Tag Archives: haruki murakami

My Top 5 Books of 2014

It’s about that time again, isn’t it? We’re all just about ready to shrug into an awkwardly fitting new year, and all of the LISTICLES are flowering. Here then are my top 5 reads of this past year; note, these aren’t necessarily books that came out this year.

1) The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

2) The Martian, by Andy Weir

3) The Peripheral, by William Gibson

4) Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, by Haruki Murakami

5) Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

Honorable Mentions: In the Dust of This Planet, by Eugene Thacker, and Gun Machine by Warren Ellis

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Misc. Ratings

Books

‘You Can Make Anything Sad’, by Spencer Madsen — 4
‘Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, by Haruki Murakami — 4
‘Walls’, by Andrew Duncan Worthington — 3
‘Even Though I Don’t Miss You’, by Chelsea Martin — 4

Film

Transformers: Age of Extinction — 0.5
V/H/S/2 — 1.5

TV

American Horror Story, season 2 — 4.5

Misc. Micro Reviews

Books

 

The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway — 4

‘Norwegian Wood’, by Haruki Murakami — 4

‘The Massive’ (vol. 1), by Brian Wood — 4

*

TV

 

Californication (final season) — 2

Masters of Sex (season 1) — 4

Louie (season 4) — 5

American Horror Story (season 1) — 4

*

Film

 

New Robocop Movie — 2.5

The Boondock Saints — 4

American Psycho — 5

Drinking Buddies — 5

V/H/S — 2.5

Edge of Tomorrow — 3.5

X-men: Days of Future Past — 3.5

Hunger Games: Catching Fire — 3.5

Lone Survivor — 3

Grand Budapest Hotel — 5! (holy shit)

Rushmore — 5

BookRiot Asks: Who Are Your Favorite Writers of Color?

 

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The ever noble folks over at BookRiot have written up a great post about how little diversity exists in the New York Times Bestseller List. Just how little diversity are we talking? Well, as they point out, only 3 authors out of the 124 to make the Top 10 in 2012 were people of color, and none were African American. In response to this BookRiot has asked readers to submit their 3 favorite authors of color, with the results being tallied by January 12th. This should offer many who want to broaden their reading a bit some fine suggestions.

For what it’s worth, my submitted authors, in no particular order:

1) Percival Everett

2) Haruki Murakami

3) Tao Lin

 

Past Full of Prologues

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I’ve been thinking a lot recently, after having to move back home, about how and why it’s been particularly depressing to have no space to unpack all of my books. For the first time in my life I don’t have room for them all, 640 and counting, arranged sometimes with hazard and sometimes with care on a growing number of bookshelves, each literally sagging a bit at certain points. I remember when I first moved on campus at Notre Dame and decided against anything resembling sanity that I had to bring my entire library with me, hastily buying and erecting two tall bookshelves in the bedroom after having pushed the dresser I barely had use for into the closet to make room.

There’s a shallow pleasure to it, something almost purely visual in having all those spines staring back out at you, extravagantly colorful in some spots, plain and dustily, studious-seeming in others. Horrible genre fiction, the classics, modern experimental mindfucks, and comforting reads I’ve owned since before I was in high school. Pristine hardbacks I’ve yet to touch and crumbling mass market paperbacks that have actually begun to feel weighty with book tape.

I’ll cop to that forever, that visceral and silly pleasure, the way an array of books just feels intellectual and insane all at the same time. The pride of it, the intellectual vanity, I’m a Smart Person, this is a room where Important Thoughts Are Thought.

It does feel alien, then, like someone has died — I actually feel changed, having most of my books sitting in ragged boxes that barely held together through the most recent move, stored away in a part of the house I don’t even have ready access to most of the time. I realize this is a #FirstWorldProblem of a fairly high order, but it’s honest. There’s a lot of history in my books, and I don’t mean anything to do with what’s inside the covers. We’re each a microculture and you can tell a lot about a person by the books he keeps. I can remember where and when every single book was bought or received. The gifts, the books bought for a class (some I still despise, some that changed me at the core of my entire self). The books, too many to be sure, bought on a whim after some passing review or recommendation, grabbed used from Amazon and yet to be read.

The Murakami bought because an ex I was mad for said it was her favorite, and I puppy-love goofily asked her to inscribe it before she left on a trip, years later returned to her in anger and confusion and sadness. It was given back, then thrown away, and now haunts a very strange and selective internal shelf.

The Brian Jacques book that was leant to my best friend in high school and was returned two days before his terrible accident.

The Tolkien I sat awake three days with in the hospital waiting room before he moved on.

When someone asks who I am, what I do, what I enjoy, what scares me, what makes me  think it’s all worth anything at all, the only thing I can think to do is start curating a shelf or two of books that would be the best I could offer up as an honest answer. I want to edit together an anthology the way people used to make mixtapes.

 

Haruki Murakami’s ‘1Q84’

 

 

Say, its only a paper moon
Sailing over a cardboard sea
But it wouldn’t be make-believe
If you believed in me

 

Desperate as I always feel after finishing a Murakami novel to write up something profound and properly expressive of what his work seems to always so easily do to me, I never have until now. It always feels futile, foolish–I feel like a three-year-old who has seen a supernova; it’s nearly impossible to really articulate what I’ve encountered, yet perhaps a rich, ambivalent sensory befuddlement is all one can hope for in art. I feel this way more than ever after finishing his most recent and hand-achingly thick masterpiece, but here I am nonetheless.

1Q84 feels like quintessential Murakami, full of surreal moments both dazzling and (to this reader, enjoyably) mundane, cats, sadness, loneliness, death, hope, the ethereal and the grubbily all-too-real. Everyone has lost something, and everyone is looking looking looking. I can’t ever get over the strange and deliriously paced tone of this and his other books, a tone that in my experience is some mixture of both the translation process and Murakami’s indelible presence. It feels comfortable but a bit askew, which of course fits into the Murakami Mode almost too perfectly. If I say that the phrases and paragraphs always seem slightly wary and confused, it isn’t a critique of either of those to aspects; rather, I genuinely enjoy the tentative feeling of almost literally every line in the book. There’s a sad but quiet intensity, anxiety  hanging over everything, it’s beautiful but off-putting (not unlike the double moons hanging in the sky of this somehow-but-not-exact-alternate 1984 Tokyo, one normal and one smaller, dented, green).

Many people seem to experience (whether they enjoy it or not) the distinct feeling that Murakami bleeds over into their real world somehow, taints them — this is absolutely the case for myself, it’s always been the hallmark to me of fiction that has a special staying power, has an elusive brilliance. I honestly don’t feel like I’ll ever look at the moon again with remembering this book; even moments of transit seem to draw it quickly back to my memory, as the characters here are always traveling in one form or another. I was struck even by stunning little coincidences while reading that seemed to signify that I, too, had somehow been pulled a little into a strange alternate reality, had become a shade of green. While sitting down to write this my cat suddenly became incessantly noisy and playful as if trying absurdly hard to keep my attention elsewhere. While reading what was to me the most intense moment of the most intense chapter near the end of the book, ‘It’s Only A Paper Moon’ sung by a very young Ella Fitzgerald came onto my Pandora station (I hadn’t even ‘Like’ed the song until then), which very honestly unsettled me for a moment. The ‘moon’ connection aside, the song appears throughout the nove as jazz and classical music one more haunt Murakami’s fiction. I had never liked a single jazz song I had ever heard until some of the music in the book sent me searching out of curiosity, and now I cannot get enough. Haunting and infectious perfectly describe this book.

I’ve seen some criticism of the book’s close, that it offers either not enough or too much closure. I suppose I’m too easy to please, to connected to what I feel is the Murakami experience I so much seek out and enjoy. I felt at peace with the ending; it’s heavily bent and untidy, but that’s one thing I love about this book and the rest of his fiction — it’s never tidy, it’s never polished or feels like, once you’re done, that the book will even fit conveniently back onto the bookshelf. I remember when reading Murakami for the first time, Kafka on the Shore, how struck I was by the duality in these surreal iconic characters and their presences–we first see Johnny Walker, a dashing and menacing presence–but then we get…KFC’s Colonel Sanders!? This absurdity, this refusal towards perhaps easier (to write, and to read) gestures and choices. This isn’t what he ‘does’, and it’s why I’ll always come back to his work. It’s unsettling, imperfect, confused, awkward, brilliant and it will sometimes tarry, sometimes disappear without waiting for you.