Archive for book review

Kafka on the Shore-book review

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on July 16, 2010 by Budd Black

I will preface this by saying that I am a huge Murakami fan.  I picked up a copy of Norwegian Wood several years ago (I think I got an uncorrected proof for free).  I was blown away.  His writing style was poignent and amazing.  Norwegian Wood is one of my favorite books and Murakami is one of my favorite authors.  I went on to read some of his short story collections, South of the Border, West of the Sun, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Underground, Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, and I listened to Dance, Dance, Dance.  To this point South of the Border was my least favorite and that was because it was just kind of forgettable.  I enjoyed reading it.  Undergound and The Wind Up Bird Chronicles are two more favorites.  Underground is even non fiction. 

This review is for the Audio book version:

The plot follows 15 year old Tamura (Kafka) as he runs away from home.  He has the Oedipal curse placed upon him and that seems to be what he is running from, but he doesn't know who his mother is; she left when he was four.  The curse also stated that he would sleep with his sister.  As the book progresses, it looks as though Kafka is running towards the curse instead of away from it. 

A second part of the plot follows a man named Nakata.  Something weird that is never explained in the book happens that causes him to be mentally deficient when he is young.  He is now old and the governor gives him a subsidy.  He is by far the more interesting character in the story.  He can talk to cats, which makes him an excellent cat finder. 

Throw in some incest, pediphilia, rape/incest, murder, animal mutilation, Colonel Sanders as a pimp, fish and leaches raining from the sky, a transvestite librarian, a philosophy touting prostitute, some classical music product placement, Johny Walker as a pied piper, and some really good dumps and the rest of the story is filled in. 

Like I said earlier.  The Nakata character is the most interesting as is his story arch.  The Kafka character comes across as very Emo and very unnatural for a 15 year old.  He runs across a women and speculates she is his mother, then sleeps with her.  Both characters are aware that he thinks that she is his mother, and the mother is positive that she is.  The Kafka parts of the story come across as Lectures and incestual erotica. 

At one point in the novel, during a lecture, the Chekov line that if there is a gun on the table in act one, it should be

Kafka on the Shore
Haruki Murakami

fired by the end of the play comes up.  This is very ironic because there are all kinds of metephorical guns laying all over the place in the novel and not a single shot is heard at the end.  The resolution wasn't so much a resolution as it was more just throwing the pieces to the wind.  Murakami has a tendency to wander in the last third of his longer works.  It almost seems as he is looking for a way to get to the climax, in his other longer works this has been okay because said wandering has lead us on some kooky adventures.  This book seems to wander the whole way and sure it is a kooky adventure, there is no sense on the kafka side of the narrative that anything has really changed or that he has learned anything. 

Overall this story looked like an incoherent list of tropes from his other works.  It is all there.  Cats, dream worlds, prostitutes, travel, someone too young being given attention by someone much older (although he took a new take on it in this one), world war II playing into the story in some way, the student riots of the 60's in japan, love of music, love of literature, strange sexual sequences, his love of obscure cinema and Woody Allen movies, unrequited love.  Yes, every page of the book feels like you have been there bofore but had a better time the previous trip. 

I can't really suggest this book.  If you are unfamiliar with Murakami, I would suggest a book of his short stories.  He seems to be a polarizing auther as people love him or hate him.  The short stories will give you a feel for his varied writing styles.  I have already mentioned my favorite novels above.  I understand that he can't write something I will like everytime and I hope that this novel is the odd ball out.  It got great reviews from the intellectual elite, but his books are smart and weird so that is to be expected, but this was just derivitive of everything else he has done.  It came across as lazy. 

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Anathem

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 6, 2009 by Budd Black
Anathem
Neal Stephenson

This book can not be explained in a short review. Stephenson creates a
world that is very complicated, has its own history, and creates a
language to go along with it. While some elements of the novel will be
very similar to what the reader is used to, some of the book can be very
confusing.

The story follows Erasamas, a young avout, as he is pulled out of his
math (a scientific monastery of sorts) with several of his companions to
solve a problem of the secular world. The beginning of the book is set
up to explain to you what a math is like before you get to the actual
plot. The pacing can be slow at times but lightening quick at others.
This is a very aggressive work by Stephenson and may be called his
masterpiece. Not that it is perfect, but Stephenson set out to write a
literary science fiction novel and he succeeded.

Readers of Stephenson know that he has a tendency to not end a book so
much as he stops writing it. In this book Stephenson did a good job of
wrapping things up on some degree and leaving a lot up to the
imaginations of his readers. A goal that he has been tweaking from day
one.

This book is hard to suggest to just anyone. People with very
scientific minds that love talking about and exploring theories and
science should really get into this book. The literary elite have
seemed to enjoy this book as well. This book is very deep and thought
provoking though. This isn't popular sci-fi. Personally, I loved it.

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Real World

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on July 16, 2009 by Budd Black

Natsuo Kirino, a well known author in Japan, releases her second English
translation with Real World. Real world follows four Japanese high
school girls as they assist a boy that has just committed matricide in
his escape.
The book is a really quick read and you actually care about the
characters and start to sympathize with the "Worm" character. You
almost understand why the girls are helping him. The characters are the
lifeblood of this novel and Kirino fleshes out what seem to be
stereotypical Japanese students into something a little more.
This is ultimately a book about consequences. Actions and inactions
have consequences. The characters, still young, learn this throughout
the novel the hard way. Well, at least the female characters do.
This isn't a great book, but it is a good book. I haven't read any of
Kirino's other works so I don't have anything to base it on. The book
does have an edge to it and can get very dark in places. I would
suggest this book for high school age and up do to darkness and sexual
content.

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Into Thin Air

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on May 8, 2009 by Budd Black

This book that recounts the disaster of the May, 10 1996 Everest disaster is excellent.  Jon Krakauer was a member of a commercial expedition going to the top of the mountain.  The group consisted of three guides and several recreational mountain climbers.  Another group, very similar in makeup, was ascending at the same time.  The two large groups made a series of small errors and lapses in judgement that ended in the death of five people, including three of the guides. 

This was an amazing book that was written very well. Krakauer paints a picture of people that become single minded on their goal.  I relate to this as when I was training for my Marathon I hurt my knee on the final twenty miler before the race.  I ran the race anyway and even though my knee felt like someone was ramming an Ice pick into the side of it from about 10 miles on to the finish, I kept going.  I didn't know what I was doing to my knee, I just knew that I had prepared long and hard for that day.  I had also spent quite a bit of money to pay for the training, the race, and getting there.  Nothing was going to stop me from getting to the finish line.  So, I vaguely understand what these people were feeling as they kept climbing long after they should have stopped. 

This book has some language and presents some very disturbing death scenes, so it may not be for everyone.  It is a very good book and most will not be able to put it down.  The very last line of the book is very haunting and really closes the book well.  An amazing read.   

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The Prestige

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 27, 2009 by Budd Black
The Prestige
Christopher Priest

A guy at work let me borrow this book because he knew that I would like it.  I read it on breaks and lunches when I stayed at my desk.  This book is very good.  I had seen the movie and thought that it would ruin the book for me but it doesn't.  The plots are quite different, go figure.  I would recommend this book to just about anyone. 

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Ashli’s Indian in the Cupboard Review

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on November 25, 2008 by Budd Black
Indian review
Ashli and Budd

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The Revolution: A Manifesto

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on November 14, 2008 by Budd Black

It isn't hard to see why people flocked to the message of Ron Paul after reading this book.  It was an informative and a very educational book that I feel strengthened that little voice in my head that says, "America isn't taking the right path."  Paul is unapologetic in his love for the constitution.  While I am sure for every example that Paul has put forward about why the document should still be relevant there are probably those that have an example of how it won't work, I think that Paul's examples speak to people and he is at least a change from business as usual in Washington. 

This books message is simple.  The Government needs to scale itself back and leave people alone.  Leave people alone conduction business in this country, leave the markets alone so that they can actually be free (something they are far from), and leave people in other countries alone to practice their own form of government.  These are beleifs that I have had for a very long time and beliefs that neocons have criticized me for or pretended to have for themselves.  This book destroys the myth that the Republican Party is conservative and, I think, correctly states that most conservatives/repulicans yearn for true constitutional government. 

It was an amazing book, but at the same time scary.  Paul shows the reader examples of how the constitution is blatently ignored.  While all three branches have gotten out of control, the executive branch has been on a century long power grab.  The economy was discussed and Paul presents his reasoning about what is wrong with it.  While you may not agree with the gold standard theory, you will be hard pressed to disagree with his opinion of the federal reserve. 

This book is highly recommended to anyone looking for change.  Ron Paul isn't delusional and doesn't think his ideas can be implemented overnight or even in one term, but he does think we need to correct our path and start heading in those directions.   

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