mystery novel. Mind and reality clash in his works, and Dance, Dance, Dance is one of his most fascinating journeys of this clash.
The story centers around a place: a hotel that was once charmingly seedy but has undergone a complete transformation. When the protagonist tries to figure out what happened to the hotel's former existence, people get nervous. Remnants of the past and fragments of another reality seem to exist within the hotel. The main character develops three relationships with the book: one with the hotel's receptionist, one with a young girl, and one with a man from his high school who is now a famous movie star--each relationship gives bits of insight into the novel's design.
Dance, Dance, Dance is funny, surreal, and forceful. I didn't realize it was actually a sequel until after I read it, so I'm out to buy A Wild Sheep Chase next! ...more
Kobo Abe’s last novel feels like the Alice in Wonderland of a middle-aged man. When radish sprouts begin growing from the narrator’s legs, he seeks heKobo Abe’s last novel feels like the Alice in Wonderland of a middle-aged man. When radish sprouts begin growing from the narrator’s legs, he seeks help at a hospital, where his bed suddenly takes him for a wild ride into a world of hallucinations.
The book’s title stems from a mock business proposal in which our narrator randomly wrote down the words “Kangaroo Notebook” and was eagerly met by his associates to develop the idea of this notebook. Throughout the story pop in images of marsupials. More vivid are the death-themed deliriums, especially when the narrator floats into an underworld that consists of demon-children in limbo who are chanting for help—turns out, even more bizarrely, that their chanting is a sort of sketch put on for tourists. Throughout his surreal journey, he keeps getting “saved” by the woman who was his original nurse at the hospital, though she pops into the book in different personas.
Kangaroo Notebook is a novel of atmosphere and description. Its symbolism is open for interpretation—you can either read it for its entertainment value without trying to overanalyze it, or you can treat it like a puzzle, deciphering every event’s symbolic meaning. For me it was a combination. I was taken by the premise, though not entirely absorbed. ...more
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 aWhy 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. ...more
This is the first Murakami book that I didn’t quite “get.” But I still enjoyed the scenes and concepts and imagery…the story just didn’t piece togetheThis is the first Murakami book that I didn’t quite “get.” But I still enjoyed the scenes and concepts and imagery…the story just didn’t piece together as well for me as I felt it was supposed to.
In the novel, the narrator literally goes on a Wild Sheep Chase; he's reveives an unusual visitor who demands it upon him. Supposedly, a star-marked sheep found in a distant pasture has interacted with a political figure, posessing him. And this particular sheep was captured in a photograph that the narrator had unknowingly used in an advertisement.
It was an interesting read since I’d accidentally read the sequel (Dance Dance Dance) first, not realizing it was a sequel. So if gave me a different insight into the references of Dance Dance Dance. ...more