Tag Archives: Haruki Murakami

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

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Haruki Murakami’s memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is not a book I can easily categorize. I enjoyed it and found it enlightening to get a personal glimpse into the mind of a modern literary giant. First off, I do admit that my views are bias. I’ve read almost all of his works, and if you haven’t heard of him, I suggest picking up at least Hardboiled Wonderland and The End of the World. But what about this book, though?

It wasn’t as earth shatteringly revealing as I had hoped. His novels investigate humanity and metaphysics on a much deeper level. I sort of expected this from the title and size of the book. There’s only so much truth that can be revealed in a 180 pages. In his memoir, Murakami takes a much more humble and laidback approach. The majority of the book deals with his analogy of being a serious novelist and running marathons. While the writing is very pleasant to read, I don’t know if there’s enough to keep non-runners/writers/ and Murakami fans interested.

I don’t run, but I like to surf, and found his views on reaching higher spiritual levels through physical discipline a very honest analysis. He spends a lot of time writing about accepting getting older but enjoying the quality of life rather than by how many points one gets. I wished there was more on the actual art of writing (something similar to Stephen King’s On Writing), but sadly most of it stayed on the topic of running and its connections to writing, which we’re usually vague. One thing I’ve learned from living in Japan is that Japanese people love to be vague. It is part of the culture to avoid being so direct. It kills me in real life and it sort of annoyed me in this book. Still, when he did directly write about writing, his advice was indispensable.

In the end, despite my bitching, I have to label this a book that was fun to read. It was easy going, the imagery was strong, and you could feel a genuine quality of sincerity. I recommend you give this book a try. Read a sample, it might be for you.

Haruki Murakami

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The Faithful Lover by Massimo Bontempelli cracks the mirror of reality

 

The Faithful Lover (1953) is a collection of short stories by Italian writer Massimo Bontempelli, the father of realismo magico (magical realism). This genre works as an evolved form of traditional French surrealism. Bontempelli has commented on the writing style by saying,

the real norm of the art of narration is to describe the dream as if it were reality, and the reality as if it were a dream.”

The stories begin with ordinary people and feel normal enough. Yet as the stories continue, Bontempelli starts twisting the screws until cracks appear in mechanism of reality. He uses this technique with varying degrees. At times the effect is full blown while in other stories it bubbles under the surface. Real life becomes infected with dream qualities, the results are strange and beautiful. For L’mante Fedele (The Faithful Lover), Bontempelli was awarded the “Strega Prize,” Italy’s highest recognition for literature.

The book has a wonderfully mysterious tone. Some stories are cloaked in darkness while other will stand in broad daylight. No matter what setting Bontempelli chooses, his stories never become murky or lose their intended effect. The book itself is short, and thus the stories come at you in quick bursts like flying embers. Immediately the reader is ushered into the story. By the first paragraph, Bontempelli has drawn you into his imagination. All the while, one never gets the feeling of being rushed. Things happen in a plausible manner and so we go along without question. The magic of his writing permeates the mind like a fast acting drug whose affects are wonderful.

Readers that are fans of the magical realism genre are most likely attracted to works by Haruki Murakami and Toni Morrison. Writers such as these present magical realism in very modern way. Bontempelli’s style by comparison does read with a noticeably older prose. I personally tend to avoid works that sound outdated. The Faithful Lover reads a little “old school” but the literary devices at work are surprisingly cutting edge. This hybrid style of “old and new” is diatomic as King Arthur’s knights lost on Mars. The sense of tragic humor helps to keep things light.

The Faithful Lover is a book that had attained great prestige, yet, as years gone by, has become unknown to a new generation of readers. It is a work that is worthy of rediscovery.  I enjoyed every story in The Faithful Lover. There wasn’t a single one I can point to and say it was lacking. Give this book a try, tear through the mundane, and experience another world that runs parallel to our own.

 

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“Hard boiled wonderland and the end of the world” Japanese cyberpunk with a noir twist

Prepare to trip balls.

Murakami Haruki’s Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World is imagination dynamite. The story opens up with a sci-fi, noir attitude told from a Japanese perspective. My immediate impression was, “This is gonna cool,” and it was. Haruki throws a bit of everything into the pot: surrealism, mystery, metaphysics, magical realism, to name a few. The story itself is one of the most strangely unique I have ever read. I think Haruki enjoys messing with our heads. He’s aware of the tired-out clichés and sets you up to believe you know exactly where the book is heading, then busts your bubble and blows your mind. For a book that was written back in 1985, it reads like a bestseller hot off the press. If Franz Kafka was into cyberpunk, occasionally took hard drugs, and reincarnated as a Japanese man, he’d probably write something like this.

The story is such a bizarre odyssey that I wouldn’t dare spoil any of it for you. I can’t even tell you the general plot–it’ll ruin the surprise. I’ve read some reviews of this book, and all I can say is that I’m glad I read the book first and avoided the spoilers. It does have some hardcore cyberpunk elements and Johnny Mnemonic did come to mind–but was much more than that. The book has an amazing sense of duality. When you first come across this, you’ll wonder what the hell is going on. As the story progresses, Murakami weaves a dangerously magical world that breaks the spine of traditional modern writing. It’s a gritty fairy tale that you’ll fall into like a deep well. His use of Gutter Surrealism is masterful. This review is vague, and I apologize. But once you begin Hard boiled Wonderland and the End of the Word, you will see my intentions were sincere. Murakami drives his imagination like a stolen car in this book. I suggest you get in and enjoy the ride.

The end of this book stunned me. It was the type of conclusion that sort of breaks your heart and leaves you with the feeling that a longtime friend and lover had disappeared from the planet. I’ve taken reconciliation in the fact that Murakami’s other works contain the same magical nature I was introduced to in Hard Boiled Wonderland. I loved this book and I hope this review inspires you to read it too. Despite Murakami’s international acclaim, he remains largely unknown to American readers. This I cannot accept. Magic Realism of this caliber should be shared to everyone. Let’s all trip out together.

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