Sunday, 31 August 2014

Need some inspiration from other readers???

Thanks for all the comments and feedback this month. Great to hear about what you've been reading.... (and where!)

And the Mountains Echoed - Khaled Hosseini

The Truth about the Harry Quebert Affair - Joel Dicker

Colourless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Year's of Pilgrimage - Haruki Murakami

The Goldfinch - Donna Tartt

The Fault in our Stars - John Green

The September shortlist, out tomorrow

For reviews, news and recommendations follow:twitter: @wordsshortlistinstagram: 

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Murakami's long awaited new novel may be a world away from the mega hit 1Q84 but don't ignore the apparent realism of this story, what lurks beneath are all the hallmarks of classic Murakami.

The central plot of this neat story is Tsukuru's search to understand why his four closest school friends suddenly, and without warning, give up all communication. Cue themes of rejection, loneliness and solitary reflection which run through so much Japanese fiction.

What's different here are the Murakami motifs which recur over and over; the soundtrack (in this case Liszt's 'Le Mal du Pays'), surreal dream sequences and characters with profoundly deep emotions. Note: You won't find any talking cats this time I'm afraid.   

Nevertheless, reasons to love this novel are plenty, put simply this is the perfect blend of the mundane and the mystical, the everyday and the enigmatic. Murakami novels are inhabited by people consumed equally by the routine of domestic chores and the fantasy of the alternative.

Tsukuru Tazaki may not have the allure of 1Q84's Tengo or the charm of Kafka in Kafka on the Shore but seen alongside Norwegian Wood's Turu Watanabe you'll find the typical alienated male figure that makes Murakami's world so compelling. Tsukuru is like a blank canvas that readers must project themselves onto.

Complex relationships shed light on real grown up anxiety that's as much a global theme as a Japanese predilection. In the past Murakami has been celebrated for giving voice to a subcultural generation but now, selling as many copies as Harry Potter, the subculture has gone mainstream.

Look out for Finnair's Murakami themed itineraries in the Narita to Helsinki in flight magazine, coming soon!


Sunday, 17 August 2014

A screen, A screen..... my bandwidth for a screen!

Nikesh Shuklar's novel Meatspace perfectly captures the paranoia and angst that lurks beneath the witty banter of today's social media age. For anyone whose first and last thought of the day is to check their social media feeds this is an 'M.R.' - must read.

Like Tao Lin's novel Taipei, the novel is set in a contemporary social media obsessed world, in this case London, in which hours/days are idled away with a cultural digest of celebrity gossip, vacuous live tweeting and pornography, heightening the anxiety that there is little time for actual work never mind a fulfilling career.

Where the book succeeds is in exploring the extremes of digital anxiety where the edges of identity and relationships blur in to a dubious area where the nature of 'friends' and 'likes' is seriously questioned. 

The novel's protagonist Kitab first finds his twitter account has been hacked before discovering that his complete identity has been hijacked. The way 'Kitab 2' conducts a complete and total identity takeover is dangerously simple and sobering (to this reader at least). 

Less successful are the chapters concerning Aziz in New York if only  because the Kitab/Kitab 2 story is so strong. Something about the claustrophobia of one man's loss of identity is lost in these sections however, the end result delivers.

The themes of paranoia and personality disorder may sound a little Bret Easton Ellis but what Shuklar actually does with Meatspace is create a unique and compelling story that packs a zeitgeisty punch that will leave you with a serious urge to change your passwords as a matter of urgency.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Ruth Ozeki's A Tale For the Time Being is a stunning achievement and certainly worthy of being long-listed for the 2014 Man Booker prize.

"A Time Being is someone who lives in time, and that means you, and me, and everyone of us who is, or was, or ever will be"

The narrative follows Canadian novelist Ruth as she is dragged into the world of 16 year old Tokyoite, Nao, via the medium of a washed up diary. A Hello Kitty lunch box, Marcel Proust, a 101 year old Buddhist Nun and Haruki #1 the kamikaze pilot all wind up in this Tsunami of a story.

From the French Maid cafes of urban Akihabara to the Mountain retreats of Sendai and the coast of British Columbia this novel casts the net of Japanese cultural influence across the pacific to Canada.

Ozeki manages to weave every major contemporary Japanese narrative in to this intricate story from the trauma of the recent earthquake and tsunami to the plight of the Tokyo 'salarymen'. The writing neatly contrasts the WWII Kamakazi soldiers to the modern corporate army of Suits all too prepared to throw themselves in-front of commuter trains.

Ozeki authentically uses so many Japanese terms that footnotes are aplenty. Whilst fans of Japanese culture will appreciate this those reading on a Kindle will be annoyed!

Not always easy to connect with the characters and not over flowing with laughs but a rewarding, if long, novel from an expert modern story teller.

Sunday, 3 August 2014

The Word's Shortlist..... 

of best contemporary Japanese fiction

Haruki Murakami - 1Q84

Ruth Ozeki - A Tale for the Time Being

Banana Yoshimoto - The Lake

Hiromi Kawakami - Strange Weather in Tokyo

Ryo Murakami - In the Miso Soup

Tweet @wordsshortlist with your recommendations and discoveries

Saturday, 2 August 2014

On the bookshelf this month.....

Meatspace - Nikesh Shukla

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage - Haruki Murakami

A Tale for the Time Being - Ruth Ozeki

For reviews, news and recommendations follow:

twitter: @wordsshortlist

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