Monday, December 28, 2009

Two Books and A Movie

I recently finished Norwegian Wood by Murakami & Speed Tribes by Karl Taro Greenfeld, and watched "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter ... and Spring" directed by Kim Ki-duk.

Speed Tribes was an engaging read, I managed to read it cover to cover in one day. The vignettes are interesting and insightful in a natural way, nothing is forced. They trail off at the end leaving the subject's position uncertain - a good parallel for their time period and setting (bubble and early post-bubble Japan). The book is what I would consider textbook creative non-fiction. It has a definite entertainment value to it while pointing to, but not quite indicting the social climate. The only lingering question, as with most creative non-fiction, is to what degree a creative license is taken. This is not an indictment, just an acknowledgment of the author's relative disappearance in the narrative past the introduction. He must be present in a first or second-hand manner throughout these tales, but where he is in relation to the action is ambiguous. That would be my only possible critique.

My favorite vignette was "Dai: The Motorcycle Thief".

Like most Murakami novels,
Norwegian Wood was great. Norwegian Wood is definitely different from other novels of his I have read (upon some later searching I discovered an interview in which Murakami goes into this in further detail). It does not contain the usual matter-of-fact bending of reality/fantasy such as talking felines, but the mystery remains in the way Murakami develops the characters. I believe this was the challenge Murakami was looking for and succeeds in. I found the characters easy to relate to despite their supposed unconventional personalities. That is perhaps the most magnetic part of the characters: their oddities are just like our own unsaid oddities which lends to develop Murakami's often used theme of alienation.

I could go on, maybe I will at some other time, but for now I will simply say I recommend the novel.

A short note on "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter ... and Spring". I have seen a few of Kim Ki-duk's films now and this was my favorite. Obviously, it is a Buddhist parable and of course it has modern significance. The great aspect about the film is its timelessness - it could easily be set in the 16th century as it is in modern day. The cinematography is simply beautiful and full of meaning.

I have started reading
East Asian Multilateralism, compiled/edited by Kent E. Calder and Francis Fukuyama.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Pre-Christmas Booking

I recently picked up Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, it will be the fifth novel by Murakami that I have read. While I have this time off I consider it a good time to plow through a good stack of books. Moreover, it is Christmas time and I foresee a good five non-fiction books waiting under the tree for me, so I am going to finish this new one before Christmas. I also have Madame Bovary kicking around, but that is how it will remain - being punted occassionally. Now that I am no longer in D.C. I can't take 15-page chunks at a time out of it while on the train.

Murakami is always surprising, surprising because he can draw me in without realizing it. Even though I am used to the way he pulls me in with each book so far. I wonder how much it has to do with the translations that I read. I have the feeling the translations are pretty true-to-form. Murakami seems to exude the attitude found in the translated works, and that is sufficient in convincing me. I still have only read his short story "Tony Takitani" in Japanese, but I am still unable to pick up most written nuance in Japanese. Nonetheless, when I read a translation I pick up some set phrases and feel like I can translate them backwards in a sense.

I am exactly a third of the way through the book and I had to stop myself before a good 60 some page section was coming up. I will be saving it for tomorrow.