A Reread – A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami

downloadBook #15.

I’ve decided to reread A Wild Sheep Chase since I’ve just finished the first two books of The Rat Trilogy just recently and it felt like reading it for the first time… twice! I can say I appreciate this book more now. I was able to understand it better as well and it opened my eyes to things I wasn’t able to grasp on my first reading.

In this final book of the trilogy, we still have our unnamed characters from the previous books and we finally have one named character, too! Kippler, the cat. 🙂 It was also while reading this that I realized how much I care for the characters in Murakami’s books. They are mostly intriguing that I really care about what’s going to happen to them. Moreover, Murakami has a way of describing the characters’ feelings like no other.

In a nutshell,  we have our protagonist who’s living a mediocre life, haunted by a whale’s penis, who doesn’t seem to be affected with his wife’s betrayal which led to their divorce, and soon meets a girl with unusually beautiful ears. Then the disappearance (and reappearance) of his friend, the Rat. We also have the sheep professor who locks himself in one of the rooms of Dolphin Hotel owned by his son. An Ainu youth who helped some early Japanese settlers in Hokkaido. A dying wealthy man known as the Boss, who sent his secretary/representative to our narrator to go find a mystical sheep with a star mark on its back. What do all these characters have to do with each other? They’re all a part of a wild sheep chase…

I didn’t really realize it the first time I’ve read this but I noticed that aside from the mystical sheep, war is also something we find in common among three notable characters here — the Boss, the sheep professor and the Ainu youth. They’re all remarkable characters in their own ways which is in contrast to our narrator who seems to be unaffected with his divorce, no ambitions and there doesn’t seem to be anything of significance to him. This I think, once again is an example of how Murakami was again able to explore the meaning of life and the meaning of living through the eyes of a mediocre Japanese guy disappointed in a modern world and in this life. There were several instances when the narrator feels nostalgic about music and the simple life he had when he was younger thus he struggles with the changes and modernization happening around say for example, the Boss’ right-wing. It’s also quite notable that Murakami probably felt that the modernization and corruption that happened to Japan is mostly because of western/foreign influence thus he used the sheep which was a new livestock brought to Japan, nobody knew about it, no historical connection in the lives of the Japanese, but was able to make big changes. The sheep though is something I see as a driving force for people who are weak to try to be as successful or productive as they can be. It somehow represents ambition and will to be powerful. Well it really depends on the reader what the sheep is trying to represent and this is just what I think but it’s the same thing that made our narrator and the Rat uneasy and troubled.

When the book ended, it made me want for more, though probably, as far as the Rat is concerned, I think the story has ended. And it’s sad. But still, as is what’s expected of every Murakami book, there are far more unanswered questions left behind. I’m not sure if Dance, Dance, Dance has the answers to these questions but I’m certainly looking forward to reading it soon.

Quotable Quotes :

“I was feeling lonely without her, but the fact that I could feel lonely at all was consolation. Loneliness wasn’t such a bad feeling. It was like the stillness of the pin oak after the little birds had flown off.”

“The song is over. But the melody lingers on.”

“Some things are forgotten, some things disappear, some things die.”

“I guess I felt attached to my weakness. My pain and suffering too. Summer light, the smell of a breeze, the sound of cicadas – if I like these things, why should I apologize?”

“Body cells replace themselves every month. Even at this very moment. Most everything you think you know about me is nothing more than memories.”

Rating : 5/5 stars

Quote of the Week

Do not spoil what you have by desiring what you have not; remember that what you now have was once among the things you only hoped for.

-Epicurus

Pinball, 1973 by Haruki Murakami

downloadBook #14.

Pinball, 1973 is the second book in The Rat series and just like Hear the Wind Sing, this is also a short read. So we have here the same unnamed narrator, now a few years older and got addicted to pinball, his acquaintance, the Rat who is still lonely and had a strange affair with a certain woman, J the bartender and a few additional unnamed characters like the twins who just one day appeared in the narrator’s apartment.

Pinball generally talks about loneliness and being alone. One trying to distance himself from people and one who can’t open up himself to others. Here we see how deeply his girlfriend’s suicide from the first book affected our narrator. The Rat on the other hand continues to struggle with his own life, not knowing exactly what to do and whether to stay or leave. The narrator and the Rat never met in this book but it seemed like their loneliness kind of connected them and that same loneliness consumed me.

Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball are a good warm-up to Murakami’s first full-length novel A Wild Sheep Chase which I happened to read back in 2015. I thought then that I didn’t seem to miss on anything without reading the first two books but now that I’ve read them, it is very likely that I’ll read it again and will somehow enjoy and understand it more.

It’s very interesting to see the author’s writing progress in this second book of his. Pinball is better than its predecessor and we can see more signs of Murakami’s strangeness already and most importantly how his characters contemplate about the important questions in life and how they deal with it, which in a way makes us readers rethink about how we deal with our lives as well. I kind of wished it to be a little longer too because when it started to get better, that’s when it ended.

Another Murakami work that gave me something to chew on.

Quotable Quotes :

“Sometimes I feel like a caretaker of a museum — a huge, empty museum where no one ever comes, and I’m watching over it for no one but myself.”

“I could go on like this forever, but would I ever find a place that was meant for me?”

“We fell silent again. The thing we had shared was nothing more than a fragment of time that had died long ago. Even so, a faint glimmer of that warm memory still claimed a part of my heart. And when death claimed me, no doubt I would walk along by that faint light in the brief instant before being flung once again into the abyss of nothingness.”

“Happiness is a warm friendship.”

“There are — how do you say — things in this world our philosophy cannot account for.”

Rating : 4/5 stars

Quote of the Week

There are years that ask questions,

and years that answer.

-Zora Neale Hurston

The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida

the reason i jumpBook #12.

This book was written by an autistic boy, then thirteen-year-old Naoki Higashida. It is very remarkable that he was able to share with us his inner voice through this book which he wrote using an alphabet grid prepared by one of his teachers.

Structured as a series of questions commonly asked by non-autistic people, young Naoki answered and shared his thoughts as best as he could like, 1) Why are you so picky with what you eat? 2) When you’re on one of your highs, what’s going through your mind? 3) What’s the worst thing about having autism?

The book focuses on the importance of understanding people with autism. He mentioned that they need more understanding with their reasoning, their emotions, their behavior. He asks for more tolerance and love.

This is a very interesting read since it gave me a unique look of what’s going on in the mind of someone with autism. It really brings you into an autistic’s world. Very surprising how Naoki’s mind works actually!

Quotable Quotes :

“Everybody has a heart that can be touched by something.”

“We can put up with our own hardships okay, but the thought that our lives are the source of other people’s unhappiness, that’s plain unbearable.”

“True compassion is about not bruising the other person’s self-respect.”

“I’ll always cherish the part of me that thinks of nature as a friend.”

“Unchanging things are comforting, and there’s something beautiful about that.”

Rating : 4/5 stars

The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer

The_Guernsey_Literary_and_Potato_Peel_Pie_SocietyBook #11.

Quite a title, huh?

The book is set right in the aftermath of the second World War in both the island of Guernsey and London. The intertwined stories are told through a series of letters and most of them from an English writer, Juliet Ashton. The first letter came one day from a farmer and carpenter, Dawsey Adams. Juliet learned of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society from Dawsey (as he is the founder) and thought that it has potential to be a subject of an article. (I will leave it to you to read and learn how they came up with that name.) The correspondence continued and the other members also started writing Juliet their stories. Little did they know how their lives would later mean to each other.

This is an epistolary novel full  of warmth, love and humor. All the characters were given a strong, unique voice that made them seem real, makes me want to meet them all specially, Isola. The letters not only reveal the horrors during the Nazi occupation in Guernsey but the kindness of people as well despite their situation.

I liked the simplicity and charm of this book. You’d be laughing out loud one minute then you’d be tearing up the next. It left me wanting people to still be writing personal letters to each other and not just emails or text messages. It may sound a bit old-fashioned but the connection between people seemed more intimate and true.

It’s an easy read and I enjoyed it!

Quotable Quotes :

“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you to another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive – all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.”

“I don’t want to be married just to be married. I can’t think of anything lonelier than spending the rest of my life with someone I can’t talk to, or worse, someone I can’t be silent with.”

“Men are more interesting in books than they are in real life.”

“Have you ever noticed that when your mind is awakened or drawn to someone new, that person’s name suddenly pops up everywhere you go?”

“Humor is the best way to make the unbearable bearable.”

Rating : 4/5 stars

Quote of the Week

True compassion is about not bruising the other person’s self-respect.

-Naoki Higashida

Quote of the Week

We demand closure as though our lives were put together as neatly as novels, but the fact of the matter is they’re not. In real life, relationships are messy and poorly written, ending too early or too late, and sometimes in the middle of a sentence.

-Beau Taplin

Hear the Wind Sing by Haruki Murakami

hear-the-wind-singBook #10.

Hear the Wind Sing was Murakami’s first novel, more like a novella actually because it’s very short, and you’d feel it even shorter because of its frequent page breaks.

It’s set in Japan with a nameless narrator on his summer break and his friend known as the Rat who struggles with his everyday life filled with loneliness.

The book isn’t something that lives up to the current Murakami standards. There ain’t much to its plot and it just goes on without anything clear going on. It’s pretty much a collection of the narrator’s encounters with the Rat, with J, and the girl with only nine fingers. Then his being nostalgic about his past relationships.

That said, it doesn’t mean though that I didn’t like this book. There’s no parallel universe in it but there’s a familiar tone. There’s always something interesting in a Murakami novel and as long as it’s read for what it is, you’ll never be disappointed.

Up next : Pinball, 1973

Quotable Quotes :

“There’s no such thing as perfect writing, just like there’s no such thing as perfect despair.”

“Sometimes, I imagine how great it would be if we could live our lives without bothering other people.”

“I like the sky. You can look at it forever and never get tired of it, and when you don’t want to look at it anymore, you stop.”

“…the wind has its reasons. We just don’t notice as we go about our lives. But then, at some point, we are made to notice. The wind envelops you with a certain purpose in mind, and it rocks you. The wind knows everything that’s inside you. And not just the wind. Everything, including a stone. They all know us very well. From top to bottom. It only occurs to us at certain times. And all we can do is go with those things. As we take them in, we survive, and deepen.

“Everyone who has something is afraid of losing it, and people with nothing are worried they’ll forever have nothing. Everyone is the same.”

Rating : 4/5 stars

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