Sunday, January 29, 2012

I FINALLY FINISHED!!! Review: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

title: 1Q84
author: Haruki Murakami
genre: fiction
pages: 925
source:  New York Public Library

1Q84, Murakami's newest (and lengthy) tome, covers a lot of ground in 925 pages.  Part science fiction, part magical realism, part romance, part action...and part redundant.  The plot follows two main characters, Tengo and Aomame, through what seems, at first, to be two completely different stories.  But as the plot progresses, their stories become more and more intertwined as the world around them starts to unravel and time itself becomes called into question. 

What I loved:  The story itself was fascinating.  I loved the way Murakami told it from multiple perspectives as it allowed him to weave together key details and plot points delicately and gradually.  And the way he wove both stories together was original and more often then not, unexpected. The concept and the execution, though definitely evocative of other works, retained their freshness, which is not an easy feat.

What I wasn't into:  I'm not sure if this was a problem with translation or an intentional stylistic decision, but the book read like a television serial.  Very redundant.  Many chapters reminded the reader of key details that were revealed in the past 20 or so pages.  In a media saturated society of instant gratification such as ours, I understand why many television shows begin with a "previously on..." segment.  But I want to be treated like a  far more advanced being with the capacity to recall major plot points when I read.  If the redundancies were eliminated, I bet a good 25-30 pages or so could have been shaved off the book.  That said, I could absolutely see 1Q84 being successfully developed into a HBO series.

What said, I also loved how, despite its length, I was left wanting more, wondering what was next for Tengo and Aomame, what would become of 1Q84, etc.  I wanted to read Air Chrysalis, a book that plays a central role in the plot.  Its strange that a book could at the same time feel too long and not long enough.

Some of my favorite quotes:

Komatsu, on writing: "There also has to be that 'special something,' an indefinable quality, something I can't quite put my finger on.  That's the part of fiction I value more highly than anything else. Stuff I understand perfectly doesn't interest me. Obviously."  (page 18) This is EXACTLY how I feel about the books I read!

Aomame, on the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana: "Aomame of course knew about the wedding, but she had no particular interest in it, and she could not figure out why people were so deeply concerned about the fate of an English prince and princess.  Charles looked less like a prince than a high school physics teacher with stomach trouble." (page 102)

Tengo, on writing: "There were too many questions.  It was probably Chekhov who said that the novelist is not someone who answers questions but someone who asks them."  (page 264)  Ironic, because precisely one of the things I could have done with a bit less of was answers.

Ayumi, on life: "That's what the world is, after all: an endless battle of contrasting memories." (page 293)

Ushikawa, on human nature: "Nobody's easier to fool, Ushikawa thought, than the person who is convinced that he is right." (page 634)

Rubric rating:  8.5.  I LOVE Murakami, but this was not his best.  1Q84 didn't deter me from reading his most current work but rather helped me to appreciate his previous works all the more.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Missing something?

I'm about 1/3 of the way through 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, which weighs in at a whopping 925 pages (so good so far!!).  Now, I'm a frequent NYPL book borrower, and it's not uncommon from time to time to a errant bookmark accidentally left behind.  But I've never found quite so many items or quite the variety of item in a library book before.  Every 50 pages or so, I've found something random or unexpected.  So far, I've found:

  • a pressed yellow leaf
  • part of someone's bank statement (complete with account number...which I promptly're welcome).
  • a heart shaped pink sticky note
  • 1/4 sheet of scrap paper with a meeting agenda on the back
  • a receipt from the Central Park Zoo with a grocery list on the back
What's the strangest/coolest/most random thing you've ever found in a library book?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Late to the Party...

My daily email blast from Publisher's Weekly today highlighted some of the most popular book-related memes of 2011.  I'm sure many of you are familiar with the abundance of Ryan Gosling related tumblrs out there. Perhaps I'm behind on my non-Gosling related literary humor, but this made me chuckle so I had to share.  It appealed to my inner book snob ;)

Ladies and gentlemen: Judgmental Bookseller Ostrich

A few of my personal favorites:

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Review: The Uninnocent by Bradford Morrow

title:  The Uninnocent
author: Bradford Morrow
genre: short stories
pages: 272
source:  I received an advanced reader's copy 
via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I have a confession:  I didn't exactly finish this story collection.  Usually, I have a policy of not reviewing things I haven't finished.  But since it was my fault I didn't get finished (I completely forgot that my ebook would expire after 2 months!!) and since this was a strong collection of short stories, I'll talk about the ones I did read.

Strong start:  The Hoarder
The story's main character is obsessed with collecting things, but his penchant for acquisition takes a dark turn when he sets his sights on his brother's girlfriend. Quiet and deliberate, this story moves with a dull weight.

My favorite: The Uninnocent
This one stuck with me.  Two children, in desperate need of a good psychologist, "deal" with the death of their brother by looking for messages sent by him from beyond, and carry out what they interpret as his instructions with disturbing results.  Poor Butter.

Fell flat: Amazing Grace
Amazing Grace didn't work for me.  It just seemed a bit too easy in terms of the choices Morrow made.  Man loses sight.  Man becomes a motivational speaker. Man miraculously regains sight only to learn he may have been better off left in the dark about what his family had been up to behind his back (pun absolutely intended).  Overly reliant on religious crutches, at times cliche...I felt like I always knew exactly what was going to happen next. This story is actually why I didn't finish the book. Morrow is so touted as a master of American noir, and when I read this genre, I prefer mine to be a balance of the quiet/familiar with the disturbing/unexpected. 

Rubric rating:  6.  I definitely want to finish this collection.  

Sidebar:  I have been finding lately that the bulk of the content of my reviews has been coming to me while I'm in the shower.  Apparently, I do my best reflection on my reading mid-lather.  The trouble is, by the time I get out, I can't remember some of the strongest points I wanted to make.  Now, I've tried keeping a pen and some paper on the sink next to the shower, but that just results in wet, runny I was thinking:  what if I installed a small white board in my shower?  Like, in a place where the water won't hit it directly?  So, I can at least get my thoughts down before I lose them? Super practical? Or is that REALLY weird?  Thoughts?