Discussion · Japanese Literature · review · Review Copy

Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

Men Without Women

Hardcover, 224 pages
Published May 9th 2017 by Doubleday Canada
Source: Publisher

There’s something about the way Murakami tells a story. I know I have whined on occasion about his habit of detail, his fascination with cats and ears, and the way his characters always seem to be stir-frying vegetables or making pasta but there’s something about the way he tells a story that not many people do. I don’t know if it’s because they are emotionally resonant even when the protagonist is strange in a much stranger world or because there’s an honesty, a truth, inherent in his fiction but I am unable to resist his books.

By his own admission, Murakami prefers writing short stories to novels and my goodness, he is a master of them. His stories in Men Without Women are all excellent but I have my faves. The one about the guy who, after discovering his wife red-handed with a lover, opens up a bar and runs into supernatural stuff and the one about the actor whose wife has died and he has to adapt to a new female driver are two of the stories that linger with me.

Murakami knows how to build tension, keep the pace, and most importantly, how to end the story. Many writers either end a story too soon or too late. Murakami sometimes leaves the reader gasping for more and surprised there isn’t because he couldn’t leave the story there, could he? And he can and has.

I have read a lot of Murakami books (only two remain before I’ll be done with all that have been released in English) and I can say with the authority this has earned me that Men Without Women is one of his finest works. I recommend it.

reading forecast

The Reading Forecast

Winter does odd things to my reading. I get lost in books and think I’ve read a lot only to find that I’m stuck on the one book I’ve been reading all week. I feel like I’ve read enough for the year and can safely hang up my laurels but then the stories call my name and I crack open another book. Or I feel anxious that I’m not reading all the books I want to and will be left bereft once the new year rolls around. I have issues.

Here’s what I read in the past week:

  1. The Nightingales are Drunk by Hafez
    Eh. I felt slivers of brilliance but it left me cold on the whole.
  2. QQ Sweeper vol. 1-3 by Kyousuke Motomi
    This is a great series and has a lot of complexity to it that you don’t normally see in shoujo manga. Though it’s not really shoujo genre exclusively.
  3. The Radiant Road by Katherine Catmull
    I enjoyed this mostly though I feel like certain things could have been done differently.
  4. The Tea Party in the Woods by Akiko Miyakoshi
    I enjoyed this picturebook.
  5. High Maga – Karin Rita Gastreich
    I enjoyed this one mostly.
  6. A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis
    I enjoyed this until the last quarter when it all fell apart.

What I’m Currently Reading:

  1. Dance, Dance, Dance by Haruki Murakami
    I am reading this very slowly. A chapter a day in fact because I want it to last until mid-January because I like starting and ending my year with a Murakami novel and I’m soon going to run out.
  2. One More Thing by B. J. Novak
    I’m 200 pages in and should be done in the coming week. I’ll be reviewing it here once I’m done.
  3. Covenant’s End by Ari Marmell
    This one I’m reading very slowly as well because it’s going to be intense and I don’t know how intense my heart can handle right now.
  4. The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman
    I haven’t yet read a page but oh I have such high expectations. I hope the book meets them all!

To Read in the Coming Week:

It’s December so I’m going to be reading a lot of YA and Fantasy. Just because.

Diversity · Japanese · Japanese Literature · review · Review Copy · Translated work · translations

Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, 1973 (The Rat #1-2) by Haruki Murakami, Ted Goossen (Translation)

23995263

Hardcover, 256 pages
Published August 4th 2015 by Bond Street Books
Source: Publisher

As a preface to Hear the Wind Sing, Murakami the narrator says:

If it’s art of literature you are interested in, I suggest you read the Greeks. Pure art exists only in slave-owning societies. The Greeks has slaves to till their fields, prepare their meals, and row their galleys while they lay about on sun-splashed Mediterranean beaches, composing poems and grappling with mathematical equations. That’s what art is.

If you’re the sort of guy who raids the refrigerators of kitchens at three o’clock in the morning, you can only write accordingly.

That’s who I am.

This bind-up of Haruki’s first two novellas gives readers the chance to experience for themselves the wordsmithery of a young and (one supposes) more idealistic Murakami. There is an irreverence in his work that is dazzling. His refusal to pander to previously set standards of ‘literature’ is also intoxicating. As the above excerpt proves, Murakami set out to write a story in a way that only he could tell and with Hear the Wind Sing he succeeded. There is an energy to the work that his later work lacks. At this point in his career, he has no idea what writing is and he’s playing by the ear and writing largely for his own self and this comes across loud and clear.

“So you don’t read books by living writers?”

“No, I don’t see the point.”

“Why not?”

“I guess because I feel like I can forgive dead people,” I said.

Murakami’s two characters gain flesh and meaning in Hear the Wind Sing. Murakami captures the fleeting essence of the friendship between the two men and their bartender who seems to have as much of a role as they do. I loved how simple the story is. Perhaps it is this very quality of the story that makes it have a more profound impact that something more complicated and convoluted.

Pinball 1973 didn’t resonate with me as much Hear the Wind SIng because the pacing is slower and the focus more determinedly trained on the unnamed narrator’s dead lover. Even the pinball obsession comes in largely as an afterthought. However, the story did speak to the transience of life and the people who populate yours. I appreciated this look into Murakami’s psyche. I feel like these two stories are largely responsible for the kind of writer he has become in his later years and if one were to analyze these stories in any depth, we’d see seedlings of his future stories planted here and there among the narrative.

This is a good place to start for those new to Murakami. The weird factor is there but it was in its nascent stage at this point, it won’t weird out the newer reader. Happy reading.

reading forecast

The Reading Forecast

I’m pretty certain I usually don’t go without a post for an entire week but my life has been full of upheavals recently and I’m not sure when things will calm down so ride out the storm with me. Eh? I’ll take it you agree. *beam* I had no internet for a day or so due to a storm so I actually got more reading done than I would have otherwise. Here’s what I managed to consume in the past week:

  1. Magic Shifts – Ilona Andrews
    This was fantastic. The series gets better with each successive book. I can’t wait for what the Andrews have in store for us next.
  2. The Lemonade Hurricane by Licia Morelli
    I don’t know how I feel about this one. I’ll probably be talking about it at more depth on The Book Wars soon.
  3. Book Scavenger by Jennifer Chambliss Bertman
    I think younger readers will love this one a whole lot more than I did. Maybe it’s because I’m used to my MG being a lot more sophisticated but I didn’t feel as invested in this one. Or more likely, I have no head for ciphers so I was mostly lost.
  4. The Dhulyn and Parno Novels: Volume 1 by Violette Malan
    This beast contained the first two novels in the series: The Sleeping God and The Soldier God. So I reckon they count as two novels especially since the page count rang up at almost 900 pages. I don’t know why I have no problems finishing fantasy novels with 900 pages while literary novels leave me gasping.

Currently Reading

  1. The Luminaries – Eleanor Catton
    I’m on page 330 so progress has been made! Yay!
  2. The Wolf Wilder by Katherine Rundell
    I’m on page 26 of this slim novel and hopefully will have it done before this week is done.
  3. Bitter Greens – Kate Forsyth
    I think I’m about 18 pages in. I need to pick this one up and make some flipping progress. This one, too, is a beast.

To Read

I don’t know for sure. It’ll depend on what mood I’m in but chances are I’ll be reading bits and pieces of the following to see if I want to continue with them:

  1. Hear The Wind Sing/Pinball 1973 – Haruki Murakami
  2. City of Stairs – Robert Jackson Bennet
  3. The Lost Marble Notebook of Forgotten Girl and Random Boy – Marie Juskolka
  4. In the Forests of the Night – Kersten Hamilton
  5. The Diabolical Miss Hyde – Viola Carr
Japanese · Japanese Literature · library · Literary Fiction · Magical realism · review · Review Copy · Short Stories

The Strange Library by Haruki Murakami: A Review

23128304

Paperback, 96 pages
Published December 2nd 2014 by Knopf
Source: Publisher

Haruki Murakami’s short story/novella The Strange Library is reflective of his style and full of the strange and weird convolutions of the imagination. The plot is pretty simple: a high-school aged boy visits a library in order to look up information about the Turkish tax system. He is sent to the basement to meet the librarian who will help him get the book but the librarian traps him in a small room, commanding him to memorize the book the kid requested. He is visited by strange and fascinating people during his stay there.

The book is as strange as the title suggests. It is written very simply (though whether that is true in the original, I am not sure, the translation may have robbed us of the complexities and wordplay apparent in its original Japanese). The story is deceptively simple and one can either take it at face value or search for further meaning, conducting a detailed in-depth analysis of the characters and symbols. The most provoking bit of this short story is the end where in a moment of retrospection, the protagonist of the piece wonders about the meaning of alone-ness.

I enjoyed this short story a whole lot more than I have enjoyed Murakami’s past two books. I suppose style and writing are bound to change with age (as he speaks of frequently in his nonfiction What I Talk About When I’m Running which is what I’m currently reading) but as a reader, I think I definitely prefer his earlier works than his more recent ones. This one is absurd in the best way and most unexpectedly profound. Recommended.

reading forecast

The Reading Forecast

I think I finished about six books last week. I’m not sure but I definitely read the following:

  1. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running – Haruki Murakami
    I enjoyed this and gave it four stars.
  2. Everything by Lynda Barry
    This was amusing as well. This got 3.5 stars.
  3. The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh O’Brien
    This was a seriously quick read for me. Fast paced and engaging, I enjoyed it quite a bit. Four stars.
  4. Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula by Andi Watson
    I really enjoyed this one. It was charming and funny. Four stars.
  5. The Quick by Lauren Owen
    This was interesting. A vampire tale, most unexpectedly. I’ll be reviewing this. 3 stars.
  6. The Witch’s Boy by Kelly Barnhill
    I LOVED this. 4.5 stars. I’ll be reviewing on The Book Wars.

There were some titles that I gave up on. One was The Ghosts of Heaven and I tried to stick with the book but it just wasn’t for me. It’s written really well and does great things with the subject it pursues but I was dreading reading it and well, I stopped. I’m going to ask if one of my friends wants to read it. I also changed my mind about The Visitors by Rebecca Mascull. At this point in time, I just don’t feel like reading it. I’ve lost interest in it. Maybe some other day.

Now for what I’m currently reading:

King’s Dragon by Kate Elliott

I’m really liking this one. I love Elliott’s writing so I wasn’t afraid of that but the protagonist is a male and that gave me pause. However, I’m pleased to report that Alain (the protagonist) is very relatable. I like him and can empathize with his issues.

This is a big book (544 pages) so I don’t know how long it will take me to finish it but once I do, I’ll go back and finish:

GreenGlass House by Kate Milford

I like the book; the pacing of it was just too slow for me so I put it aside for a bit. I’m sure that I’ll tear through it when I go back to it but I’ll need to be done with it before the last Wednesday of the month as I need to review it.

Once I’m done with that, I will read The City of Dreaming Books by Walter Moers. I’m looking forward to this one because it seems crazily amusing. I doubt I’ll be done with all three in one week though. I’m reading at a slower pace, savouring the books instead of gulping them down.

I’m looking forward to them though. I hope you are liking your reads!

reading resolutions

Reading Resolutions: 2015

I have been composing this post for a long time. It has gone through several incarnations as I went on a tangent without regard to my original topic and ended up talking about…I don’t know, bears in Milan or something like that.

Anyway, reading resolutions. I have them. I began the year reading four demanding and chunky novels that I cannot easily finish. And oddly, when I see friends on Goodreads talking about first reads of 2015, I have a sense of anxiety; it feels like  I’m losing in some sort of race. I’m pretty sure reading is not a race and it is not how much but what you read that matters.

I know all that but I wish I could finish a book and get the ball rolling. :\

Let’s talk about which books I want to read in particular this year. There are 12 in particular…actually, 11 now. They are:

  1. South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami
    I have a personal goal to finish reading all of Murakami’s works that have been translated into English so far. I think this may just be the 10th one. Maybe? I don’t know.
  2. I am a Cat by Soseki Natsume
    I have a copy of this and it is pretty darned dense but the premise engages me. A book written from the perspective of a cat. We’ll see.
  3. 1984 by George Orwell
    I have this really beautiful copy that will make this reading this dystopian a little less sad.
  4. Letters to a Young Poet – Rainer Maria Rilke
    After seeing so many quotes from him, I’m finally going to take the plunge and just do it.
  5. The Butterfly Mosque – G. Willow Wilson
    I have read almost all her other works and this one, my mother tells me, is extremely wonderful.
  6. Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts
    This one is so huge I’m sort of dreading it but some of my friends really love it so I am going to do it. This one has one of the most compelling opening paragraphs I’ve had the fortune to read.
  7. The Awakening and Selected Short Fiction by Kate Chopin
    I had Beauvoir’s The Second Sex in this place originally but I’m currently reading another feminist theory text at the moment and I don’t think I can handle the dense academic language twice in a year. :\
  8. Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D. H. Lawrence
    I actually read a chapter of this and really liked it so this year I’m going to read the whole thing.
  9. Gender Trouble by Judith Butler
    I am currently reading this.
  10. Franz Kafka: The Complete Stories
    I’ve only read one story by Kafka so I’m excited to buck down and give the others a try.
  11. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
    I’ve wanted to read a Vonnegut book for a long time now, particularly this title so I will this year.

Other than these books, there are many series I need to finish–I won’t go into any in detail but there are many that I want to finish.

I think mostly though, I want to read what I want when I want to instead of feeling obligated to read to keep up in some imaginary race. I want to choose the books that speak to me rather than books that are popular and hyped. I will probably, knowing myself, be convinced to read books because of hype but I hope to be above that this year. Haha.

Oh, I also aim to read a lot of fantasy this year. Specifically, fantasy penned by women that have female protagonists. That’s like catnip for me. I can’t resist it.

What are you reading resolutions/plans for 2015?