The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – Haruki Murakami

In a Tokyo suburb, a young man named Toru Okada searches for his wife’s missing cat – and then for his wife as well – in a netherworld beneath the city’s placid surface.  As these searches intersect, he encounters a bizarre group of allies and antagonists.

Reading this novel is certainly an arresting experience. There is a cold aspect to the writing, a sense of detachment, which makes it nonetheless strangely compelling.   The relaxed tone of the narrator makes this a novel of normality and functionality of life, which heavily contrasts with the extraordinary and the imaginative (or is it supernatural?) rabbit hole it soon encompasses.

Murakami doesn’t always join the dots, or at least not in an obvious way. I like that.  Instead he encourages the reader to consider the bigger themes. It’s a thought-provoking piece of literature in many ways, crammed full with lots of symbolism and elusive connections, and one exceptionally gory scene which was a bit much, when it came to the details.

There is a rare insight into the Japanese people and their history, regarding the occupation of Northern China and the Manchurian campaigns of World War II.  The themes of how different types of power and pain that can drive a person, and how different spaces can affect the mind are a constant companion, the book is about the physical as much as the psychological. Continue reading “The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – Haruki Murakami”

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Patching the Clues Together

The power of community once again comes through!  Yesterday I shared my experiences with  a book memory I had – or thought I had – and the subsequent adventures in tracking the possibly mythical book down.

Having thought the story too obscure to be well-remembered, or at least the clues given, too little to go on, it was surprising when, less than a day later this suggestion came through the comments.

It’s a massive thank you to Liz who found this book, primarily based on the mentioning of a scary tunnel.  After watched a reading of the book (below) on YouTube, It’s more than likely that this is indeed the one I have been seeking.

Although it doesn’t tally up exactly with what I remember, the memory is undoubtedly embellished after all the other books since read.  Not only that but the chances of two tunnels in two patchwork quilts isn’t going to be statistically high. Continue reading “Patching the Clues Together”

Book Memory…or imagined?

A comment from Victoria – on recent post A Pound of Paperabout a book she was trying to remember the title of, got me thinking about my own quest for a book from yesteryear that remains an enigma.

Back when I was in school, I vividly remember reading a book about a patchwork quilt. The details still stored in my brain are thus:

A child is fascinated with a quilt and each square patch provides a mini adventure for the narrator.  I believe the adventures were completely in the mind of the child, as opposed to actually being trapped in the quilt.

One section fascinated me above all, a tunnel was the particular patchwork picture this time, and the child is walking through it.  It’s dark and footsteps echo loudly, they sound like someone following, paranoia strikes and some running towards the light at the end of the tunnels follows ensues.

As I remembered those specifics as well as I did, it must still be worth a reread just for that specific section, and so at every opportunity I trawl lots of charity shops, market stalls, libraries, and of course bookshops on a quest to enjoy my bit of nostalgia. Continue reading “Book Memory…or imagined?”

A Pound of Paper – John Baxter

In rural Australia of the fifties where John Baxter grew up, reading books was regarded with suspicion; owning and collecting them with utter incomprehension. Despite this, by the age of eleven Baxter had ‘collected’ his first book The Poems of Rupert Brooke.  He’d read it often, but now he had to own it.  This modest purchase marked the beginning of an obsession that would take him all over the world…

This is the book to devour. It has inspired my many forays into mass purchasing, the impact of which had waned somewhat, but has now thankfully been reinforced on rereading this.  A Pound of Paper, is not only a call to read, but to read widely; to gather, and appreciate the book as a whole, not just for the words therein.

It’s always a delight to discover how a fellow reader started, and carried on their journey. Details of their collection, and their escalation is both an encouragement  – as if any were needed – and pure literary porn. This reader ate up Baxter’s enthusiastic retelling of his adventures, which range between  comic and cringe with alarming regularity.

One of the best things about A Pound of Paper is the forays into, and finding beauty within, the obscure, even the badly written.  There is an element of snobbery here, one could argue, but it doesn’t spoil anything, and I for one enjoy the jaunt into the arcane passageways of literature that I would have  otherwise missed. Continue reading “A Pound of Paper – John Baxter”

No One Left to Lie To – Christopher Hitchens

In No One Left to Lie To, Christopher Hitchens portrays President Bill Clinton as one of the most ideologically skewed and morally negligent politicians of recent times. In a blistering polemic which shows that Clinton was at once philanderer and philistine, crooked and corrupt, Hitchens challenges perceptions – of liberals and conservatives alike – of this highly divisive figure.

With blistering wit and meticulous documentation, Hitchens masterfully deconstructs Clinton’s abject propensity for pandering to the Left while delivering to the Right and argues that the president’s personal transgressions were inseparable from his political corruption.

With his usual concise and devastating literary style, Hitch was not a man to hold back when he came across hypocrisy and lies.  Rooting out the shameful nature of Bill Clinton’s presidency, he is angry, and rightfully so.  As with his book, The Trial of Henry Kissinger, such a work should surely call for a law suit or three were the claims wholly inaccurate, tellingly,  none there came.

Books like this are essential,  not only to shine a light on the dizzyingly shameful complicity of the press, but also to give examples of what good journalism actually is;  Reporting accurately and consistently, with research and sources, and exposing the dissembling and corrupt.

Bill’s career highlights are all here, including the numerous sexual assaults on women, the launching of bombing missions to coincide with congressional hearings and therefore divert the media’s attention, the dismantling of welfare, and his propensity to about-face on any promise he gave.  It is surprising, but not shocking to discover just degenerate the politics here is. Continue reading “No One Left to Lie To – Christopher Hitchens”

Book Memories #3 The Eye of the World

After the obligatory reading of all the Middle Earth literature, there came a hankering for another Big Fantasy, and perusing the pages of the Waterstones Quarterly magazine back in 2001, I came across a review for the paperback version of Winter’s Heart, book nine of the (then) ongoing wheel of time series.

The bite sized paragraph review spoke of convoluted quests, many characters, and wanderings on a vast map.  Naturally, I was sold on this.  Not only for the amount of words to read (the overall total for the series being 4,410,036 according to Wikipedia) but the word convoluted appealed, greatly too.

Almost two decades since I picked up that first entry, and I again plucked it from a bookshop’s shelf home, due to a hankering for the series.   The covers in the UK are now a fancy black but this cover (as was my original) is of a quite unimpressively realised depiction of some of the main characters.  Thankfully only my original books one and two were these hand drawn creations.  Although I imagine many fans were annoyed by the mid series change of cover that came about before book ten (and if I remember rightly the lone prequel New Spring).

Having read a few things in the glossary whilst in the shop, I was eager to delve straight into its 782 pages, there were so many characters and events popping back into my head.  It’s good to return in this world, I enjoy being there even if nothing happens (not an exaggeration) in book ten. I am just happy to relive the adventure in Jordan’s world. Continue reading “Book Memories #3 The Eye of the World”

Books, Again

After the good news of last post, Crissy’s anniversary gift to me was to let me run rampant in a bookshop.  This excitement was slightly sullied as half of the shop was blocked off due to cleaning so I couldn’t get to the science section, amongst others. The history section was disappointingly lacking too.

Rallying, I did manage to pick up three books, and went to a coffee shop, pleasingly empty, to review my new purchases.  Supping a hot Mocha, and trying not to gag at the stupidly powerful smelling cheese meal the woman half the café away was eating, it was with great pleasure that I slowly peeled back the plastic bag to review the new reads.

Having read The Great Gatsby all the way back in sixth form, and being reminded of the pleasure I had from that book by the Leonardo DiCaprio movie.  I fancied reading more by F. Scott Fitzgerald so Now The Beautiful and Damned can take its place on the unread shelf next to Tender is the Night, which I also picked up a while back for the same reason. Continue reading “Books, Again”