This is a book about the sarin gas attacks in the Tokyo underground in 1995. It was carried out by a group called Aum Shinrikyo, a Japanese doomsday cThis is a book about the sarin gas attacks in the Tokyo underground in 1995. It was carried out by a group called Aum Shinrikyo, a Japanese doomsday cult. The attack killed 12 people and injured over 1000, some quite seriously. Haruki Murakami is a well-known Japanese fiction writer, and he brings a sensitivity and a dignity to his interviews of those who experienced the attacks. The Japanese mindset and culture are deeply a part of this narrative, and I found the accounts fascinating....more
I finished this book about 48 hours ago, and I’m having difficulty writing a review. It’s a long and detailed story, and, as with much of Murakami’s wI finished this book about 48 hours ago, and I’m having difficulty writing a review. It’s a long and detailed story, and, as with much of Murakami’s work, it isn’t readily apparent exactly what it means. The book has many of the themes I’ve come to expect from Murakami: the ultimate loneliness and isolation of the individual; the interplay between light, dark and shadow; what exactly constitutes memory and reality; how can one explore the great sea of the unconscious. I found the story to be complicated and disjointed at times. I even sought out a guide to the book:Haruki Murakami's The Wind-up Bird Chronicle: A Reader's Guide and I found it helpful, but I ended up finding my own meanings in the book. One comment I found especially cogent is when the author, quoting David Mathew from a review Mathew wrote:
This is a novel which endeavours to explain what it is to be a young man with a flexible approach to his own life: will life break him or merely bend him? What happens when routine is abolished? What does it mean to be alone?
… the text is frequently meandering, occasionally baffling, repetitive or overwritten… (the book) is, by and large, a walk around the lead character’s brain, and some of it is disorganized, some of it is unwanted ephemera.
…the inner mind is not a well-organized machine, but a place of dark, disturbing forces, containing the roots of identity, but also the potential for madness. How can one really discuss such chaos in concrete logical terms, much less expect a well-reasoned conclusion?
I’m glad I read this book. I found it fascinating and frustrating. I think it helps me understand Murakami, the author, and I can kind of see where it falls in the analysis of his body of work. I would not recommend reading this book as an introduction to Murakami, but if you’re a fan of his work, this novel is a must-read. ...more
I greatly enjoyed this collection of 7 short stories by the Canadian author Rebecca Lee. Several of the stories take place in academe, an area she wriI greatly enjoyed this collection of 7 short stories by the Canadian author Rebecca Lee. Several of the stories take place in academe, an area she writes about with both grace and authority. She also writes with humor and understanding, and her characters are very real and human to me. A quite enjoyable read....more
This book by Haruki Murakami was written in 2004, and it follows characters through a long night in Tokyo from midnight until dawn. The city is almostThis book by Haruki Murakami was written in 2004, and it follows characters through a long night in Tokyo from midnight until dawn. The city is almost another character in the story.
...the city looks like a single gigantic creature--or more like a single collective entity created by many intertwining organisms. countless arteries stretch to the ends of its elusive body, circulating a continuous supply of fresh blood cells, sending out new data and collecting the old, sending out new consumables and collecting the old, sending out new contradictions and collecting the old. To the rhythm of its pulsing, all parts of the body flicker and flare up and squirm. Midnight is approaching, and while the peak of activity has passed, the basal metabolism that maintains life continue undiminished, producing the basso continuo of the city's moan, a monotonous sound that neither rises nor falls but is pregnant with foreboding.
The story follows characters including 2 young sisters and the young man they know. a Tokyo businessman working late hours, the employees of a "love hotel," and a Chinese prostitute. Murakami addresses themes like the meaning of time, the nature of memory, the difference between thought and action, the loneliness and isolation that can occur in a big city. The writing is excellent and the story intriguing.I'm a huge fan of Haruki Murakami, and this book cemented that feeling....more
Suki Kim is a young woman who spent time as a teacher in North Korea. She lived in South Korea until she was 13 years old, at which time she came to tSuki Kim is a young woman who spent time as a teacher in North Korea. She lived in South Korea until she was 13 years old, at which time she came to the USA. Her students in North Korea were the sons of the elite and powerful men, those who were in total control of the country. This book is a scathing portrait of the oppression and privation of the average citizen of North Korea. The children are brainwashed to view America as the enemy and North Korea as a perfect society envied by the whole world. In fact, 80% of its people experience food shortages and hunger. North Korea is a closed country. People who try to defect are executed. There is almost no sense of identity as a single person. Everything is done in groups, and there is always someone watching. Citizens are encouraged to inform on each other. The book is quite interesting, the writing is good, and the story is certainly topical. ...more
**spoiler alert** This is the second of three novels that Patricia Highsmith wrote about the character Thomas Ripley. We learned in the first book tha**spoiler alert** This is the second of three novels that Patricia Highsmith wrote about the character Thomas Ripley. We learned in the first book that Ripley is a murderer, and he becomes mixed up in another crime in this book. Highsmith's writing is good and the story is quite believable. The characters are complex and interesting. A very enjoyable read....more
This collection of 17 short stories was written between 1980 and 1991, and they encompass everything I like about Murakami. The stories are unusual anThis collection of 17 short stories was written between 1980 and 1991, and they encompass everything I like about Murakami. The stories are unusual and thoughtful. You have to be willing to enter his world and suspend disbelief, and if you can do that the rewards are great. I like Murakami's use of Western ideas and icons, which he writes as a foil against Japanese norms. The themes of the stories are Murakami standards: the isolation and alienation of modern man trying to make a life in the city, and the confusion and loneliness that so many people feel. For example:
Our city, these streets. I don't know why it makes me so depressed. That old familiar gloom that befalls the city dweller, regular as due dates, cloudy as mental Jell-O. The dirty facades, the nameless crowds, the unremitting noise, the packed rush-hour trains, the gray skies, the billbboards on every square centimeter of available everywhere, infinite options, infinite possiblities. An infinity, and at the same time, zero. We try to scoop it all up in our hands, and what we get is a handful of zero. That's the city.
There are lots of things we never understand, no matter how many years we put on, no matter how much experience we accumulate.
This was a rich and satisfying reading experience for me....more
This is an interesting and thoughtful book about the reading experience. John Freeman did interviews with a wide range of novelists over a period of sThis is an interesting and thoughtful book about the reading experience. John Freeman did interviews with a wide range of novelists over a period of several years. He does a short summary of each writer and his/her major works. He then enters a discussion about a wide range of ideas: what is the creative urge and how is it expressed; what is the relationship between the writer and the reader; how has the author's work changed over time. Some of the writers he interviewed have died in the period since the interview and the publication of the book. Some authors included are Doris Lessing, Amy Tan, Margaret Atwood, John Irving, Haruki Murakami, John Updike, David Foster Wallace...and I could go on. I enjoyed this book a lot, and I came away with a huge list of writers whose work I want to explore more deeply....more