Murakami: p. 89 of THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE

Whenever she ran out of money, she would do something like fortune-telling.  People would reward her for helping them find lost things or missing persons.  She would have preferred not to take the money. Powers bestowed by heaven should not be exchanged for worldly goods.

–  The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, p. 89

Sigh. Self adores Murakami.

This book. Self has no words.

Stay tuned.

Haruki Murakami Food Hit List

Two days ago self had to return Alan Furst’s Dark Star to the local library. She was 3/4 of the way through, and two weeks overdue, and someone had put a hold on it, boo.

And self realized it was really a very good book.  Probably the best spy story about pre-World War II she’s ever read.

But she had to return the book. And she felt it would be disrespectful to rush through the last 50 or so pages. Or to take a peek at the end. So she simply returned it to the library, unfinished.

So, onward!

She’s reading Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

Strangely, though this book is static where Furst’s was anything but, she feels much more tension in Murakami’s book.

(She’s also been reading Catherine Dunne’s The Things We Know Now. And re-reading Hunger Games: Catching Fire. And she’s wondering about that new Liam Neeson movie.)

Well, it’s been a long time since she’s read Murakami.  There was a year of her life when it seemed she read nothing but.

So it’s interesting that Murakami appeals to her once again.

And this time, she has a sure-fire way to make sure she remembers what she reads.  She’ll list down every single food Murakami mentions, and throw in page #s.

There are much worse games to play. Thank you, Katniss.

  • p. 1:  “boiling a potful of spaghetti”
  • bottom of p. 2: “a glass of water”
  • bottom of p. 9: the narrator’s wife is “picking out fish bones” from her dinner plate — so obviously they must have had fish for dinner.
  • p. 10: The narrator rips open “a plastic pack of tofu.”
  • p. 14: The narrator removes “a lemon drop” from his pocket and starts sucking on it. It fills his mouth with “sticky sweetness.”
  • p. 17: A girl about fifteen or sixteen offers the narrator “a cold drink”: beer
  • p. 18: The narrator has somehow managed to fill his mouth with another lemon drop, even though earlier he had spit the original lemon drop onto the ground, and in between then and p. 18, there’s been nary a mention of his retrieving another one from his pocket. But all is forgiven when the girl offers the narrator a Coke.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

How Could You Possibly Expect

How could you possibly expect writing like this in a spy thriller?  Alan Furst’s writing is so good it is impossible to skim:

Spring died early that year, soft rains came and went, the sky turned its fierce French blue only rarely, a mean little wind arrived at dusk and blew papers around the cobbled streets.  The end of April was generally admitted to be triste, only the surrealists liked such unhappy weather, then summer came before anybody was really ready for it.

–  Dark Star, p. 111

 

DARK STAR, by Alan Furst

Book Jacket, Inside Flap:

1937. Paris. Moscow. Berlin. Prague.

Oooh, self likes!

The next book on self’s reading list after she finishes this one (Hopefully, she will finish this one. Her brain is a little limp right now. She had to return Richard Price’s Lush Life to the Redwood City Library after trying and failing to get past p. 75, for three months) is Haruki Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicles, which she hopes isn’t as depressing as Norwegian Wood. Then she’ll tackle a Donna Leon Inspector Brunetti mystery (which are all set in Venice, and why she didn’t manage to read one last year before she was actually in Venice is yet another mystery), then Hans Fallada’s Every Man Dies Alone (Mr. Fallada doesn’t have to rub it in: Self knows she will die alone. She’s still alive, but it feels as if she’s alone. Alone in her head, that is. Then self starts wondering where her final resting place will be. Not Manila, as it’s simply too polluted. Not Bacolod Memorial Park, because she doesn’t have a plot there. The plots must be expensive. Not Redwood City, her current abode, because no one will visit. She’ll be in a vase, The Man will mis-lay the vase, and then someone will buy their house from son and in cleaning out the garage, will discover the vase, and her ashes will be tossed out, so the vase can be used for something else. Niiiiice!)

Mr. Furst — HALLELUJAH — is a very good writer. Even though Dark Star is labeled a thriller, there is tons of atmosphere. There are urine-soaked allies, and ships moving through storms, and indifferent captains, and all that Bourne-type stuff.

In one scene, our hero (a man named Szara, who so far hasn’t shown any tendencies towards criminality, but whose backstory at this point in time — p. 12 — is still opaque) encounters a mysterious woman. It is always nice to have the option to hang out with mysterious (and also good-looking) women while waiting in some European city to receive one’s next assignment. This is what Tom Cruise does all the time in those Mission Impossible movies:

Szara liked women and they knew it.  All he wanted to do, as the tension left him, was chatter, maybe make her laugh. They were just people, a man and a woman, but she wasn’t buying.  Whatever this was, he thought, it was not an arrest. Very well, then a continuation of the business he did with the NKVD from time to time.  Every journalist, every citizen outside the Soviet Union, had to do that.

The NKVD must be something like the Soviet KGB. Perhaps a precursor?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Sebastian Barry’s THE SECRET SCRIPTURE, pp. 28 – 30

Must. Get. Through. This. Novel. At. All. Costs.

Because the next novel on her list is Richard Price’s Lush Life.  But she can’t get to it until she finishes this one.  That’s been her vow.  So, this morning, she manfully addresses “the book in question.”

The main protagonist, Roseanne McNulty, is an inmate in a mental hospital.  As she approaches her 100th (!) birthday, her doctor tells her that she may have one chance left for freedom: the old hospital is being torn down, and old records are being examined, hers included.  The doctor has suspected for quite some time that Mrs. McNulty was wrongly institutionalized; she’s not, in other words, mentally defective and neither is she suffering from some psychological disorder.

In the passage self is reading, the doctor decides to confide his thoughts about her incarceration to Mrs. McNulty:

Dread, like a sickness, a memory of a sickness, the first time in many years I had felt it.

“Are you all right, Roseanne?  Please don’t be agitated.”

“Of course I want freedom, Dr. Grene.  But it frightens me.”

“The gaining of freedom,” said Dr. Grene pleasantly, “is always accomplished in an atmosphere of uncertainty.  In this country at least.  Perhaps in all countries.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

“Words With Writers” Interview with Sebastian Barry

Self has decided that her reading list is too bloated.

From now on, or just for the next year anyway, she will read only books by LIVING writers.

Well, that helped.  Self got rid of perhaps 1/3 of the books on her list.

She’s still reading Sebastian Barry’s The Secret Scripture.

She decides to look up interviews he’s given, and comes up with a gem on a site called “Words With Writers.”

Who do you picture as the ideal reader of your work?

All of us inevitably become experienced in the world, by the mere process of living in it; but my ideal reader perhaps can put aside the cargo of experience somewhat, and access also their original innocence, so that sense is also brought to the book in their lap.

Is there a quote about writing that inspires you?

I very much like the anonymous but astute definition that “a novel is a long piece of prose with something wrong with it.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Sebastian Barry, Again

(It occurs to self that she never stumbled across anything by Barry when she was at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, in May.  And she did give those bookshelves a good going-over.  Oh mystery!)

The book self is currently reading is Barry’s 2008 novel, The Secret Scripture (She advanced five pages since yesterday.  Today, she’s on p. 13):

His voice entered my head as a sort of honey, that lingered there potently, buzzingly, banishing all the fears of childhood.  As the voice rose up, so did all of him, arms, whiskers, one foot swinging a little over the old carpet with its pattern of repeating dogs, his eyes brimming with a strange merriment.  Even Napoleon might not have scorned him as a man of elevated qualities.  At such moments he exhibited a most beautiful timbre in the quiet passages of songs that to this day I have never heard outmatched.  Many fine singers made their way to Sligo when I was a young woman and sang in the halls under the rain, and for a few of the more popular sort I even played piano accompaniment, chopping out the notes and chords for them, more of a hindrance than a help to them perhaps.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

The Reading List, 3rd Wednesday of July (2014)

Time for self to get serious again with her reading.

These are the list of books she plans to read.  It is telling that they are all novels.

Well, the last one, by Alan Furst, is more of a thriller.

She’s never read him before, so she’s glad for a chance to get to know him.

Without further ado, the list:

  • Sebastian Barry’s The Secret Scripture (Self adores Barry)
  • Richard Price’s The Lush Life (It’s set in New York City.  Self loves New York City.)
  • Janice Y. K. Lee’s The Piano Teacher (It’s set in Hong Kong.  Self loves Hong Kong.)
  • Alan Furst’s Dark Star (Self doesn’t know where this is set.  In fact, she hardly knows anything about this novel except that it was recommended in a back issue of Condé Nast Traveler)

Here’s a passage from The Secret Scripture, pp. 11 -12:

It is funny, but it strikes me that a person without anecdotes that they nurse while they live, and that survive them, are more likely to be utterly lost not only to history but the family following them.  Of course this is the fate of most souls, reducing entire lives, no matter how vivid and wonderful, to those sad black names on withering family trees, with half a date dangling after and a question mark.

My father’s happiness not only redeemed him, but drove him to stories, and keeps him even now alive in me, like a second more patient and more pleasing soul . . .

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

A Reading List (No Joyce! Or Swift!): Historical Fiction

Near Temple Bar, Dublin

Near Temple Bar, Dublin

Self rode around Dublin on the Hop On-Hop Off double-decker bus today (the weather was gorgeous!).  Self met two fellow Americans who, it turns out, hail from Daly City, California!  She stayed on that bus for about two hours.  Her thoughts began to revolve around UK-centric historical fiction she has read and enjoyed.

Naturally, she loves Catherine Dunne (especially Another Kind of Life) and Sarah Waters (especially Fingersmith and The Night Watch), but here are some others that sprang to mind:

Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott:  Set at the time of the Norman Conquest (plus self remembers it was made into a pretty fab BBC mini-series, with Ciaran Hinds playing villain)

The Scarlet Pimpernel, by Baroness Orczy (Surely that’s a pseudonym?  This was the novel self voraciously read and re-read, summers in Bacolod)

The Eagle of the Ninth, by Rosemary Sutcliff (Did anyone see Channing in the film adaptation?  So gorgeous, even when wearing Roman toga)

From Hell, by Alan Moore (The first book self bought on this trip; she spent a gorgeous April afternoon reading it in Russell Square, and then had to mail it home because it was too heavy to lug to Ireland)

One of self’s all-time favorites is Sebastian Barry’s anguished novel of World War I, A Long, Long Way.

And she knows a writer who is addicted to Nora Roberts.

Today self bought a wee pocketbook from the National Gallery of Art:  The Happy Prince & Other Stories by Oscar Wilde.  Oh, she cried already after reading the title story.  It was just so — poignant.  The swallow and the Prince, each dying of neglect, but united by generosity of spirit (Clearly, self adores angst!)

Now to read the next story, “The Nightingale and the Rose.”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

 

 

Gogol and Jhumpa

For some reason, self’s reading pace in 2014 has been positively glacial.

She brought three books with her when she left California, and she’s only managed to finish one:  the Jhumpa Lahiri collection Unaccustomed Earth.

What happened was, at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre, she wrote like she was on fire.  She was only able to read a few pages at a time of UE. By the last week of her stay in Annaghmakerrig, she’d calmed down and began re-reading the last three stories of UE.  And only then was she truly able to appreciate the stories’ many-layered richness.

Then, she left the Tyrone Guthrie Centre and began an odyssey that included:  Dublin, Cambridge, Oxford, and Cork.

She’s still in Cork, by the way.  If anyone’s trying to keep tabs.

Here she is, on p. 14 of Jhumpa’s novel The Namesake, which she began reading two weeks ago (Self wasn’t kidding when she described her reading pace as glacial).  It begins, with all things, with a character being moved — no, haunted — by Gogol’s story “The Overcoat.”

Self will quote a little excerpt, and then she has to make herself go outside because the day really is too beautiful.

Ashoke was always devastated when Akaky was robbed “in a square that looked to him like a dreadful desert,” leaving him cold and vulnerable, and Akaky’s death, some pages later, never failed to bring tears to his eyes.  In some ways the story made less sense each time he read it, the scenes he pictured so vividly, and absorbed so fully, growing more elusive and profound.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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