Monday, June 23, 2014

Noah Didn't Need A Compass

photo by Anna Reavis

Often when I finish a book that has truly engaged me, like Kafka on the Shore, I have a good bit of difficulty choosing my next read.  Last week after finishing my first Murakami,  I promptly ordered three more, but as they didn’t arrive for several days, and I wasn’t about to go bookless, I had to do something.  So I trekked down to the library to see what was new (to them) and found a copy of an Anne Tyler book that had been donated by another patron.  Noah’s Compass is a small volume in which nothing much happens, but I enjoyed it just the same.  I’d forgotten how approachable and likeable I find Anne Tyler’s voice.  

In Noah’s Compass, Liam is a 60 year old divorced man who has little contact with his family and who has just lost his job of many years.  After he is attacked in his new down-sized apartment and wakes up from a concussion, he begins to realize how much he has been coasting, out of touch with his own life.  While this was a small book and a quick read, it does touch on what I think is an important issue in our society:  the isolation and alienation born of the dissolution of marriage and family and of our loss of community.  Liam realizes that he, like Noah, hasn’t needed a compass, because neither of them was ever really going anywhere.   At the resolution of the book, though, Liam finds redemption in a way he never anticipated.  I do love a quick read with a happy ending.

And now the I keep reading Anne Tyler, or do I tackle my new Murakamis?  Any recommendations on favorite Anne Tylers?  


Monday, June 16, 2014

Is There a Kafka? Is There a Shore?

photo by Anna Reavis
"Memories warm you up from the inside.  But they also tear you apart."
Ms Saeki in Kafka on the Shore

The past, the it ever truly past?  Does time even exist?  How about identity?  Does it exist?  Is identity stable, stationary, immovable? Or are our identities just part of a grand stream of being that temporarily break off and become part of the physical world, only to be reabsorbed and recreated at different times?  Does anything truly exist within the boundaries we understand? Being? Nothingness?

If you don't like pondering questions like these that can make your head hurt, don't read Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami.  I feel like I would have to read and re-read the book multiple times to grasp some of what it's saying.  Borrowing from one of the themes of the novel, the best way for me to describe it is to say that there is a labyrinth inside each of us and a labyrinth outside each of us, and they are one and the same, and we are lost in them both. And while it took me forever to finish this novel, I enjoyed being tangled up in its web for a time.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Slices of Life

photo by Anna Reavis
 "Harmon realized by a shift in the girl's expression that this was what she feared--being without love.  Who didn't fear that?"  from Olive Kitteridge by Olive Stout

When I was younger and had more energy and more initiative, I thought maybe one day I would write a novel.  And if I did, I thought it would be set in a physician's waiting room in a small town and would take each person in that room and tell his story and then resolve back in the same waiting room on the same morning in the middle of the week, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of nothing, after having revealed the high drama, beauty and tragedy of each person's life.   Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout follows a similar premise. (Obviously the details are different.)  The novel uses multiple short stories bound together to reveal the truths behind the lives of multiple people, including but not limited to Olive, in a small town in Maine. 

Usually I don't like short stories or novels made up of short stories, but in this case the structure worked very well to provide the "slice of life" revelations of the characters' lives.  I read Olive Kitteridge in January, so it's a little difficult to write about at this far a remove, but I do remember liking it as my favorite book thus far this year and would recommend it without hesitation.  It isn't a long book, but there is a lot of life, love, beauty, sadness, tragedy, and triumph bundled into its small package.

How to Save a Life, One Day at a Time

photo by Amy Brandon   "Little things heal our hurts. Sounds, scents, the spoken word, and music that may mean nothing to someon...