Wednesday, February 29, 2012

After Dark

Author: Haruki Murakami

In one of the interviews, Murakami recalls this: "There aren’t any new words. Our job is to give new meanings and special overtones to absolutely ordinary words.”

"After Dark" is yet another book which made me discover the specialness of Murakami's world. From 11.56PM till 6.40AM, the characters of Murakami come alive in the city of Tokyo, and a special, camera like 'viewpoint' gives us an account of what happens through the midnight hours, when the whole city sleeps.

Mari Asai, a scholarly, but tacit girl, is out of her house to spend the whole night outside. Takahashi, a 'would-be' law student is on the streets for his last 'all night' jazz practice. Kaouru, a retired female wrestler is on her night shift as a manager at a hotel called Alphaville, along with two helpers Komogi and Korugi.
Whereas the 'viewpoint' focuses on Eri Asai, the beautiful elder sister of Mari, who in her deep coma like sleep is transported to another room inside her disconnected bedroom TV.

The characters mingle with each other without any drama, and yet, the experience turns surrealistic. Murakami builds up the story in such a way that would make us forget about the ordinary world around us. Instead the story draws us into its deep vortex, slowly without realizing where it is taking us, till it's end. And not a second of pause to question about it!

Murakami refers to the characters from "After the quake", and also brings in cats in his story. What's his obsession with cats? Do you know that the bar he used to run was also named 'Peter Cats'? The character Takahashi also looked like a sketch of a younger Murakami, the shy Jazz Musician!

"After Dark" gave so many meanings to mundane things happening in the universe around me. I not only enjoyed reading it, but also enjoyed listening to the music quoted all through the book. This book is not just for 'reading', but for 'experiencing'.

Some of the interesting music albums mentioned in the book is listed below. Try to listen to them, they complete the feeling of reading this book!
  1. Go Away Little Girl – Percy Faith and His Orchestra
  2. Five Spot After Dark – Curtis Fuller
  3. The April Fools- Burt Bacharach
  4. More – Martin Denny
  5. My Ideal – Ben Webster
  6. Sophisticated Lady – Duke Ellington
  7. Jealousy – Pet Shop Boys
  8. I Can’t Go for That – Hall and Oates
  9. Theme from Love Story - Francis Lai
  10. Sonnymoon for Two – Sonny Rollins
  11. Bomb Juice - Shikao Suga
Reference: Murakami’s Interview.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The winner stands alone

Author: Paulo Coelho

My friend once boasted that he knew what exactly to expect from a Paulo Coelho novel. Paulo stopped writing anything different after Alchemist, he assured me.

But for me, each story held a promise of fresh characters and unexpected behaviors; they were appealing to my senses. The Winner stands alone, really stands alone in my list; despite the same theme; despite the references to Santiago, and finding about one's destiny; this book lacks a provoking story to support them all.

'The Winner stands alone' is about a Russian business giant Igor, in search of his estranged wife, now married to a fashion couturier. He travels to Cannes, where he knows that his wife and her lover will appear to present their collections in fashion shows, scheduled along with the film festival. Igor is ready to do anything, even kill people, to get her back.

He gets about 'destroying universes', in other words, kill strangers during the film festival, so that his wife gets the message. But half way through the killings, he pauses to think if the killings were actually worthy? Suddenly his angelic wife becomes an ordinary mortal.

Paulo gets sloppy in handling this transition, and instead theorizes a lot of dogmas about super class and the world of glamour. Just like the protagonist, the author too seems to lose his motivation he had in the beginning, and the book spirals down to an unsatisfactory ending, without the reader getting any 'message' out of it.

The almost cynical, yet fresh take on the life of super class is amusing.
The philosophies apart from the main story.
Some beautiful quotes which lingered with me long after I finished the book - which are of course not at all related to the story! :-) 
Too much preaching
No skeleton story to support the author's ideals.
Would have been good as a non-fiction.

Some interesting quotes, which I came across:
  1. People are never satisfied. If they have a little, they want more. If they have a lot, they still want more. Once they have more, they wish they could be happy with little, but are incapable of making the slightest effort in that direction.
  2. Everything you know comes from experience accumulated over long years of work. If you wanna be creative, forget that you have all that experience.
  3. Talent is a universal gift, but it takes a lot of courage to use it. Don't be afraid to be the best.
It's always good to share the agony of reading through a long book, without actually getting the desired value/expectation, especially if an unwary reader ends up with such a book. But the review is truly a personal opinion, and opinions always vary!