Saturday, January 28, 2006

Books I've read #4 and #5

Livejournal is on a security vacation, so I'm posting the review of my Book #5 and links here. Book #4 was Catcher in the Rye which I released at the Culi Pub in Hanoi last week - still no takers. I'm not ready to post that review yet. So here, I'm writing about my new favorite book, which starts like this:

When the phone rang, I was in the kitchen, boiling a potful of spaghetti and whistling along to an FM broadcast of the overture to Rossini's 'The Thieving Magpie,' which has to be the perfect music for cooking pasta.

I wanted to ignore the phone, not only because the spaghetti was nearly done but because Claudio Abbado was bringing the Long Symphony to its musical climax. Finally, though, I had to give in. It could have been someone with news of a job. I turned down the gas, went to the living room, and picked up the receiver.

"Ten minutes, please," said a woman on the other end.

I'm good a recognizing people's voices, but this was not one I knew.

"Excuse me? To whom did you wish to speak?"

you, of course. Ten minutes, pleasse. That's all we need to understand each other."

And so begins The Wind-up Bird Chronicles, by Haruki Murkami. It is a mesmorizing book written in the first person, of the strange life of Toru Okada. It all starts when the cat disappears. Was that the cause of it all or just a point of reference? Searching for the cat leads him into a well, and into himself. In the middle of all this, his wife disappears. In order to find her, find the cat, and even to find himself, he meets strangers who are drawn to him. There's another world of meaning and explanations behind this one and the question is - is a dream or is it real?

I liked the quote on the process of Murakami's writing at the bottom.

Some links to Murakami sites:

Main "official" website:

The Year of Making Spaghetti, a short story: The Year of Making Spaghetti

Another short story:

Random House website (This is cute because the web page opens on to his new book Kafka on the Beach, and has cats walking back and forth at the bottom of the page):

Interview at Salon, in which he talks about alienation, influence of the West, and how he is intrigued by writing genre fiction, particularly the form of mystery:

New York Times Book Review:

Quoted from the review:
''The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle'' does have its flaws, principally in its uneven design. Murakami has said that he does not plot his novels beforehand but lets the story reveal itself to him as he writes: it shows, especially in the way that neither Toru nor the novelist seems to know or care whether Toru's adventures are real or illusory. And the juxtaposition of the harrowing, all-too-real war stories with the marvelous, supernatural events in Toru's quest feels contrived. The war narratives were almost certainly composed separately and then inserted into the novel to support its grand aspirations.

Yet what Murakami lacks in finesse is more than compensated by the brilliance of his invention. As it floats to its conclusion, ''The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle'' includes an almost Joycean range of literary forms: flashbacks, dreams, letters, newspaper stories and transcripts of Internet chats. And no matter how fantastical the events it describes may be, the straight-ahead storytelling never loses its propulsive force. By the book's midway point, the novelist-juggler has tossed so many balls into the air that he inevitably misses a few on the way down. Visionary artists aren't always neat: who reads Kafka for his tight construction? In ''The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle'' Murakami has written a bold and generous book, and one that would have lost a great deal by being tidied up.