A double update because last week I was lazy. Three weeks in and three books down. Not too bad. This week I’m hoping to tackle American Psycho. I’ve read the first few pages, and it isn’t so bad so far. I’ve made the grave mistake, however, of seeing the movie before I’ve read the book. Hopefully the novel is less incoherent.
Warning: Spoilers all
Title: Norwegian Wood
Author: Haruki Murakami
I waited too long to write down my thoughts about this book, and now the sense of it has faded. The thing I remember most is the isolation each character feels and their yearning for connection, big or small. My favorite part was Reiko’s story. She was a pianist, classically-trained since she was old enough to sit a piano. One day she has a mental breakdown and can’t play anymore. She gets better and even finds love, marries, has a baby girl. Things fall apart and she breaks down again, but her description of her husband is key to a major theme of the book: she says she needed someone to hold together the broken parts of her life. If she could only put everything in another person’s hands and have them keep the screws from falling out (it’s been two weeks, and I can’t remember the exact details), everything would be fine. She’d be better. Happy. Of course, outside events make that impossible, and she goes away again, this time for good. This support is really what all the characters want. Nagasawa goes whoring, has slept with hundreds of women, despite having a girlfriend who idolizes him. He’s searching for connection, but it’s hollow and he keeps looking, a clockwork orange sex machine. Midori, who takes care of her ailing father while pretending he’s in Uruguay (hello, distance/isolation metaphor!), drags Watanabe (the narrator) to dirty movie theatres to watch pornos where people contort themselves into every combination of touch their various physical apparatuses allow, and then pressgangs him into holding her while she falls asleep. And Naoko… she yearns for a physical contact her body literally won’t allow. There’s a lot to be said about other aspects of the book, too. About the root cause of each character’s isolation, the urban vs. the rural, and personal/academic mediocrity vs. excellence, but I’ll save those for the paper I’ll never write. The whole story was brilliant and impossible to put down. I’ll be reading more of his books in the near future.
Title: A Fire Upon the Deep
Author: Vernor Vinge
Status: Completed. (5 chapters by the end of week two.)
After a somewhat confusing first couple pages told from the point of view of an evil computer, the story settled into an excellent mix of high- and low-tech branches that split in the first few chapters and come crashing together at the end. I particularly liked the Tines, a species of medieval-esque dog creatures who live in castles. Each individual’s consciousness is shared in a pack of 4 to 8 separate creatures that must maintain close contact at all times. A handful of humans crash land on their planet with the secret to defeating the aforementioned evil computer, and the feudal powerplays parallel nicely with the galaxy-wide conflict engulfing the higher-tech civilizations. A very solid space opera. That being said, some parts were rather slow-paced (I swear several of the main characters spend whole chapters sitting around their spaceship, arguing about whether or not they can trust the aliens onboard who are potted plants on motorized scooters). Overall, I’d say the book was worth the read.
Back-Burner Books (books I’ve started in the last year, but never made much progress into):
Summary of Books Completed:
Week One: Hominids (Jan 3, 2015)
Week Two: Norwegian Wood (Jan 8, 2015)
Week Three: A Fire Upon the Deep (Jan 18, 2015)