WIND/PINBALL by Haruki Murakami [2015]

Wind.Pinball

R. Tim Morris’ Rating: 6/10

Two of Haruki Murakami’s first and previously unpublished stories, each one only around 100 pages. I was going to write my review of the first story (“Hear the Wind Sing“), but then I thought, “Nah. I’ll read the second one and then review them both! Gosh golly, I’m brilliant.” Of course, half-way through book two (“Pinball, 1973“) I’d forgotten nearly everything I liked about the first book. Yes dear readers, I am brilliant indeed.
But this is the nature of Murakami. His stories all share very similar themes and characters that even if you enjoy his work it’s sometimes very hard to differentiate them. These are not perfect stories but there are perfect moments within them both. And when Murakami gets perfect right, well it’s perfect. It’s the quiet moments of reflection; young men maturing and finding their place in the world; girls preparing spaghetti; a trip to the doctor to have wax removed from an ear canal; waking up next to a mysterious girl with nine fingers; the weirdness of discovering a barn in the outskirts of Tokyo that is filled with pinball machines and the protagonist has a conversation with his favorite one. It’s stuff like that that makes Murakami.
No, nothing really happens in these stories, but sometimes it’s just a pleasure to read the words of certain authors.

COLORLESS TSUKURU TAZAKI and HIS YEARS of PILGRIMAGE, by Haruki Murakami [2014]

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

R. Tim Morris’ Rating: 9/10

Some say Haruki Murakami is a one-trick pony, and I cannot completely disagree. Though with his latest novel – Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage – I can confidently say that his “trick” is getting better and better.
Colorless Tsukuru reads a lot like Norwegian Wood, which holds a special place in many readers’ hearts. Toru and Tsukuru are also very similar characters, but I found myself more interested in Tsukuru’s story. He’s a beautifully tortured character, alone and disconnected just enough from the world. But he also overcomes his solitude, and from a reader’s standpoint, it is an extremely positive and gratifying resolution.
There is just enough magical realism (Murakami’s bread and butter) in the story to keep readers wondering; you never know when one idea will tie into another idea later in the story. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t and sometimes they require thinking about for an extended period of time. Most importantly, and just like in any of his books, Murakami’s writing is outstanding here. The man has a very special way with words, so much so that I will continue to read and be inspired by his work.

Favorite Books I Read in 2013

My Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge saw me complete 46 books this year! Granted, many of these were graphic novels but there were also 16 novels, which is probably the most I’ve ever read in a single year. I’m a slow reader, give me a break.

Not counting books that I re-read this year (I’m always re-reading favorites), I’ve narrowed down my Top-5 Books that I discovered in 2013. Here goes:

Chronic CityCHRONIC CITY, by Jonathan Lethem

I’d been putting off reading Jonathan Lethem long enough so I decided to read three of his books this summer. First was Motherless Brooklyn. Next came Fortress of Solitude. And finally I read Chronic City. I was most excited to read ‘Fortress’ since this was the author’s seminal work. And I liked it. But I LOVED Chronic City. Maybe it was because it came unexpectedly. Maybe because it had the most polarizing reviews of the three. But probably because it’s just so very New Yorky, and more similar to my own writing. This is a very odd book with not too many likable characters, and it did lag a bit around the 3/4 mark, but in the end it struck me as the most special of Lethem’s “trilogy.” I even grabbed my own copy of Chronic City afterwards and I’m looking forward to reading this one again in the not too distant future. A very underrated novel.

Norwegian WoodNORWEGIAN WOOD, by Haruki Murakami

You can read my review HERE.

 

 

 

Worst. Person. Ever.

WORST. PERSON. EVER. by Douglas Coupland

You can read my review HERE.

 

 

 

Bright Lights Big CityBRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY, by Jay McInerney

Billed as an American classic, this was a book I was always wanting to read but could never find a copy. Finally, after receiving a copy last Christmas, I immediately tore into it and I was certainly not disappointed. It is a little stuck in the Eighties, which is possibly the worst time period to be stuck in, but enjoyable nonetheless. McInerney’s writing is poignant and funny at the same time. I recommend this to anyone who loves contemporary fiction.

 

Uncanny Avengers 2UNCANNY AVENGERS VOL.2: THE APOCALYPSE TWINS, by Rick Remender and Daniel Acuna

I almost put Hawkeye: My Life As A Weapon here in my top-5 (which is brilliant, by the way), but opted for this book instead. I think the reason this volume really struck me was because the storyline is HUGE. It’s massive and far-reaching with so many implications on the Marvel Universe, and yet it was not marketed as such. Comics have the obscene ability to market the hell out their huge story lines, to the point where the end product never lives up to the expectations of the hype. Here, Remender is doing something big but he’s doing it quietly, and neither he nor Marvel are afraid of making a mess of things. A good mess, that is. Be aware that this storyline continues right into Volume 3 (“Ragnarok”), so the two are not really complete without each other. Check this one out; I have a feeling this will soon be headed into the must-read category of Marvel Comics history.

NORWEGIAN WOOD (2000), by Haruki Murakami

Norwegian Wood

R. Tim Morris’ Rating: 9/10

Oh, that ending could have been so much better! Actually, the book would have been near perfect without that last chapter at all. Aside from that, my biggest complaint was the character of Reiko; she just didn’t add anything for me and her whole story really just bogged down everything else around it. Take her right out and I think you’ve got a much stronger novel. (This of course is a pretty general, sweeping statement, but she certainly did not need to have so big a role. At least in my opinion.)

I was so close to giving this the 10-star treatment, but as it is Norwegian Wood is only near-perfect for me. It’s been a long time since I’ve gotten choked up from a book and it felt great. At least when I read this a second time (and I’m sure I will) I’ll know what parts to skip.

Haruki Murakami has really hooked me so far (1Q84 and Norwegian Wood), and I’ll be looking forward to another of his works. Kafka on the Shore, here I come.

1Q84 (2011), by Haruki Murakami

1Q84

R. Tim Morris’ Rating: 8/10

My first Haruki Murakami experience. Loved the first book and second book. Book Three just didn’t have enough steam, and could probably have been written more as an epilogue. Far too many chapters where the characters were just waiting around for stuff to happen. The introduction of Ushikawa as a main character seemed unceccessary even though he was pivotal in the final meeting of Aomame & Tengo.

Murakami has interesting ways of providing information to the reader. In two instances that I can think of (the first time we learn of Tengo’s childhood memories of Aomame & when we learn about what really happened to his mother) the information is almost thrown in unexpectedly and in very strange parts of the story. I found this interesting from a writing standpoint.

The mystery was fascinating and the characters were fresh (though I found Tengo to be much more interesting than Aomame). I don’t usually read magical realism, but I really enjoyed the ideas of the Air Chrysalis, the tale of the Cat Town and the alternate realities. It all added up to one of the most unique books I’ve read.