Tag Archives: Murakami

Reading of Books #26

I enjoyed another pile of books, this time including Thoreau, Snyder, Thieme and Murakami. I’ve really been reading a lot and that is never a bad thing.

Henry David Thoreau – Walden

For some reason I didn’t get through it the first time, but I’ve finished and enjoyed Thoreau’s influential book Walden. Walden deals with the 2 years Thoreau lived in the woods to test himself and see what he needed to have meaning in his life. It’s a fascinating read full of contemplation and admiration for that which surrounds the author on his time in the forest next to Walden pond. From describing catching a fighting set of ants under a jar, feeding the squirrels and watching the fish to his outlook on society at its time and further thoughts. All written in the eloquent style of a philosopher that is still searching for his truths, not willing to force them onto the reader.

Thoreau has many insights while staying in his self-build cabin, which are highly influential to wanderers and lovers of nature still. Not only his thoughts and appreciation for nature, but as well his thoughts on eating meat. Vegetarians will like this book for those insights early in time. Thoreau laments the fact that a hunter takes away his chance to enjoy the encounter with a deer on his path. This simple but concrete description is very throught provoking, even for the most staunch opponents to such ideas. The book is also a testament to declaring the strenght, ingenuity and skill of humans to fend for themselves. It’s a plea for a specific anarchism, also illustrated by the encounters Thoreau has with a woodsman, who has no interest in money. This book can change your life, truly.

Marianne Thieme – De Eeuw van het Dier

Recently I converted to the Dutch ‘Animal Party’ as my political choice, I realized  I knew very little about the movement and the history of that movement. I thought it’d be a good idea to read up. While waiting for the arrival of party leader Marianne Thieme’s latest book, I purchased an earlier write-up from the earlier days of the party. I read this book and was instantly captivated by the factual descriptions, numbers and huge amount of information. Sure, this book was a couple of years old, but I can hardly imagine that much has changed as yet. Part of the book is also personal, about the history of Thieme as an animal fan and how she got to the point in life she is at now.

The numbers are staggering. The amount of unnecesary cruelty against animals is shocking and I’m amazed at how long I managed to push this knowledge away from myself. Sure, deep down you’re always aware at some level of what’s happening in those massive stables, but we love imagining that it’s not that bit of meat on my plate. A furthr section of the book contains letters from famous supporters of the party, with their own wit and insight into matters. It’s a joy to read, it offers so many connecting points for any reader. The last part are recipes. I’m keen to  try those out in my new vegetarian lifestyle.

Haruki Murakami – The Elephant Vanishes

Every once in a while I crave the work of Murakami. His clean descriptions, the strange magics in reality, the puzzling encounters and endless trivialities are always a joy for me to read. It’s pleasing me in both content and form. This far I’ve read the longer works of him and really could immerse myself in there and learn about the characters but this time I chose a different book. The title is ‘The Elephant Vanishes’, it’s the title of the final short story in this book of short stories. Short stories are an art form in itself. To tell your story in a 700 page book is in a way much easier, because you can expand and work around things as much as you like. The short story requires a focussed, condensed amount of information that still packs the right punch.

The stories gathered in this book have been published over a span of years in various magazines and periodicals. I have the feeling that Murakami has used these short stories to really experiment with storytelling and fiction. You can recognize elements of these stories from titles like ‘IQ84’ and ‘Norwegian Wood’. The plesure was in that I listened to parts of this book and hearing different narrators tell the stories helps to really distinguish between the stories and put them in seperate time frames and settings. For example the story ‘Little Green Monster’, that is particularly weird and felt very un-Murakami-like. Still the sentient being, the craving for contact, loneliness and merciless human character are all too familiar aspects. ‘The Dancing Dwarf’ is an adult fairy tale by Murakami, where everything has consequences. Other stories find the magic in every day life. In that way, another beautifull piece of writing by the author.

Timothy Snyder – On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

For some reason we never learn from our history and nothing proves it so convincingly as this book by Timothy Snyder. Snyder is a university teacher and researcher, who specializes in Eastern-Europe and the Holocaust. This is not an immense book, but a rather quick read, dense with information that I think everyone should learn for its obvious relativity to todays events and occurences. Unfortunately, not many will probably read it and specially not those who really should be reading it. So if you are politically ambivalent and reading this, if you feel that the current day right wing politics from populist fronts makes sense, take your time to read or listen to this book. It takes two hours of your time I suppose and I think it’ll bring a wealth to you.

Snyder outlines 20 lessons, which he then one by one fills in with actual knowledge of last centuries misery and malpractices. How willingly did we let fascism get a hold of us in the thirties, how smoothly did the transition take place. It’s a remarkable story of how the silent majority truly enables totalitarianism, what the tools are of tyranny. Criticism killed, press silence and dissidents removed, that’s when tyranny takes hold. It’s frightening how real this is. It’s frightening how the actuality of this books strikes me.

The Reading of Books #6

Another edition of books that I read, with Plutarch, Vargas LlosaMurakami and Kahneman. Keep on reading!

Plutarch – On Sparta 

Source: Goodreads.com

This edition of Plutarch’s writings on Sparta combines the lives of famous Spartans with an abundance of further notes and information. It’s a rather complete work for those interested in the legendary city state, that most will know from the film 300. The work of Plutarch has suffered many revisions by editors, trying to figure out a cool way to present it to the audience. Earlier I read a book by Penguing on The Age Of Alexander, where they cut descriptions of lives in half, splitting them in timeframes, since Plutarch loved to compare Greeks and Romans (preferably finding fitting couples). Thist time Penguin has decided to go for thinner books on a theme.

To compensate for the relative little amount of work, some extra resources have been added, which make this book to a rich source of information brought together under one cover. There is little commentary, but some critical notes that help the reader to relate to Plutarch and take his work with a grain of salt here and there. Truly, parts are very entertaining and others seem to be uncritical glorification. That seems to be a fatal flaw of historic works in general though.

Daniel Kahneman – Thinking Fast And Slow

Source: Goodreads.com

I’ve always had a dislike to psychology, I cannot help it. This book was also kind of selected by mistake, because it was categorized as a philosophy book. Well, what can you do? I listened to this on my iPod and was very much captivated by it. Not only does Kahneman have the unique ability to make things relatable and come up with proper examples, his whole explanation seems to be aimed at generating understanding. Not trying to be pretentious (which most psychology is) and actually explaining how difficult certain lessons and insights were to gather.

Kahneman explains that we have two systems of cognition, an instantanious top-of-mind one and a secondary, analytical and calculating one.  This explains a lot about the way we act and react to what happens around us. Learning to understand this system may be vital to understand why you feel and think certain things. I would call that a great insight and well worth the read/listening.

Mario Vargas Llosa – Dream Of The Celt 

Source: Goodreads.com

I’ve read this book on my e-reader, which is a new toy I have, which was captivating to the end. I spoiled this book a bit for myself by reading up on who Roger Casement, the protagonist of the book, actually is. Vargas Llosa dusted of this hero of the Irish struggle for freedom and tried to write his story, without making it all glorious and epic. It’s the story of a man with pain, haemeroids, represessed sexual feelings but a moral backbone and humanitarian ideals. It’s told as a a story that might be true and shows that people are more than who they sleep with.

Roger Casement was knighted for his daring reports on cruelties in Congo and Peru during the early 20th century. He visited these places and saw the greed and inhumanity of the Peruvian rubber company and Leopold II’s Congo. He also writes daring erotic stories in his diary of encounters with younger, vital men. Then he gets involved with the Irish struggle for independence, gets arested and eventually executed and slandered for his sexual preferences.  Vargas Llosa succesfully shows the whole person in a wonderful book.

Haruki Murakami – 1Q84

Source: Goodreads.com

I’ve never really gotten into much un-Western literature, by which I mean literature with a setting away from the world I’m used to. In reading the three books that make up 1Q84, I’ve definitely had a good choice in experiencing some of that and the excellent writing of Murakami. The story is about two people who seem to traverse to a parallel world, where strange things occur. The two people have met as children and never truly forgotten eachother. Aomame is a fitness instructor, she lives alone and has a minimal life style. Her other activities include casual sex with balding men and murdering men that abuse their women for a rich lady with a grudge.

Tengo teaches math in a school and in his spare time, he is a writer. He likes to read, cook and on friday has sex with his older girlfriend. His friend, the editor Komatsu, approaches him with a manuscript, written by a 17-year old girl. He plans to let Tengo rewrite it for a contest. From here on, life becomes strange for both figures that get themselves mixed up in something bigger then them. A world where logic doesn’t count for what it does in the real world. They relive their pasts and in the end their quest will bring them together. The title refers to the name that Aomame comes up with, as an alternative for the year the story takes place in (1984). The book is brilliantly written, never rushing but also never letting you hang in there. It offers a continuous story with magical aspects, deep characters and well measured emotions.

Like many Murakami readers before me, I want more.