Wednesday, 13 August 2008

A Recommendation # 2

I was going to have a go at the 'Classics' list that Caroline tried on her blog a week or so ago, but then decided that, you know, being an English teacher I would be frowned upon and shunned - forever cast out of the stafroom and denied biscuits - when people realise how few of the list I'd read. I think I only managed about half of them. So instead I'm going to suggest a writer who should definitley have been included:

Haruki Murakami.

He is proper mint, how.

"Haruki Murakami is quite possibly the most successful and influential cult author in the world today. His books are like Japanese food — a mix of the delicate, the deliberately bland and the curiously exotic. Dreams, memory and reality swap places, all leavened with dry humour. His translator, Professor Jay Rubin, says reading Murakami changes your brain. His world-view has inspired Sofia Coppola, the author David Mitchell and American bands such as the Flaming Lips. He is a recipient of the Franz Kafka prize, has honorary degrees from Princeton and Liège, and is tipped for the Nobel prize for literature."
For more info go here

I've read 'Catcher in the Rye.' and its ok - Don't hit me, stop throwing things at your screen. Come on, admit it. It's good, it's fine, there is nothing wrong with it, I'm not criticising it. Honest. It just didn't do much for me. I found Holden Caulfield - well - a bit of a dick. Sorry. I just couldn't connect to him. I tried. I read it twice, never again.

My Dad gave it to me, an old second hand copy, which I still have, because he said it was one of those books you have to read, at a particular age. And yeah, it was. I'm older now, wiser, more mature, more handsome, hairier, wearing my dressing gown and I'm glad I read it. But it made little lasting impression on me.

'Norweigan Wood' was different...

See, me, I like a bit of the surreal. Maybe thats why 'Catcher in the Rye' didn't really do it for me, maybe I was just too young to really understand it, I don't know.

Anyway, the reason I'm going on so about CitR is because I think Norwegian Wood is a very similar book. It's a coming of age, becoming an adult, sort of novel. I also found NW spoke to me in a way CitR didn't. I connected to it. Possibly because it contains nipples. Who knows.


"The novel is a nostalgic story of loss and sexuality. The story's protagonist and narrator is Toru Watanabe, who looks back on his days as a freshman university student living in Toyko.

Through Toru's reminiscences we see him develop relationships with two very different women — the beautiful yet emotionally troubled Naoko, and the outgoing, lively Midori.

The novel is set in Tokyo during the late 1960s, a time when Japanese students, like those of many other nations, were protesting against the established order. While it serves as the backdrop against which the events of the novel unfold, Murakami (through the eyes of Toru and Midori) portrays the student movement as largely weak-willed and hypocritical." - I stole this from here

To be honest the storyline wasn't incredible, it was enough. The troubled Naoko created enough tension, and enough heartache, to keep the story moving, to keep Toru's character believable.

It is the quality of the prose which wins me over - a lot of credit must go to his translater Professor Jay Rubin.

Murakami writes of very simple, very mudane acts. His work is peppered with descriptions of the everyday, of preparing meals, of household chores - but he manages, always, to suggest something magical, something very important just out of our reach. It is a skill I wish very much that I possessed.

More impressive, and more poignant I think, from my perspective, is the sense of isolation he creates, the characters, the places - huge bustling cities like Tokyo full of noise, excitment, danger, mystery - and yet despite this, or perhaps because of this anonymity, his characters so often feel alone. Feel disconnected. Like Holden Caulfield. Yet this sense of the magical, this sense of a higher, or at least greater, power, this suggestion of fate makes the character's situations seem more - meaningful - I suppose I mean. They seem to have a purpose, even though they don't know it themselves.

Anyway, I'm rambling.

Try 'Norwegian Wood' and please note, it has a kick ass sound track to it, then try this one.

Kafka on the Shore - It's little weird. In fact it's a lot weird, very surreal, but so worth it.

"Comprising two distinct but interrelated plots, the narrative runs back and forth between the two, taking up each plotline in alternating chapters.
The odd chapters tell the 15 year old Kafka's story as he runs away from his father's house to escape an Oedipal curse and to embark upon a quest to find his mother and sister. After a series of adventures, he finds shelter in a quiet, private library in Takamatsu, run by the distant and aloof Miss Saeki and the androgynous Oshima. There he spends his days reading the unabridged Richard Francis Burton translation of A Thousand and One Nights and the collected works of Natsume Sōseki until the police begin inquiring after him in connection with a brutal murder.
The even chapters tell Nakata's story. Due to his uncanny abilities, he has found part-time work in his old age as a finder of lost cats (a clear reference to The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle). The case of one particular lost cat puts him on a path that ultimately takes him far away from his home, ending up on the road for the first time in his life. He befriends a truck-driver named Hoshino. Hoshino takes him on as a passenger in his truck and soon becomes very attached to the old man.
Nakata and Kafka are on a collision course throughout the novel, but their convergence takes place as much on a metaphysical plane as it does in reality and, in fact, that can be said of the novel itself. Due to the Oedipal theme running through much of the novel, Kafka on the Shore has been called a modern Greek tragedy"

Yeah, I know. A bit odd. But go with it. Murakami is not universally loved in Japan. Younger readers see him as a great cult author but many critics find his style to 'Western' he has often been accused of betraying tradtional Japanese Literary traditions.

Here though, we see a mix. The same blend of humour, popular culture. The same surrealism, but with a stronger link to Japanese religious traditions. And yes, more nipples.

I don't want to go on and on for much longer - you can read blurbs, I don't want to retell the story to you, I don't even want to offer you a huge personal reflection on his work. The beauty of these works I've made as clear as I can.

They bring magic to my daily life, they make me feel important, they stop me feeling alone. They have nipples and always, always good music.

Please Enjoy


B said...

I've picked up Norwegian Wood a few times and always put it back. Maybe when I'm back to book buying (after getting through the 40-odd TBR pile) I'll get this one. Thanks.

watching9987 said...

b - It's not to everyones tastes, in fact I know a lot of people who just got bored with it, but when you have the time (and have cleared your TBR pile - 40ish, that's impressive) I think it's worth a shot.

DJ Kirkby said...

Do you read Scott Pack's blog? It is called 'Me and my big mouth' and i think you'd like it. There is a link on the sidebar of my blog.

watching9987 said...

Hi DJ - I had a look, and yes, it does sound like my sort of thing -I may add it to my side bar. Nice one!

Megan said...

Your recommendations sound excellent and I shall certainly be checking them out
I am nonetheless throwing things at you - me and Holden go back a long, long way

watching9987 said...

Sorry Megan - I know, he's a popular bloke, and a good friend to many. I just don't see it. But isn't that why writing is fun. HOw boring would it be if everyone loved the same stuff? :)