Book Q&A Monday, Part 1

Every Monday, I’m going to start posting the answers to 5 questions about reading that I’ve gleaned around the net. In the process I hope that you will get to know me more as a reader, as well as the reason behind the choice of books I choose to review here.

Best sellers or no?

As with most readers, I am into popular fiction. If a book is on the best seller list, or people continually rave about it, I am generally obliged to look it up, read a review on it, and see if it’s something I’m interested in. If it doesn’t sound interesting to me, I won’t read it–and I don’t care if God or Oprah herself said it is a great book.

What are my literary interests?

I like literary fiction, I like YA. I love ethnic writers–Asian fiction, African American writers, Caribbean writers, Latin writers, Middle Eastern writers. I feel like reading is all about discovering some kind of mystery or the perspective of another person whose life is not like yours. I am always fascinated by the stories of marginalized people–the poor, the incarcerated, the mentally ill, the people with special needs–people whose voices the mainstream completely disregards. If your book choices always make you feel good, then you’re probably doing it all wrong. If you believe writing has to take risks, and it does, then your reading has to do that too. Or else you ain’t learning much.

What book have you never read and never will?

I have never, ever read a Harry Potter book (which is strange, because my son loves Harry Potter). I’ve never read any of the Hobbit series either. I have nothing bad to say about either, it’s just not my kind of story.

Favorite classical works?

I love Shakespeare. My favorite play is Hamlet, followed by Romeo and Juliet, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, Troilus and Cressida, Othello. I also love love love Edgar Allan Poe.

Book I’ve read the most number of times?

Ntozake Shange’s “for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf.” Every time I read that book I make a tally mark and write the date in the front cover. So far there are 8 dates in that book that go back about 10 years.

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Review: Sputnik Sweetheart

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Review of “Sputnik Sweetheart” by Haruki Murakami (originally published in 1999, translated into English and published again in 2002)

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

First off, lemme say that this wasn’t a bad book. Like other online reviewers have previously stated, I too think that the reason that I didn’t rate this book higher is because I’ve read too many Murakami books already (this one, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage, Norwegian Wood, After the Quake).

Murakami’s books are definitely an ‘acquired’ taste. One of the most frequent complaints about his writing is that it is dreadfully boring, but therein, in my opinion, lies the magic. Guys, this man has the power to make a damn phone book sound interesting. His characters are usually lonely men with well-paying jobs living with some kind of unrequited sexual desire, along with highly detailed minutiae of their lives. I am continually mystified by his ability to craft the ordinary written word into the extraordinary, because any other writer that would dares to write a book with subject matter this simple I would have stopped reading in 5 minutes flat.

So the basic outline of “Sputnik Sweetheart” is this: K is a lonely schoolteacher stuck in the friend zone with Sumire, a quirky wannabe novelist who’s currently in a writer’s block. Sumire falls in love with Miu, an older businesswoman, and eventually accompanies her on a trip to Greece. While in Greece, Sumire disappears, and K is left to discover through her writings what happened to her. He eventually concludes that Sumire will not return. The end.

There you have it again: same kind of character (K is a single guy, sexually frustrated up to the wazoo), same unrequited love issues (Sumire never gives him the time of day). I just think I’m tired of the parade of Murakami Manic Pixie Dream Girl characters this time. Sumire never seems to have a life of her own, beyond developing K’s awareness of well, whatever (still not sure of what, but hey). The ending is hopeless, as are most Murakami endings. I haven’t had enough of reading him forever, but for now I’m just…done this trope.