It is simple and beautiful like most Japanese literature. Reading Hiromi Kawakami’s Strange Weather in Tokyo is a lot like staring at the night sky and wondering what about it seems so fascinating.
The book is a love story that is very relatable despite its uncanny situation and plot.
An almost forty year old Tsukiko finds herself in the company of her Japanese secondary school teacher whom she barely remembers when he first approaches her.
They later on find themselves entangled in a karmic situation — meeting without making plans and without having any expectations and demands.
The book takes you on a journey of doubts and fears all in the name of love. It’s not heavily laden with societal problems and pressures, instead it focused more on the characters’ internal predicaments and fears.
“Ends are for yesterday, not for tomorrows”
Mitch Albom’s The Time Keeper is interesting enough to freeze time or at least to keep me from noticing that quite a big chunk of it has gone. It basically tells the story of Dor, who is imprisoned in a cave for 6,000 years for trying to capture the essence of Time through his tools and invention. When he is finally “freed” from the cave, he is tasked to teach the real value of Time relative to the meaning of Life to two mortals and as an effect, to himself.
The book presents life-lessons that are not entirely foreign or new such as how we waste Time by trying to “catch” Time or how we miss the living part of life by counting our days and minutes only to find ourselves begging for more when we’ve noticed we only have a handful of it left.
What makes this book engrossing despite the cliches, is its simplicity and how it tried to veer away from a preachy tone which is almost always present in books that are lesson-giving.
“There was always a quest for more minutes, more hours, faster progress to accomplish more in each day. The simple joy of living between summers was gone.”
“Not everyone has to be the Chosen One. Not everyone has to be the guy who saves the world.”
Mikey, Henna, Jared, and Mel try to survive the remaining days of their high school life while the rest of their peers, the “indie kids” go into battle with the Immortals. The book pretty much shows how the lives of those who were not chosen to do great things (the premise being that there is such), still continue to live and solve their own mess.
Of all the main characters and their troubles, I loved Jared the most. Jared who until the end of the novel, just remained selfless, simple, and humble inspite of his God lineage. I also loved that his personality was a huge contrast to his physique and his genealogy.
As for whether I enjoyed the book or whether I would want a copy on my shelf, the answer is no. I did not enjoy how it was written nor the fact that the narrator, a seventeen year old boy called Mikey who was suffering from OCD, despised his mom’s egocentrism without noticing his. I didn’t enjoy the abrupt change of scenes and how it ended with the Immortals being defeated quite suddenly.
Someone told me that I would be able to relate well with this book. I guess she thinks I’m like the main characters and that I just live here. As snotty as it sounds, I don’t think any one of us are chosen to do “greater” things. We’re all just pretty much similar despite our differences and indifferences.
Sometimes we fall in love with a stranger. I guess that’s how I will always be with Haruki Murakami. His works always go straight into my heart. His words either builds a storm in my heart or puts my soul to sleep.
Whenever someone would ask me to summarize a Murakami story or book, I always tell them that his work is not the kind you can summarize. Besides the fact that Murakami’s works are of a magical realism genre, his works speak to people of various context in different ways. His words are presented with a very personal tone that sometimes, in my self-egoistic mind, I would wonder if he wrote it for me.
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman is actually a collection of short stories that do not have any plot line connection with each other. I guess the only thing that connects each story is the fact that they were written by a very soulful person which makes each story a fragment of one person.
“I said nothing for a time, just ran my fingertips along the edge of the human-shaped emptiness that had been left inside me.”
I borrowed four books from the library and brought home three more from my friend’s stash. As always, I had planned to spend some of my free time by burrowing my face in paper, ink, and ideas.
The first book I planned to read was Yukio Mishima’s The Sailor Who Fell from Grace with the Sea. I strategically planned to read it first because it was the thinnest book from the pile. I thought I was going to read through it in a day or two. Obviously, not.
You see, Japanese literature is almost always not an easy read. It always throws you off in the extremity of your mental threshold. If a Japanese author aims for the reader to understand loneliness, lonely is an understatement for where he or she will bring you (or leave you). Take for example, Yoko Ogawa’s Hotel Iris or Kenzaburo Oe’s Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids.
Yukio Mishima’s book has left me to cry for help as it had abandoned me into the cold sea of confusion. This book left me feeling afraid of all the violence I could not comprehend.
Apparently this book can be interpreted as an allegory to Yukio Mishima’s beliefs and his resistance to westernisation as he was an active nationalist. The major characters in his book represents each stand on the influences of the west. The novel in general shows Mishima’s dissatisfaction with Japan.
Understanding the novel in that light made everything about it seem to make more sense, like a jigsaw puzzle that solved itself.
Despite having been personally left in a temporary purgatorial state by this novel, I would still say that book is written beautifully as the words play with a reader’s senses and toy with one’s emotions. It was creepy when it had to be, long and laborious during ship voyages, and pervasive and guilt-ridden when… well when it had to.
“Still immersed in his dream, he drank down the tepid tea. It tasted bitter. Glory, as anyone knows, is bitter stuff.”
“We had really grown used to a lot of things. We could only beat our way forward, forced to twist bodies and minds to mould ourselves to the many things that confronted us daily, one after another.”
I finished reading Kenzaburo Oe’s Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids.
It’s a lot like Lord of the Flies but more dark and depressing. Anything Japanese seems to be more than what we always expect something to be.
I just don’t know what to make of it after reading it. I got so lost, I had to look and read up on his life and book reviews.
In the end, I still don’t know what to make of it and I’m not ready to read another book yet. If you have insights about this book, please do send me a message.