Everything is metaphor. Nothing is metaphor. Metaphor is reality. Murakami takes the reader on a surreal trip that will leave you breathless while alsEverything is metaphor. Nothing is metaphor. Metaphor is reality. Murakami takes the reader on a surreal trip that will leave you breathless while also leaving you to wonder what you missed.
Kafka on the Shore is, in part, a quest. Fifteen year old Kafka Tamura runs from home in order to pursue his past, to find his mother and sister who haven't been seen since he was a little boy, and to find out who he is apart from his father. His quest begins as he seeks for answers to his past, but at some point in the journey he realizes the futility of this and turns to pursue his future instead. The story alternates between Kafka and an elderly gentleman by the name of Mr. Nakata. Nakata wants to find the half of himself that was lost when he was a young boy during World War II. A mysterious event left Nakata unable to read, and in his own words, "not very bright." As he journeys, Nakata is not sure where he is going or what he is looking for, but intuits that he will know it when he sees it.
The mysterious event of World War II, which took a part of Mr. Nakata, remains a blurry element of the novel. It is never looked at directly, but is something that is seen in the "peripheral vision" and is similar to those things that, in the darkness, are better seen when looked at indirectly. Mr. Nakata can not remember what happened and suffers an amnesia that might be metaphor for a national amnesia surrounding the events of World War II. I am aware of the concept of national amnesia, but am hardly an expert in this area and so will leave this thought to be pursued by those better qualified.
Murakami is known for his use of magical realism, and Kafka on the Shore has plenty of opportunity for the reader to suspend his or her disbelief. Talking cats, fish raining from the sky, and appearances by Johnny Walker and Colonel Sanders should not surprise Murakami's readers. If this isn't enough to confuse many of us, Murakami also takes occasional jaunts into the metaphysical realm.
The novel is often confusing and requires the reader to simply follow where Murakami leads. The ending is ambiguous, but somehow the book makes sense without a coherent resolution. Murakami has written a novel that is hopeful and speaks of the human capacity to go forward and reach for that "brand-new world" that is constantly before us....more
Being only a few years older than Haven Kimmel and having lived in the same part of the country for part of my childhood was a large part of the reasoBeing only a few years older than Haven Kimmel and having lived in the same part of the country for part of my childhood was a large part of the reason I enjoyed this memoir of 1960s/1970s small town America. The fact that it was well written and humorous certainly added to my four star rating....more
Asleep is a collection of three short novellas, all of which focus on some aspect of death and also a sleeping, either literal or psychic, born of traAsleep is a collection of three short novellas, all of which focus on some aspect of death and also a sleeping, either literal or psychic, born of trauma.
"Night and Night's Travelers" is a tale of the literal death of one and the resulting temporary emotional death of another. The narrator is Shibami and she tells the story of her "vibrantly charismatic" brother Yoshihiro and her dreamy cousin Mari. Yoshihiro and Mari are not only cousins, but lovers. After Yoshihiro's death, Mari withdraws and enters a year of dreamlike fog and sleepwalking.
"Love Songs" tells of the haunting of one woman by another. Fumi has found herself at the end of an affair and drinking to excess. She often hears a "soothing voice singing." This voice belongs to Haru, a dead woman with whom Fumi once shared her ex-lover. Fumi is drawn to this voice from the beyond and, through consultation with a midget psychic, is able to meet with Haru. In life, the two women were in a relationship of bitter resentment and jealousy, yet in this meeting of life and afterlife they find peace and friendship.
"Asleep" is the story of Terako who shares the deep sleep of her lover's comatose wife. Mr. Iwanaga has an unusual effect on women ... he puts them to sleep. His wife is in a coma and his lover, Terako, becomes increasingly sleepy. As Terako separates herself from Mr. Iwanaga and creates her own life, she finds a new energy.
Supernatural occurrences seem natural throughout the stories in Asleep. The language is sparse, creating silences and the stories lack any attempt to draw the reader in emotionally. Yoshimoto's writing style reminded me of minimalist Japanese decor. The setting is sparse, but what is there is beautiful. The writing often seems like a prose version of haiku:
Late at night the trees in my garden seemed to shine. Awash in light from the street, the quiet glittering green of the leaves and the deep brown of the trunk seemed startlingly vivid.
Those looking for an exciting read will not find it in Asleep. What the reader will find is a quiet and beautiful collection of stories that take the vicissitudes of life in stride. ...more
Murder on the Eiffel Tower is a historical mystery set in Paris 1889 and is the first in a series featuring Parisian bookseller, Victor Legris. The EiMurder on the Eiffel Tower is a historical mystery set in Paris 1889 and is the first in a series featuring Parisian bookseller, Victor Legris. The Eiffel Tower has just opened during the World Exposition, and Legris finds himself in the midst of a series of mysterious deaths apparently caused by bee stings. The four victims do not appear to be connected and the deaths seem random, but Legris is intrigued by the oddness of the deaths and decides to investigate. As he looks more deeply into the matter, it becomes obvious that there is a serial killer on the loose and, unfortunately, Legris suspects his business partner and closest friend. The plot weaves in and out of the rather atmospheric setting as Legris pursues the murderer.
The historical backdrop of the 1889 World Exposition and 19th century period detail were, to me, the star attractions of the book. I was particularly fascinated by descriptions of 19th century French architecture. Legris was annoyingly dense as he repeatedly missed obvious clues that would identify the serial killer, and the other characters were rather poorly developed and not terribly memorable. The book was translated from the French and the writing seemed stilted at times. Perhaps the translation had something to do with my lack of enthusiasm.
Murder on the Eiffel Tower was, overall, a quick and enjoyable read that will appeal to those interested in the setting, but I did not find it compelling enough to pursue the series....more
First line: "When I was really young, if there was one thing I wanted in the world, it was to be invisible."
Jenny is a typical moody teenage girl whoFirst line: "When I was really young, if there was one thing I wanted in the world, it was to be invisible."
Jenny is a typical moody teenage girl who likes the fast pace of her New York City life. Jenny is underwhelmed when her mother accepts a marriage proposal from Evan, but the drama begins when her mother breaks the news that they will be moving to the English countryside to live with Evan and his two sons. To make things even worse, Mister Cat will be required to spend six months in quarantine when they arrive in England. These are, indeed, the things of teen angst.
Moving to the English countryside and living in a rundown manor with a new stepfather and stepbrothers is a challenge, but Jenny finds herself adjusting to this new life and even enjoying it at times. The manor is full of mystery for an inquisitive young girl and Jenny spends hours exploring the house and grounds. Her explorations are fun and harmless until the boggarts come out and Mr. Cat brings home a feline friend that is less than tangible.
England is an ancient land full of history and folklore and, apparently, supernatural beings. It is only a matter of time before Jenny meets Tamsin, a ghost who has haunted the manor for hundreds of years. It is in the discovery of Tamsin's past that the reader is exposed to such Dorset history and historical figures as the Bloody Assizes and Judge George Jeffreys. Jenny is fearless in the face of the supernatural and makes it her quest to solve the dark mystery behind Tamsin's inability to find peace.
Tamsin is an unusual blend of coming of age, fantasy, English history and ghost story. Beagle effortlessly and believably joins these elements into a charming whole that is sometimes moving and sometimes startling.
I'll leave you with my favorite passage. A passage that will be quite moving to anyone who has ever encountered the loss of a loved one ...
"Now, nothing - a kind of nothing I never knew existed, because you have to have lost something incredibly precious for that, and you have to have not quite known how precious it was."...more
One self-appointed charity Santa Claus seeking revenge, one confused pre-teen runaway, and plenty of Christmas atmosphere; it is an unexpected combinaOne self-appointed charity Santa Claus seeking revenge, one confused pre-teen runaway, and plenty of Christmas atmosphere; it is an unexpected combination of elements Stephen V. Masse uses to tell a story of love and redemption in his novel, A Jolly Good Fellow.
Duncan Wagner dislikes State Representative Win Booker. In fact, he dislikes the Representative enough to kidnap his 11-year old son, Gabriel, and hold the boy for ransom. Gabriel is unhappy. He is unhappy enough to run away from home. Out hitchhiking, Gabriel accepts a ride from Wagner. Has Gabriel been kidnapped or is he a runaway? This becomes a dilemma for Wagner as he finds himself with a rather willing "victim." In the days leading up to Christmas, these two lonely souls develop an unexpected friendship that is sometimes humorous and sometimes heart wrenching as they learn that they are not bound to lives of loneliness if they would simply reach out and grasp the love and friendship that others have offered.
I expected this novel to be driven by the suspense of the kidnapping. Instead, I found that the suspense was generated from within myself as I held out hope for these two lonely and broken characters; as I hoped that somehow they would each discover their way in a broken and imperfect world. What better story could there be at Christmas? ...more
Just when you think it can't get any worse ... it does. This novel is a great example of noir literature. It has the usual noir elements of darkness,Just when you think it can't get any worse ... it does. This novel is a great example of noir literature. It has the usual noir elements of darkness, despair, hopelessness and betrayal. Layered on top of this noir novel is a very black comedy of gender warfare.
A young mother, living in the Tokyo suburbs and working the night shift at a boxed lunch factory, wants out of her miserable marriage to a philandering and abusive husband. Her solution? Strangle him. Unfortunately, this solution creates a new problem ... a dead body that needs to disappear. Fortunately, this young mother has empathetic lady friends who are equally desperate to get "out" of their own miserable circumstances and are therefore willing to help dispose of the body.
Unfortunately for these ladies, they find that the nightmare has just begun and this one act has pulled them into the "violent underbelly of Japanese society." In usual noir-ish fashion, all does not end well and no solutions are offered to resolve the hostilities between the sexes.
This is not my favorite type of reading, but I thought the story was well done and was an excellent example of noir and black comedy. The translation, by Stephen Snyder, seemed extraordinarily good to me; I never once thought about the fact that I was reading the book in translation....more
White Nights follows Raven Black in the Shetland Islands Quartet, but it is not necessary to have read these books in order. I didn't feel that I wasWhite Nights follows Raven Black in the Shetland Islands Quartet, but it is not necessary to have read these books in order. I didn't feel that I was missing anything by skipping straight to book two.
I'm always curious about the titles of books and how they fit into the story. The phrase "white nights" refers to the constant daylight during the summer months in the extreme Northern hemisphere. Several characters mention the somewhat maddening and sleep disturbing effect that the lack of darkness has on some people and the reader is left to wonder if this will play into the murder mystery. White Nights is primarily a who-done-it that I found to be well crafted. I was not able to guess the identity of the murderer. The author did a wonderful job developing the story and keeping me in suspense. I was able to put a few pieces of the whole together before she revealed the identity and motivation of the murderer, but I did not guess the ultimate reveal ahead of time.
The characters in White Nights were developed well enough to make me care about them and I hope that some of them are/will be recurring in her other Shetland Island books. Beyond the mystery, the author brought up issues regarding the place of family, community and belonging that helped further connect me to the characters.
I was very satisfied by the atmosphere of the book. It reminded me somewhat of an Iris Murdoch novel that I read years ago (the title eludes me right now). The extreme Northern setting and harsh landscape of the Shetland Islands gave the novel an edge and a haunting quality that I thought suited the story as did the cloistered atmosphere of a small village where secrets are kept for many years.
I've already purchased Raven Black and will be running out to buy books three and four in this series when they become available. I highly recommend White Nights to mystery lovers and those who like atmospheric reads. ...more
Down to a Sunless Sea is a short story anthology by Mathias B. Freese that is truly sunless. The stories in this collection exude darkness as they delDown to a Sunless Sea is a short story anthology by Mathias B. Freese that is truly sunless. The stories in this collection exude darkness as they delve into the minds of disturbed souls. That the author is familiar with such human darkness is not surprising since he spent twenty-five years as a clinical social worker and psychotherapist. He doesn't offer answers or solutions to the problems that disturb humanity, but a sense of compassion for the damaged does come through as he refuses to look the other way and ignore the ugliness that is a part of life.
The format of the stories is not traditional, with beginnings and middles and ends, nor are they plot driven. Each story has its own style which is tailored to the telling of that story. As with even the most tragic things in life, humor can sometimes be found within the pages of Down to a Sunless Sea.
I've got two favorite stories from this collection, and true to my nature they include a touch of the humorous. I was reminded of the tendency of folk to fear the wrong things in "The Chatham Bear." As the residents of a small town run for their guns in order to defend themselves from a foraging bear that all but ignores them, these same townspeople don't even notice the human cruelty that confronts them on a daily basis.
I laughed as I recognized a bit of myself in the compulsive behavior of the character in "Little Errands." I admit that I too have opened the chute to the corner mailbox repeatedly just to make sure my letter did indeed drop down into the collection bin! Haven't you?
The stories were sometimes baffling and mostly sad. If you're looking for something light or "sunny" to read, then these stories are not for you; but if you don't mind looking at the darker side of the human psyche, then you will find Down to a Sunless Sea thought provoking.