The Year 2017 in Books

Self read The Executioner’s Song, hated it, and lost respect for Joan Didion, who praised it to high heaven.

She read a Peter Lovesey mystery.

She admired Ape House and American Gods.

She met Montcalm and Wolfe and read Redeployment.

She loved Tom Holland’s Rubicon and found Robert Harris’s Conspirata engaging.

She read The Oregon Trail, Rinker Buck’s trek across America in a covered wagon drawn by mules, in PARIS.

She enjoyed This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! and William Finnegan’s memoir, Barbarian Days.

Late summer found her reading Bernard Cornwell’s Waterloo: The History of Four Days, Three Armies, and Three Battles.

She found Haruki Murakami again (she used to love him a lot) in September, when she decided to re-read The Elephant Vanishes.

Towards the end of the year, she read three excellent books: Voices From Chernobyl: An Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster, Thomas Marsh’s Do No Harm, and Tana French’s Broken Harbor.

This is far below her usual number of books read in one year (she used to average 60), but it was satisfying.

Stay tuned.

Murakami Sentence of the Day

Even when self isn’t particularly taken by a Murakami story, there is always a take-away.

This story was written in the Jurassic period. Records in jackets? And none of Murakami’s characters use e-mail or text-messaging. Nevertheless:

  • The dwarf would take half-played records off the turntable, throw them onto the pile without returning them to their jackets, lose track of which went with which, and afterward put records in jackets at random.

— from “The Dancing Dwarf,” Story # 14 in The Elephant Vanishes

“A Window” by Haruki Murakami

Self decided to start reading this story (Story # 11 in Murakami’s The Elephant Vanishes) because a reader on Goodreads called it “boring.” She’s not reading in order. Which is the neat thing about short story collections: you can totally cherry-pick.

It is the most ordinary of Murakami’s seemingly ordinary stories, it’s about the perfect hamburger, what do you know, and it begins with one word:

GREETINGS

Any story that opens like that holds promise.

A few pages in, there is this:

  • I realize now that the reality of things is not something you convey to people but something you make. It is this that gives birth to meaning.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Typical Conversation If Married to a Dentist: Story # 5 in THE ELEPHANT VANISHES

Self has no memory of reading any of the stories (except for the one about cooking spaghetti), how odd. If ever a book demanded close reading, it is this one. Each sentence has a precise and very unpredictable effect. For instance, one sentence can say, “I’m going to kill myself tomorrow” and the next sentence will be something like “So I settled on the couch to watch a game show.”

She is totally in awe of Murakami’s unwavering commitment to the absurd.

  • I didn’t want to think about plaque on people’s teeth, and I especially didn’t want to hear or think about it while I was eating.

The next sentence is about how the narrator wishes she could just resume reading — of all things — Anna Karenina instead of listening to her husband.

Oh of course! Anna Karenina throws herself in front of a train; is Murakami implying that the wife would throw herself in front of a train if she has to spend another minute listening to her husband talk about plaque removal?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Murakami Throws Shade on Ugly Dentist

Story # 5 of The Elephant Vanishes: Sleep

(Murakami writes from a woman’s point of view in this one. Self found the effect a bit startling at first)

“I know why you’ve got so many patients,” I always say to him. “It’s because you’re such a good-looking guy.”

This is our little joke. He’s not good-looking at all. Actually, he’s kind of strange-looking. Even now I wonder why I married such a strange-looking man.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Murakami, Greatness

  • This is my seventeenth straight day without sleep.

Sleep, Story # 5 in The Elephant Vanishes, by Haruki Murakami, translation by Jay Rubin

How many years ago did self first read this collection?

It left hardly any impression.

She loves it madly now.

Stay tuned.

#amreading THE ELEPHANT VANISHES, by Haruki Murakami

Self has read this book before, apparently (See blog dating 20____). But the only story she remembers is the one about making spaghetti.

Now, this go-round, she is finding the book a lot of fun. She doesn’t remember it being as much fun the first time.

Story # 3: The Kangaroo Communiqué

Shall I put it on the line?

I want to be able to be in two places at once. That is my one and only wish. Other than that, there’s not a thing I desire.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Story by Danielle McLaughlin: The New Yorker, 7 September 2015

Just self’s luck. The first New Yorker story she reads in a long, long time, and it’s about

SPOILER HEY SPOILER STOP READING SPOILER

(Trigger Warning: Read the rest of this entry »

Bolaño Again, Still Page 251 (Apparently Stuck on This Page FOREVER)

A few sentences prior, the protagonist had discovered that he still remembered how to make pork chops (What is it with writers and cooking? Self was similarly moved by Murakami’s protagonist cooking spaghetti in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle)

I learned to combine cooking with history. I learned to combine cooking with the thankfulness and confusion I felt at the kindness of so many people, from my late sister to countless others. And let me explain something. When I say confusion, I also mean awe. In other words, the sense of wonderment at a marvelous thing, like the lilies that bloom and die in a single day, or azaleas, or forget-me-nots. But I also realized this wasn’t enough. I couldn’t live forever on my recipes for ribs, my famous recipes. Ribs were not the answer. You have to change. You have to turn yourself around and change.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Hunger Games! Fan Fiction! Self’s New Chapter!

An excerpt from self’s magical realist, Haruki Murakami-inspired, multi-chapter Hunger Games fan fiction:

There’s a sharp knock on the door.

A voice he doesn’t recognize calls his name:  “Mr. Mellark! Mr. Mellark!”

Then, the door seems to open by itself. Peeta turns. There, standing in his apartment, are two ordinary men. They are somewhere between the ages of 50 and 60, and Peeta is sure they aren’t from the Capitol because of the clothes they’re wearing.

“Who are you?” he blurts out.

“We are your friends, Mr. Mellark,” they say in unison.

“No, I don’t know you,” Peeta says. “It’s a trick.”

“We’re here in answer to your call,” the taller of the two says. “Do you recall, about a month ago, speaking to Greasy Sae at The Hob?”

Peeta gapes.

“Mr. Mellark, did you or did you not go to Greasy Sae at The Hob? About a month ago. Think, Mr. Mellark, think.”

It’s a bone-chilling day in New York City. Self spent part of the day on Columbus Avenue. But now that she’s back in the apartment, which is warmer than anywhere in California, she refuses to leave again. Cancel everything! Dinner plans, meeting plans. She’s going to finish reading the latest installment from one of the writers she follows, Fanfiction Allergy. And also write a little bit.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

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