Review: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

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Review for “Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage” by Haruki Murakami
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This was my first foray into Haruki Murakami, the wildly popular fiction author from Japan. I had heard good things and bad things about his style before deciding to read this, with views from both sides of the spectrum. This book mostly takes place in the mind and thoughts of Tsukuru Tazaki, a 36 year old railway station engineer that was hurtfully shunned by his closest friends back when he was a teenager. Years later he still wonders (more like obsesses) over why he was cast out of his peer group. References to colors are brought up a lot in this book (each of his friends represent a color—red, blue, black, and white), except him, so he drifts throughout his adult life thinking of himself as ‘colorless,’ a nobody. After meeting a young woman who he develops intimate feels for, he eventually tracks down each of his former friends to find out what happened, and, once he finds answers, has the courage to begin living his life to the fullest.

There’s a secret to this book. There is a plot, and yes things do happen, but honestly, not much really happens in this book. This is the story of a classic introvert, a serious study into Tsukuru’s psychological state of mind. I imagine that Murakami’s brooding, heavily introspective, “non plot” style of writing is the reason why “boring” gets thrown around a lot to describe Murakami’s work. I imagine that Murakami is somewhat an acquired taste, with time you become accustomed to his style and the topics he explores. People who love to sit in the dark by themselves will like this book. There really isn’t the ‘crash’ and ‘bang’ of typical story themes.

Personally, I loved this book. I never once got bored with Tsukuru, because Murakami masters the task of making the most boring and mundane of thoughts into something extraordinary. I liken this book to listening to jazz music–there will always be those who can dig a good jazz song and those who don’t. To a non jazz listener, the lack of words is a problem. But to a seasoned ear, the instrumentation of a good jazz song provides all the words you need and more. Looking forward to more books from this author, I’m hooked!

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Review: A Monster Calls

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Review for ‘A Monster Calls’ by Patrick Ness
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

“And by doing so, he could finally let her go.”

The last ten words of this book had me crying like a baby, y’all…

Ok, I’m lying. I cried MORE than a few times. Because this book is one like no other I’ve ever read. I don’t give five stars easily, but this one is in a whole ‘nother universe of AWESOMENESS.

I’ll write a better review later. All I can say for right now is: DAMN.

Review: Tampa

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Book review for Alissa Nutting’s “Tampa”
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

This is the kind of book that people will either love or hate. There really is no in between, because whether you loved it or hated it the character and the motives of Celeste Price will provoke some kind of reaction out of you.

For those who don’t know, this book follows Celeste Price, an attractive Florida middle school teacher who is, by textbook definition, a pedophile and sexual predator. She teaches middle schoolers for one purpose and one purpose alone: to seduce and have sex with preteen boys. This book is full of very graphic scenes of sex between an adult and a child (you’ve been warned!) and tons and tons of really crude language about the subject just mentioned. There’s also a lot of discussion on female anatomy, vaginas, penises, masturbation, sex toys, etc. If you aren’t ready for that, I don’t advise that you read this book, because the frank sexual nature of it is about 80% of its content. I’m not kidding.

Let me say this: I have never, ever encountered a character so unlikeable in my life. Celeste Price is a woman on a mission in the way that she pursues a 14 year old male student, seduces him, and uses him to fulfill her sexual desires. There’s no love here, only sex. Being inside this woman’s head is truly nauseating experience. I had to literally “schedule” time with Celeste (as in, be in a mood where I felt like dealing with her) because whenever you finish reading it the ‘ick’ factor is one where a dozen showers won’t make you clean.

So why did I read it? And why did I like it? Because it’s true transgressive fiction, in its purest and best form.

What this book forces you to do is question the way we as a society view adult-child sexual relationships. We all seem to agree as a society that any adult engaging in sex with a child under the age of consent is wrong, and in turn, there are laws designed to protect minors from sexual abuse. But the way we view the child victim, depending on whether they are male or female, is problematic. A teenage girl who has a sexual relationship with a male teacher is almost always a victim. In the book, however, the people surrounding Jack do not consider him a victim. Nor does Jack himself consider himself to be victim. He is just being a red blooded American boy, living out a teenaged male fantasy of being dominated by a sexy older woman.

Because we get to live so closely inside Celeste’s mind, seeing how truly depraved she is, we have no choice but to express outrage when the law allows her to escape justice because she is a physically attractive female. There is also the trope of the assumption that women are the fairer sex and not inherently evil. We don’t want to imagine women as aggressive, sociopathic sexual predators because it goes against our ideal of women as caregivers and loving people. We assume females are a passive gender and not capable of sexually abusing a man.

So I liked this book, because it made me think. Even if those thoughts were truly vile, I feel it was absolutely necessary, to understand the larger point that the book is trying to make. I’m glad I read this book, but I would clearly never, ever read it again.

The muse.

For me, the importance of music in my writing experiences can’t be stated enough. When I am sketching a character, my first question is often not what they look like, their age, or even what their name is. My first question, is usually “What would this character be listening to?” From there I get a mental picture (appearance, mannerisms, etc) and slowly begin to bring it into focus. With a character that listens to Miles Davis I may picture a sophisticated, artsy, urbane, hipster-kinda character. If they listen to Nine Inch Nails I may get an elusive, eccentric rebel. It all depends, essentially, on the power of a playlist.

Music helps me shape the plots of my stories as well. I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve sat down to write and that song I’ve heard a million times will play on my iPad and I hear a certain line and think: THAT’S IT. I write it down and begin my planning from there. I will write that lyric down and use it to guide my plot. It’s like a movie playlist. A short story that I wrote recently began with a line from REM’s “Everybody Hurts.” Which is a great opener, by the way, because it leads me into questions that will be answered throughout the narrative. For example, why is this character hurting? Why do they feel everyone else is hurting along with them? And what experiences have they undergone in their life to have such a feeling?

Tomorrow I’m going to post sections of my playlist so you can see what kind of songs inspires me to write. Spotify is a godsend, man…