Bought this in early 2000s and only got to reading it now. Japanese books, I feel, are very different in style to Western ones and I like the pacing a...moreBought this in early 2000s and only got to reading it now. Japanese books, I feel, are very different in style to Western ones and I like the pacing and the build-up of the book. I like how many Japanese authors leave their endings sort of open-ended and with a touch of apathy, hope and reflection all at once. Nothing overly dramatical, or climactic, it's all very slice-of-life, although God bless us enough so that such scenarios remain in fiction.
The descriptions of Kabuki-cho is still interesting even though it's written years ago; not sure how it's changed now, but the book did offer some unique perspectives on why some girls do enjo-kosai, even downright to the supposed 'viruses' around us.
The writing is economical but engaging enough that there's not a single dreary moment. What could've been better is probably a more directed allegory to the miso-soup thingy (since it's a soup with many ingredients blending together), instead of focusing just on a certain side of kabuki-cho. But given the length of the book, I suppose that's mixing in a bit too much. Is kabuki-cho really a mirror of miso soup? Is Japan? Are human societies so? Murakami-san might've been able to delve more on this aspect.
But overall, a fast-paced, entertaining read that ultimately leaves you to ponder on human society, culture and individual ingredients in a mixed-up soup.(less)
So despite its reputation I hadn't really known much about this except that some people love it and others hate it. I read this one every now and then...moreSo despite its reputation I hadn't really known much about this except that some people love it and others hate it. I read this one every now and then, mostly in between or during meals at home, sort of like TV dinners, but this being somewhat like a book breakfast/brunch/lunch. It's light enough to serve the purpose, it didn't annoy me, nor did it knock me off my meal chair, but surprisingly I really liked reading this. I don't like/hate Holden Caulfield per se, nor did I find his exploits particularly interesting, but reading his story was enjoyable.
My experience with this book was basically akin to sitting down to a meal with this Holden guy beside me, telling in between munches, what he'd probably tell for that oral expression class he mentioned. And although I'm sure the Mr Vilsons would approve of the "Digression!" retorts, to me I felt very much like what Holden stated he'd felt when listening to that classmate who started with some story about a farm but went on to speak of his uncle.
I have this American friend who I no longer keep in touch with much because she deleted her facebook account and only occasionally chats me up on googletalk (and I'm a lazyass in terms of keeping in touch with people unless I'm really close with them. I know, terrible. But I'm not sorry for it. Maybe I should?). She is very much like Holden, or rather Holden reminded me of her. She is nice and polite in front of people, and not because she's acting it, because she really does try to treat people nicely and sincerely. But also, every time she's with you, she'd discuss about other people with you and say mean things about them. Not because of a mean streak though; to her she's merely pointing out what she observes in people. She's not a misanthrope, but she's not overly social either. She likes to share: she'd openly marvel at some of your positive traits in front of you, and behind you she'd (also openly) point out your flaws when she's with others. Now perhaps this would be what is termed backstabbing, but then again it's not exactly that. She's not a backstabber (but she's not above being one, when the occasion calls, I guess). And the thing is, no matter the subject, she came up with the most amusing jabs. Oh, and she also constantly made jabs at herself, too. It's just her nature. So far, I don't know any instances where she'd talked bad about me from our other mutual friends, but then again I don't tell those same friends-whom she made acerbic comments out of-what she actually thought about them either. In any case, I wouldn't be too bothered about it. She has a blog which she updates infrequently but all the entries are hilarious, ranging from how ignorant people are about public toilets to her embarrassing relatives (yes they're not spared).
So yeah, this Caulfield guy is like her (to me). This writing, although you might argue (correctly, even!) that it's without coherence, plot, or meaning, was enjoyable to me; I don't know, maybe because I'm a voyeur? Or maybe I was in the 'right' mood when I read the book or something. I know of and have read some other works where the narrator tried to sound like they're the bomb and who probably thought their writing is much more meaningful and better than this work and way cooler with intricate plots and character portrayals and whatnots. But you know, they came across as if they're trying too hard, or just pretentious or downright boring. Holden on the other hand, he might have raised much ado about nothing, but reading about his story was enjoyable nonetheless. He came across as authentic, not trying to be cool or anything (well he admits to those if he did). He's not exactly adorable but he's honest with his reactions if not his emotions (more honest than my friend at least - Holden wouldn't talk bad about you only behind your back but also in your face I suppose) and not in the I-can't-be-bothered-about-anything way that is Clay from Less Than Zero. He had his nice moments too, and he likes children, even though he might not think he does. I don't really care if this book is deemed worthy of a classic or not, because those conventions are only worthy to take note of when you're in school and you've got a classics reading list (some entries will inadvertently baffle you on the reasoning for their inclusion other than the educators' intent to torture you) or when the bookstore is having discounts on classics and you happened to want to buy one which is not, and you'd hoped that book had been a classic too (dang those people who decide on these things! oh, and time is guilty as well).
Anyway, where was I? Oh right. Reading The Cather in the Rye was an experience; as close as a narration could be to having my aforementioned friend spill amusing observations about our other friends, even though this was written ages ago. It'd probably definitely make for boring TV, but I always enjoy listening to my friends doing their Simon Cowell thing and I myself sometimes have thoughts about people around me that are far from mature or scholarly (not that I think I'm very mature or scholarly). Those things have a tendency of starting from nowhere and ending just as abruptly. The conversation might be forgettable even but sometime much later, surprisingly you'd apply something you'd learnt from it, often subconsciously too. And with time you'd deem those earlier conversations stupid and would've thought you're no longer that naive and would have more meaningful conversations when in fact you'd be having just another type of conversation that in time you'd have the same opinion of. Then you'd realise the most naive conversations were really the ones that carry importance, brought to light courtesy of time and hindsight.
From my time 'listening' to Holden I'll pray and hope he grows up to be that creative and scholarly guy. But he could live in his cabin too if that's his choice, that's cool by me. Or would he remember about wanting to become the catcher in the rye? That'd be living humbly for a worthy cause to me.
This book is an easy read and can be finished in one sitting. The writer is very obviously a journalist and not a novelist, as chapters and rhythm get...moreThis book is an easy read and can be finished in one sitting. The writer is very obviously a journalist and not a novelist, as chapters and rhythm get interrupted every now and then with anecdotes and additional information. Consequently there is minimum drama when you consider what was actually being described and for better or for worse, you don't get to be as emotionally engaged as when you read some other prison books. Technically, I suppose this would work better as a series of articles rather than a book.
That being said, it is also an easy read in another sense; it's easy to be absorbed into this other world that seems to be a real-life Animal Farm. It's easy to be shocked and disgusted by how those in power and how the common people in North Korea even, by lieu of their environment, behave and treat other human beings.
And all too easily, we can slip right back into our comfortable surroundings, where we take many things for granted. Just as easy is how we can forget about other human beings that are still living in inhumane conditions, not just in Camp 14, but throughout North Korea, and in other forsaken places.
I myself would readily admit that while I felt grateful for being where I am after reading this, and while the book triggered many emotions, those were passing ones. It's easy to judge, empathise or give opinions when I'm far away, safe and detached.
And perhaps it's also easy for people to point fingers and say, people are unfeeling and unwilling to lend a helping hand. But most people are not all emotionless, and those who need help aren't exactly the nicest people. It's just that normal human beings have a relatively low threshold in caring for others who pose a threat to their own well-being. The logic is you can't take care of others if you yourself are compromised. Oxygen mask theory.
But even as it's easy to sweep things under the rug because you either can't be bothered or feel that nothing you could do would change things, it doesn't change the fact that a place such as Camp 14 exists, and this is what the book did well in describing. At the very least, with this story out, ignorance should not be made the norm.
The book also reveals how an escape is never really an escape but rather a chance to adapt to a new opportunity; if you take it well you survive, if you don't you simply have landed yourself in another cage.
Is your cage good enough to be called home, or do you dream of the great escape? May we all find and reach our goal, and be in the place where we long to and rightfully belong.
Deep in the underground of our souls, what gives? If the autistic (but lucid) part of me were to be given an automatic mouthpiece broadcasting my twee...moreDeep in the underground of our souls, what gives? If the autistic (but lucid) part of me were to be given an automatic mouthpiece broadcasting my tweets every other minute, my mumblings would probably echo that of Notes.
Hmm, not making any sense, am I? Precisely the point; because when is human nature ever completely rational? Even as we possess all the wisdom or know all the logic of things, we snowflakes lack the psychological (and sometimes physical, too) control to be fully compliant to sense; rather our senses, when heightened, might even make us nonsensical. Perhaps this is what results from the bite of apple that Eve took in Eden. In exchange for knowledge and loftiness, we trade ignorant bliss.
I cannot exactly pinpoint what makes this amazing, except that precisely because it is roguish (to borrow an analogy from the book) that it is arresting. It is in using the antithesis that a hypothesis is most commonly proven, is it not? Blending hyperboles, contrition, idealism, reality, critical thought, intent and action dissonance, consciousness, 'flow' and moralities, among others, the narrator is at once the romanticist in terms of placing oneself at the centre of the universe, whereby the world turns by one's actions and thought, but at the same time the nihilist who couldn't give a damn to actually executing anything consequential (because he gives too much of a damn over inconsequential things).
In this outpouring of the consciousness, maybe the narrator was egging us all to be his antithesis and launch into action, to take off from the underground as a start from the end in Notes. Regardless whether we prefer 'lofty suffering' underground (but in doing so avoids the very heavy and real burden of facing reality and taking action to address it) or 'cheap happiness' (which is in fact obtained through costly means of, again, stepping out and taking responsibility), whereby these notions of weights were simply means of justifying oneself, this laying down of opinion and justifications mirrors man's need to be heard.
As much as there is rottenness in us, there seems to exist the intrinsic need to pour out our confessions, in order to expose our underground dirt; and in admittance, irrevocably prove that we are really creatures of light, with nothing to hide. (less)
Truman Capote's writing style is whimsical, concise and is in itself a personification of the Holiday Golightly character itself; that's how awesome I...moreTruman Capote's writing style is whimsical, concise and is in itself a personification of the Holiday Golightly character itself; that's how awesome I think it is.
While I've not watched the film (I'm going to! One day...), reading this inadvertently brought up the iconic Audrey Hepburn image since I'd come across it so many times before. I read through some reviews saying that the film and book characters are vastly different and strangely, although I'd normally be annoyed at a character like Holly, I can't help but be charmed (or more accurately, amused) by her as well.
Capote's characters are non-apologetic, very real and very fluffy too, with many subtleties thrown in by the author seemingly for each reader to take away this story and the characters in it as they see fit, just like how Holly fashioned herself to appeal to the company she keeps.
The story just seems perfect in its execution, and a testament to Capote's deft imagination and artistry. Reading this, I felt like I was travelling on a holiday to old New York, going ever so lightly, and probably this is the feeling described by Holly as being in Tiffany's; as the reader is immersed in this journey, by the end of the novel, they would probably, like 'Fred/Buster', hope that Holly, too, had found her place of belonging. I'm going to read more of his works definitely :)(less)
First thoughts: well-written slice-of-life story but the characters felt a tad too stereotypical and predictable. I like the tiny details describing t...moreFirst thoughts: well-written slice-of-life story but the characters felt a tad too stereotypical and predictable. I like the tiny details describing the city and its people, although on occasions they were superfluous and bordering on purple - ok not purple, maybe cobalt blue. In the end, it felt like watching a Chinese arthouse film with a coherent plot (pretty slow burning though) and somewhat interesting characters but not ones that imprint themselves on you or leave you with something new or stimulating to chew on.
It's a fun book, an original narrative albeit littered with some awkward moments. Cassandra Clare meets Chucky meets Red Dragon and then some. I liked...moreIt's a fun book, an original narrative albeit littered with some awkward moments. Cassandra Clare meets Chucky meets Red Dragon and then some. I liked the 1920s set up, although I felt this could do less with the stereotypes that abound (mostly on how certain characters look, behave and speak). I didn't mind the length and I thought in general the author structured the various narrative pieces well.
Evie is entertaining and a fun heroine but one that seems too neatly fitted to the ditzy flapper stereotype. Having known several socialites with Evie's demeanour I found her hard to empathise with, even with her baggage that probably influenced how she turned out the way she is. Kindness? It's basically all self-interest or condescension.
But all these flaws didn't get in the way of the story and they made her less of a Mary Sue (even though some of the ways she 'overcame' obstacles required a bit of belief suspension) so all is ok (I don't like how the story 'forgives' her and praises her in spite of her flaws though. It's like the book is saying to the reader, 'Love this character! Isn't she the cat's pajamas?'). On the plus side, there's character development, especially towards the end. Sam's storyline in particular piqued my interest.
Looking forward to the sequel, if only to return to the roaring twenties. More to the review when I have the time.(less)
I think Dan Rhodes is in love with the idea of love, but I wonder if he's in love himself or if he loves love.
Like a curator, he presents these little...moreI think Dan Rhodes is in love with the idea of love, but I wonder if he's in love himself or if he loves love.
Like a curator, he presents these little exhibits of people in love to illustrate love. For the visitors, I suppose one can only feel love insomuch as one imagines love to be or superimpose their own experience onto the snippets offered by these one-shots.
While the collection is entertaining, whether any of these are actually 'true love' stories or 'true' love stories is open to interpretation. They felt neither to me. I have yet to truly know love or know true love of the romantic kind to be anything other than an amused voyeur to what I think are impressions of love. Like art is to life, impressions may well emulate love; but also like life, love is best alive, outside of curations of art or impressions.(less)