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What are you reading? the doomed thread of doom 188 replies to this topic Started by aine , Mar 05 2010 11:45 PM · 

#1 aine

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Posted 05 March 2010 - 11:45 PM

:dammit:

I was so sure we did have this thread already... But unless I'm really blind, it appears to have been lost in the last board crash. WHICH WAS OVER A YEAR AGO. Make of it what you will that it was not re-created until now. :ph34r:

I finished reading The Snail on the Slope by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky today. Yes, that's the guys who brought us the original novel behind the Stalker franchise (if it's even appropriate to call it that). The Snail is apparently regarded as their best. It sure did a great job at confusing the hell out of me. But the more I think of it the more this largely oneiric ride makes sense and the more the two apparently independent storylines appear deeply connected with each other. I highly recommend it - it's a unique, short, although a pretty heavy read. Russian SF has a very specific flavour, and this novel is full of it. I wonder if anyone else had read it? What was your impression then?

Funny bit, some people claim that James Cameron ripped off of the novel (or rather the universe it's a part of) a lot in Avatar. There certainly are many similarities, mainly in the descriptions of the fauna and the prominent Forest. I swear I didn't know that when I picked the book up from a second-hand book shop late December. :popper:

I couldn't find any good review online, but this seems to be the complete book for your reading pleasure.

#2 Al Kusanagi

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Posted 06 March 2010 - 12:39 AM

I tend to read multiple things at once, so now I'm reading:

The Physics of Superheroes second edition
The recent re-edit of Battle Royale
The first book of the Star Wars: The Fate of the Jedi series
The newly translated Azumanga Daioh Omnibus (after a new company got the license) which is quite an improvement on some areas, but pretty crappy in others (Yes, we know Osaka has a Kansai accent, but you don't need to write it as her talking like a Southern hick)
Haggopian and Other Stories, Brian Lumley's second collection of Cthulhu Mythos stories

#3 Sabaku Ika

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Posted 06 March 2010 - 01:30 AM

I've been reading a lot lately. I got a Sony Reader: Pocket Edition (stupid name) for my birthday and I love it. It makes books much more manageable than they were previously.
Anyway, I'm currently mostly focusing on Michael Moorcock's Elric saga, which is quite entertaining. Based on what else I've read by Moorcock, it is probably trying to turn me into an anarchist, but these teachings are unnoticeable so far. It is good fantasy.
Taking a break from The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe, which is interesting, but extremely demanding post-post-post-apocalyptic sci-fi, I think. It will supposedly try to turn me into a Catholic or possibly a torturer.
Finally, Looking For Jake by China Mieville. It's a collection of short horror/urban fantasy stories that will supposedly try to turn me into a Socialist.

#4 Petit Melon

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Posted 06 March 2010 - 02:41 AM

I'm reading "A Clash of Kings" by George R.R. Martin. I barely started it, even though I don't like reading epic series until they're complete, but boredom lead me to finally try it. I like it; it's more of a medieval political saga than a fantasy story. There's bits and pieces of fantasy (namely the end of book 1) but it's mostly grounded in reality. I worry when I reach the last book and I have to wait for Ser Heartattackwaitingtohappenlayoffthedoritosdude to poop out the next book. I remember there's a trilogy I read when I was a girl, or rather, almost trilogy. It's been more than 10 years and the third book isn't out. The author will probably die before finishing it hahaha.

In between the Lords and Kings and blahblhablha I'm rereading American Psycho. The opening monologue in the movie is basically the style of the entire book. It's a tiring read sometimes, but after awhile I get in the rhythm of it and it goes smoothly. For some reason reading graphic descriptions disturb me more than seeing them.

I usually read more than that but I haven't read as heavily as I used to lately. I'll grab whatever comic book/graphic novel that interests me to take a break sometimes though. Light quick reads are a ton easier to digest at times.

#5 Nicky

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Posted 06 March 2010 - 04:43 PM

I'm currently reading Oliver Twist and School Rumble :popper:

#6 eri

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  • aka eri, the Alpha and the Omega

Posted 06 March 2010 - 05:56 PM

I am angling to get a Kindle for next christmas. Does anyone have it?

Currently, I'm reading a LOT but that is because I'm still in school probably. My favorite new read is Uno Chiyo's Confessions of Love.

#7 ///

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  • ¯\(°_o)/¯

Posted 06 March 2010 - 09:43 PM

I'm reading "A Clash of Kings" by George R.R. Martin. I barely started it, even though I don't like reading epic series until they're complete, but boredom lead me to finally try it. I like it; it's more of a medieval political saga than a fantasy story. There's bits and pieces of fantasy (namely the end of book 1) but it's mostly grounded in reality. I worry when I reach the last book and I have to wait for Ser Heartattackwaitingtohappenlayoffthedoritosdude to poop out the next book. I remember there's a trilogy I read when I was a girl, or rather, almost trilogy. It's been more than 10 years and the third book isn't out. The author will probably die before finishing it hahaha.

I love this series and agree wholeheartedly with that this guy needs to stop worrying about whether Obama is left wing enough for him and just finish the fucking series already. (Is he still blogging about politics and moving away from America? I stopped reading his blog on account of it being insufferable.)

Anyway, I'm currently reading a biography of Peanuts author Charles M. Schulz. Very informative and interesting, it's quite amazing just how much of his life is reflected in his comics. On the fiction front I recently finished Rant, by Chuck Palahniuk, the author of Fight Club (haven't read that though). Parts of the book are amazing (notably the first half, set in a rural area of America where nothing much happens, and where one boy causes a huge stir with various actions), and parts of it really did annoy me quite a bit. There are a lot of pretty obvious plotholes, plus he added some things that felt kinda like he was just throwing them in because he's the author of Fight Club and it's expected of him (there's a "club" of people that drive cars into accidents on purpose for fun). Overall, it is a haphazard book, and I wouldn't quite recommend it, but at the same time I really enjoyed a large part of it.

Also, I read Superfreakonomics recently. Awesome. :thumbsup:

#8 Petit Melon

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Posted 22 September 2010 - 03:26 PM

EPIC BUMP IS EPIC.

Hey eri, I have a kindle now too. Like, almost a year after you asked. XD

So...now that I can go hogwild with books without worrying where I'm going to put them, anybody have any recommendations? I read anything. Except books about mice. I hate books about mice.

#9 Ap2000

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Posted 22 September 2010 - 05:20 PM

BUMP


I was thinking about searching for this for months now, thanks for the bump.

I've read quite a few things lately, mostly books by Haruki Murakami.
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of ihe World was an amazing book. The idea, the presentation, everything. This is a book how I would have made it.
Wild Sheep Chase was 200 pages of nothing happening and the last 100 pages were absolutely amazing and I was barely able to get up at 4 am to go to the toilet because I was so scared. (I read the last 100 pages in one night)
Kafka on the Shore was disappointing and it made no sense. It is a book that has no value for me and it is by far the one I like the least. (actually, I don't like it at all)
South of the Border, West of the Sun was an interesting book with some very intense (erotic) scenes. However, it lacked that certain something to make it really special. This was the most "normal" story I read of him so far.

My love for him started when I read Norwegian Wood. It became my favourite book and it made me realize there actually are a few novels that are worth reading. (I've pretty much only read specialized, non-fiction books before)

I was able to sympathize with all of his main characters so far (except for Kafka on the Shore). They seem like a part of me in the way they act and think.
It's as if Murakami is a part of my psyche that writes all these books.

Also, I've developed this habit of reading the very last sentence before starting a book.

#10 DarkRidley

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Posted 22 September 2010 - 05:43 PM

[fanboy]

YOU LIKE MURAKAMI? :thumbsup:

My god, Haruki Murakami is one of my absolute favourite authors. Have you read Sputnik Sweetheart? I personally thought it was his best book. Also, despite the fact that his novels are what made him famous, his short stories are often just as if not more impressive, so I'd recommend The Elephant Vanishes as well if you've not checked it out already.

So far, the only books I haven't read from Murakami are Hard-Boiled Wonderland, Dance Dance Dance, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running and Kafka on the Shore. I've been wary of KOTS, though, because The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle didn't quite work for me and if Kafka on the Shore was the same deal, it might be a disappointment. The problem with interpretative, surreal, post-modern lit like this is that sometimes, if you make it too long, it starts to drag. I always find his shorter works tend to be better.

[/fanboy]

Ahem. Anyway, I haven't been reading a lot of novels lately. That's not to say I'm not reading, though. Currently, I'm reading Niall Ferguson's Empire, a book about the British Empire and its impact. He's a bit of a neocon twat and sometimes way too much of an apologist for imperialism, but it's a good book nonetheless.

Edited by DarkRidley, 22 September 2010 - 07:55 PM.


#11 eri

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Posted 22 September 2010 - 06:25 PM

Will I "out" myself if I revealed what I did re: Murakami....?

#12 Ap2000

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Posted 22 September 2010 - 08:36 PM

Will I "out" myself if I revealed what I did re: Murakami....?


I don't understand that sentence, so I am not sure if anything is going to happen to you. lol

@DarkRidley; I've read the ones mentioned in my post and I am reading Wind-Up Bird Chronicle right now. (somewhere between page 150 and 200)
It's nothing like Kafka on the Shore imho. Hard-Boiled Wonderland is more like Kafka on the Shore, since it also has two storylines. But it actually ends on a high note and everything makes sense. (at least in the realm of "a little bit of fantasy/scifi mixed into a realistic world" that Murakami's stories always are set in)

I do plan to continue reading the rest of his books and stories, since he is the only author that I like.

#13 Sabaku Ika

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Posted 22 September 2010 - 08:55 PM

In an hour, I am going to go see William Gibson read from his new book!

#14 ///

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Posted 22 September 2010 - 08:59 PM

I really don't like Murakami. I only read Norwegian Wood to be honest, but that really put me off him as a writer. I don't wanna complain about it too much since people here really like it. Generally when I don't like something that other people like, I feel like I lose, and when I like something other people don't, I win. I'll be a good loser for once. :lol:

Anyway! I read Catcher in the Rye, a supposed classic book, and I really enjoyed it. I've missed a lot of classic literature since I (like Ap2000) generally never read anything except non-fiction. This was definitely worthwhile to read, engaging in a way that a lot of supposedly must-read literature is absolutely not (mandatory reading of bullshit books in school is what put me off reading fiction in the first place). I can understand how this book is seen as one of the early examples of the 60s "rebel without a cause"-way of thinking. It's also short and the story more or less plays out in real time, following one person. I really like that as a setup, especially if the character is interesting, which he definitely was.

#15 DarkRidley

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Posted 22 September 2010 - 09:07 PM

We can both be losers then, because I found Catcher In the Rye to be just...iffy, despite everyone around me heaping praise upon it. I can also see its influence, but I didn't enjoy the book at all. :lol:

Will I "out" myself if I revealed what I did re: Murakami....?

I'm having trouble understanding your meaning too, actually, so I'm going to assume that you don't know much about him and you're asking for information because (a) I can't think of anything else you could be trying to say and (B) I'll take any excuse to ramble about Murakami. :dance: If that is the case, I'd recommend Sputnik Sweetheart or Norwegian Wood, although the latter isn't exactly the most typical Murakami book. It's his most famous, but I'm not sure if it's a good starting point for everyone. Most of his stuff is relentlessly bleak and very surreal, and Norwegian Wood only fits the first criterion. Murakami also tends to write very hip, modern stories, with a tonne of nods to (mostly Western) pop culture. If you're looking for a point of reference, the usual comparison made by critics for Murakami is Kafka.

My biggest criticism of Murakami would probably be that a lot of his work follows very familiar themes of isolation and purposelessness, and his protagonists (whether male or female) tend to be quite similar to one another as well, to a degree that becomes increasingly clear as you read more of his work. After a while, it might not work for you.

I myself, by pure accident, actually started with his short stories, which probably isn't a bad idea either. As I've already said, they're very good, and I found many of them more worthwhile than the weeks I spent ploughing through The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle.

@DarkRidley; I've read the ones mentioned in my post and I am reading Wind-Up Bird Chronicle right now. (somewhere between page 150 and 200)
It's nothing like Kafka on the Shore imho. Hard-Boiled Wonderland is more like Kafka on the Shore, since it also has two storylines. But it actually ends on a high note and everything makes sense. (at least in the realm of "a little bit of fantasy/scifi mixed into a realistic world" that Murakami's stories always are set in)

I do plan to continue reading the rest of his books and stories, since he is the only author that I like.

Right, thanks. I might check it out, seeing as I'm a fan. It's odd, because I've seen KotS praised incessantly by critics and yet I've never actually met anyone who liked it. :weeeh:

#16 Ap2000

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Posted 22 September 2010 - 09:24 PM

Right, thanks. I might check it out, seeing as I'm a fan. It's odd, because I've seen KotS praised incessantly by critics and yet I've never actually met anyone who liked it.


I know somebody who really likes it, maybe it's his favourite Murakami book even, I don't remember exactly.
Other than that, I don't really know anybody who read any of his books. (or at least we haven't talked about him)

I dislike stories that make no sense and have absolutely no resolution. I can absolutely live with vague/not everything explained endings like LOST though, if the ride until there was phenomenal.
Kafka on the Shore was interesting, but it ended nowhere, at least for me. Maybe I'm "not good at reading books", because I don't search for metaphors in every little detail.
(I also saw a discussion of 4 people where they talked about South of the Border, West of the Sun and they said something that never occured to me, but sounds like an interesting idea, the woman who is 'visiting' him is the godess of death)

#17 eri

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Posted 22 September 2010 - 10:52 PM

I wrote my masters thesis on Murakami and taught a few undergrad courses on his lit. Being, then, a semi-public figure, I don't want to "out" myself as a nerd who spends too much time on a Jpop forum, ranting about random things. Maybe I am paranoid.

I hate his sentimental works (like NW) and find his sexism to be distracting. However, he is probably one of my favorite writers.

#18 Sabaku Ika

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Posted 22 September 2010 - 11:15 PM

I am back from the reading! William Gibson is a bit different in person than I expected. He's a great writer, but kind of boring when reading his own work. The Q/A part was more interesting.

As for Murakami, Hardboiled Wonderland at the End of the World is one of the several books I'm alternating between reading right now. The first chapter inspired my blog's title.

Eri, have you ever tried reading his work untranslated? If yes, are there differences worth mentioning?

#19 DarkRidley

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Posted 23 September 2010 - 10:35 AM

I haven't read any William Gibson. I know I should, but I just haven't. Seeing as it's his most famous book, is Neuromancer the best place to start?

I reckoned that there is a misogynistic aspect to Murakami, but I generally manage to overlook it. I was initially inclined to call sexism when I first encountered him a couple years ago because his female characters are pretty much always these caricatures that are unusual and out-there enough to make them appear independent and yet vulnerable enough to make a male reader's "protective" instincts go off. I spoke to the Head of English at my school about it, but she wasn't entirely convinced. I've tried to avoid the subject ever since. :lol:

#20 Ap2000

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Posted 23 September 2010 - 12:52 PM

I'd whole-heartedly disagree with Murakami being even just a little bit misogynistic or depicting women as completely fragile beings.
Often the women have control over the men in his books to some degree and he also shows love as something very emotional, sensual and, at times, furious. (this is especially the case in South of the Border)
If you say the women are portrayed as one-sided and fragile, then you should also say the male characters are portrayed as alcoholic, antisocial and easy to manipulate. Murakami likes to use this literary, somewhat unrealistic kind of characters. They do have a surreal atmosphere surrounding them at times, but you kind find them in the real world.
And I think it's no secret that nearly every (main- and side-)character in his stories has psychological problems, so he can't even let them act completely normal most of the time and that is perfectly fine with me.

What I recently realized are the similarities in his books. He seems to like Jazz, crows and has a faible for limping people. hah

#21 DarkRidley

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Posted 23 September 2010 - 01:56 PM

Hah, this is why I tend to avoid the subject. It seems to be a real point of contention for most people. Anyway, I can understand your perspective, but I think his portrayal of men is quite different to that of his women and them being anti-social or alcoholics isn't really equivalent. It's not the way he writes love that I take issue with, either. It's just how he writes women. I feel he portrays these supposedly "quirky" women as reflections of the male protagonist's feelings and desires. It isn't that they're one-sided or fragile, just that their independence in thought and expression is undercut by this feeling that they're vulnerable or that they're shaped to a large extent by the men who adore them. This isn't helped by the frequent homosocial behaviour of the male protagonists (NW suffers from this especially). It's subtle enough for me to ignore, but distracting enough for me to have to acknowledge.

Don't take this as me ragging on your opinion, though, it's just how I read it, and my view is coloured by my being a total leftie-socialist-pro-feminist wussy. I've caused enough drama about this stuff RL, being a pretentious Murakami-loving white kid amongst other pretentious Murakami-loving white kids who don't happen to share my views. He's still one of my favourite writers, so don't think I'm trying to really disparage his name.

#22 Sabaku Ika

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Posted 23 September 2010 - 04:24 PM

I haven't read any William Gibson. I know I should, but I just haven't. Seeing as it's his most famous book, is Neuromancer the best place to start?

It's a hard question... I started with Neuromancer and loved it, but I think it's not necessarily all that good, looking back. I'd suggest Pattern Recognition. It's the beginning of the trilogy he's just finished.

#23 eri

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Posted 23 September 2010 - 06:56 PM

I reckoned that there is a misogynistic aspect to Murakami, but I generally manage to overlook it. I was initially inclined to call sexism when I first encountered him a couple years ago because his female characters are pretty much always these caricatures that are unusual and out-there enough to make them appear independent and yet vulnerable enough to make a male reader's "protective" instincts go off. I spoke to the Head of English at my school about it, but she wasn't entirely convinced. I've tried to avoid the subject ever since. :hahaha:


It isn't misogyny perse. I think this is the "trigger" word that sets many fans off, eager to be protective of MH. His female characters are just underwritten and they usually only serve as ciphers to develop the male lead. Although this happens to the peripheral male characters too, it is only the women that slink lazily into very stock "female" types along virgin/whore dichotomies. Very dull. Norwegian Wood was the worst on this point but his other works --esp short stories -- do not suffer as much.

In my observations, many many young male readers do not pick this problem up because they THEMSELVES have not come to terms with the social patterning of female identity. I don't mean this as an attack on you Ap -- it is just a point that became clear when I taught that book. A majority of my female students were pissed and hated MH after reading NW.

Eri, have you ever tried reading his work untranslated? If yes, are there differences worth mentioning?

Yes - the works translated by Birnbaum have substantial differences. There are some stylistic decisions that do not translate over -- like having a set of names in Katakana vs Kanji in Norwegian Wood -- and some stylistic decisions that are entirely chosen by Birnbaum --like the sheepman's idiosyncrasies. Most infamously, the Western version of Wind-up Bird is a pretty butchered, truncated version of the original. This is exacerbated because Germany (and perhaps Italy) actually translated from the English translation, and not the original Japanese.

#24 ///

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Posted 23 September 2010 - 07:20 PM

One of my many objections to Norwegian Wood was definitely that it was incredibly sexist (it is, this is inarguable--whether you mind or not is up to the individual reader). But that was peripheral to the main character just being a giant author insert. It wasn't literature, it wasn't even a novel: it's author porn.

Maybe I should read something else by him though. eri, since you also hate Norwegian Wood, what is your favorite book by him?

#25 DarkRidley

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Posted 23 September 2010 - 07:26 PM

Yes, misogyny is too harsh, but "trigger word" is right. I unintentionally got someone who until that point I considered a "fellow" Murakami fan very nearly shaking with anger when I brought this subject up, which is partly why I don't like talking about it much. Interestingly, there were a number of girls who spoke in Murakami's defense, too. I suspect they hadn't gotten round to reading NW. I honestly did enjoy that book, despite appearances, but I had issues with it aside from the way the female characters were written, mostly to do with the behaviour of Watanabe and his male friends, as I mentioned in my last post. No, it wasn't misogyny, but I didn't like it.

I've seen the idea that Watanabe was a self-insertion floating around elsewhere. It didn't really occur to me when I read it, but I can see the point with hindsight. Either way, I really don't feel qualified to comment.

I wonder if I'd enjoy Wind-Up Bird more if I could read Japanese. As it stands, the English version was just too much for me after a while. With Murakami, the shorter the better.

#26 Ap2000

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Posted 23 September 2010 - 08:02 PM

You guys can say what you want, but Norwegian Wood is the perfect book/story for me and I like it not because of the female characters, but because of the male character and some of the very bold sentences.
I don't see anything pornographic about it either, but I'm always open to erotic stuff, so I don't have a problem with that.

EDIT:
I tried to find stuff on google about Norwegian Wood misogyny and similar search terms (also in German), but didn't really find anything.
Does somebody of you have a well-written article (English or German) that talks about why Norwegian Wood should be considered misogynistic ?
Since it's my favourite book, I'm interested in why people think this way.

#27 freezingkiss

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Posted 23 September 2010 - 08:47 PM

Reading a buttload of maths books to get ready for my course. Hopefully some of them will stick in my brain. Also 'The Bell Jar' by Sylvia Plath for our work book club, which is incredible, and 'Science a 4000 year history' - a good read. Not helping me with what I want to do at Uni though.

#28 DarkRidley

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Posted 23 September 2010 - 09:30 PM

Ach, now I regret using the word "misogyny". It's probably not terribly appropriate. I don't think Murakami himself is a misogynist at all.

I'm finding it very difficult to find professional articles that offer a proper feminist critique of NW (although you can find some blog comments, forum topics, etc. that say largely what's been said here), but I think most of the arguments have been outlined in this thread. I think the main point is that the female characters tend to conform to fantasy ideals of the male protagonists and lack real development, which is then coupled with the male characters affirming their masculine bonds through their heterosexual desire.

Also, I'm re-reading Thomas Hardy's Tess of the D'urbervilles for something like the 5th time. I adore that book so much.

#29 eri

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Posted 23 September 2010 - 11:07 PM

I'm finding it very difficult to find professional articles that offer a proper feminist critique of NW (although you can find some blog comments, forum topics, etc. that say largely what's been said here), but I think most of the arguments have been outlined in this thread. I think the main point is that the female characters tend to conform to fantasy ideals of the male protagonists and lack real development, which is then coupled with the male characters affirming their masculine bonds through their heterosexual desire.


Yes, this.

Academics have been slow to look at MH beyond postmodernism so there isn't much published on him, much less from a gender-aware perspective.
The easiest point of critique is the virgin/whore stereotype. NW might be a novel about the uncertainty and meaningless of youths growing up in the student protest mvmt, but it is incredibly traditional in its portrayal of women. You can be idealized as a nostalgic, inaccessible, dependent, and re-virginized woman like Naoko or Hatsumi. Or, you can be idealized as a modern, aggressive, and sexualized woman like Midori. What are their motivations? Why are they attached to Watanabe?? Why do they put up with his bs??? Doesn't really matter - only Watanabe's suffering and his penis matter and the ladies are just there to affirm his subjectivity. Plus, the love triangle is resolved with a death and closure is attained, again, via Watanabe's penis. Zzzzzzz.

When Reiko sleeps with him - which makes no fucking sense and is a lazy portrayal of the complexities of mental illness and recovery from rape -- I threw the book against the wall. As an extension of MH's gender issues, his portrayal of a transgender character in Kafka made me want to smash some plates.

Another thing that you can't tell in translation is the way the women are written. Their speech is VERY feminized - almost exaggeratedly so. I know my Japanese is not that great but I've never ever ever ever met any woman who spoke like that. So in the very way he portrays his female characters in NW, he really sets them apart as Other to Watanabe. Totally obnoxious.

But, all in all, I love Murakami. Wind-up is my favorite novel but I've got a whole list of favorite short stories.

PS. One would be careful to note that Japanese Lit is quite different than any Western lit. "Author insert porn" is the cornerstone of high Japanese modern literature (confessions, or I-novels).

#30 DarkRidley

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Posted 23 September 2010 - 11:32 PM

Ah, thanks for saying what I would have said if I could be arsed to take a look at the book again, if perhaps saying it a little bit more harshly. :hahaha: I might have liked it enough to read more Murakami, but not enough to warrant a re-reading, or in this case, a re-skimming.

PS. One would be careful to note that Japanese Lit is quite different than any Western lit. "Author insert porn" is the cornerstone of high Japanese modern literature (confessions, or I-novels).

I didn't know that, but then I don't know much about Japanese literature. Murakami is somewhat of an outlier alongside my other favourite authors, who all seem to be British or (strangely) Russian. It's an interesting tidbit, too. I have to wonder how a practice like that became high art.