Short Sunday: Sleep by Haruki Murakami


Back in my high school days, I was so into mountain hiking and camping it drove my parents crazy. It wasn’t so much about the activities, more about how unsafe it was for a bunch of teenagers to hike faraway mountains considering how wild these places are in Indonesia. There isn’t much organization or safety net at all. Combine that with youth sense of adventure and carelessness, it’d make any parents squirm.

Anyway gone are the days when I needed to slip out in the dawn and faced all the dramas before and after each adventure. I have grown many more years and Australia is as safe as snug. My parents can breathe easily.

I haven’t gone camping or mountain-hiking for a long while, only some bush-walking (To clarify, mountain-hiking is sort of like bush-walking with much higher elevation and takes longer time. For me back then it ranged from 12 hours to 2 days (we had to camp midway)), so I got excited when we bought a small tent on sale. I built them on our backyard, threw in some quilts and pillow, and spent the rest of Saturday afternoon yesterday inside the tent, reading. Funnily it was actually warmer inside the tent under the mild sun than inside the house (we’re entering winter) so I was happy to stay there for hours. It was bliss.

I read one short story from Haruki Murakami‘s short sollection The Elephant Vanishes titled Sleep. It’s about a housewife who finds that she can’t sleep one day and starts to read a lot during the night when everybody is asleep. It’s recommended to me by Rob, you can read his review here. I thought the story was a typical Murakami, with dreams and weird things happening. I wasn’t fond of the ending (also my problem with most Murakami’s works), but it was a fun story. How good is it to not have to sleep, ever? I would love that and spend it reading! Just like the woman character in the story. We spend 1/3 of our life sleeping. Without that, we’d practically have our life extended by a third. That’s a lot!

In the story there are references to Anna Karenina, which the character spends the most time reading. I’ve been wanting to read that for a long time but have not so I was worried of spoilers throughout the story, but it wasn’t too bad. Any interest to for Anna Karenina read-along? Next year maybe?

4.5 stars

Have you read any Murakami’s short story? Which one is your favorite?

In Short Saturday I will journal my journey to find 5-star quality short stories. Unlike my book reviews, I will talk more about my thoughts and what I learn, why I choose the story and how I come upon it. Unlike books, I’m willing to take more risk for shorts, because they are.. well.. short, so I won’t waste too much time if I don’t like them. Expect to see a lot of trash and hopefully, some gems. As it is now, I am not a fan of short stories. Dare I say, yet? But hey, like people say, it’s all about the journey, not destination. (which Michelle is joining, yay)

Short Saturday: Murakami, Borges, and Babel

In Short Saturday I will journal my journey to find 5-star quality short stories, whose virtual trophy right now is only held by Truman Capote for A Christmas Memory. Unlike my book reviews, I will talk more about my thoughts and what I learn, why I choose the story and how I come upon it. Unlike books, I’m willing to take more risk for shorts, because they are.. well.. short, so I won’t waste too much time if I don’t like them. Expect to see a lot of trash and hopefully, some gems. As it is now, I am not a fan of short stories. Dare I say, yet? But hey, like people say, it’s all about the journey, not destination.

on seeing the 100% perfect girl

As you know, if you read the header above, I’ve been talking about Capote‘s A Christmas Memory like a broken radio. But from last week conversations in the comments, I just remembered that there was another short story that blew me away with the same magic! It was recommended by a friend IRL years ago and I read it online. I have probably read it a couple of times by now, which is unheard of for me.

It is none other than:

On Seeing the 100% Perfect Girl One Beautiful April Morning by Haruki Murakami

which you can read in full online (thank you, steph tai). It is available at more sites, but I love that particular one, because of the illustration and the way the text is put together. Tips: if it appears too small on your browser, press Ctrl + (plus sign) until it gets to the right size.

Please read it too. You’ll fall in love with it. I promise.

This short story is included in his short story collection Elephant Vanishes, which I sadly do not own, and it is not available at my libraries. Another of his short in the collection called Sleep was recommended by Rob (link to Rob’s review), which he rated 5 stars, and is “about an insomniac wife who gets into a habit of reading literature all night”. That sounds amazing! I have to get hold of the book.

Last week, I roamed around my library and found this lovely anthology called In the Stacks: Short Stories about Libraries and Librarians, Edited by Michael Cart.

In the StacksThe cover looks very plain, but really, shorts about libraries and librarians?! How enticing is that? And look at the big names inside! Italo Calvino, Ursula K. LeGuin, Isaac Babel, Lorrie Moore, Francine Prose, Alice Munro, Ray Bradbury, Jorge Luis Borges, and more!

This morning I went straight to:

The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges

“The universe (which others call the library) is composed of an indefinite, perhaps an infinite, number of hexagonal galleries, with enormous ventilation shafts in the middle, encircled by very low railings.”

The Library of Babel is a universe of books, the world where people are born and live, where every book ever written in every possible language resides.

Knowing how famous it was, I was quite surprised to find how short it was! However, while the premise can’t be more amazing, I found the writing was rather hard to get into. The translation maybe? Borges was Argentinian, it was translated from Spanish. It did feel like reminiscence of Calvino’s If On a Winter’s Night a Traveler. It also bothered me that he mentioned alphabet has 22 letters. Does Spanish have only 22 letters?

It deserves a re-read. But for now, I’ll rate it

4 stars

Some of you may wonder what happened to My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead. I had to return it to the library. (Library!) I’ll borrow it and continue again later, because there are more that I want to read. Isaac Babel‘s story is one of them. So when I saw In the Stacks also has his short (a different one) in it, I jumped into it.

The Public Library by Isaac Babel

With mere 3 pages long, this must be the shortest of shorts I’ve read so far. But it’s a nice complement after The Library of Babel. The Public Library shows a glimpse of a public library, its attendants and regular visitors.

“You can feel straightaway that the book reigns supreme here. All the people who work in the library have entered in communion with The Book, with life at second-hand, and have themselves become, as it were, a mere reflection of the living.”

I liked the writing, and I’ll watch out for more Babel in the future. (Just realized the author shares last name with Borges’s short… Coincidence?)

4 stars

I mentioned Lorrie Moore last week and am excited to find she also has a short in the anthology titled Community Life. I’ll save that for next week ;)

Okay, I’m gonna have breakfast now. I woke up, read the 2 shorts and wrote this post first thing in the morning. Argh, what am I doing?! I haven’t even had tea or something!

Hope you have a fabulous weekend!

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

It took me a damn long time to read this book. I started it some time in November last year, and I finished it 10 other books later. And I’m not sure if I even liked the book. It wasn’t painful to go through, but it was all kinda meaningless. I didn’t quite connect with the characters or the stories.

Kafka on the Shore is my fourth Murakami’s book (I’ve read Norwegian Wood, Sputnik Sweetheart, and The Wind-up Bird Chronicle). I was a fan of him (I probably still am), but I’m not a fan of this work. It’s quite surprising how this book is probably one of his most famous. Not to mention all the praises from many well-known reviewers and the awards.

The story switches between Kafka, the 15 year-old runaway and Nakata, the old somehow-mentally-slow man. One chapter for the youngster, one for the old man, and on it goes alternatively. I found this method quite distracting. I was impatient to turn my attention from one POV to another over and over, especially when things were in the heights for one and not so much for the other.

As with other Murakami’s books, there are some elements that almost seem to be his trademarks. Cats, obviously. Always some cats. With some classic music and talk about literature. And some happy-go-lucky girl with not so terrific background who seems to always fade away near middle to end of the book, never to be told again. Of course, the dreamy state and surrealism is always there.

Natsume Soseki’s works are frequently mentioned. I took note of the books, but I lost my note. At one time I had an idea to take note of the books mentioned in the book I currently read. I thought if any book is mentioned three times in three different books, it’s about time for me to just grab the book and read it. But then I found Moby Dick mentioned in 2 different books I read consecutively. I got worried. I really don’t want to be forced reading Moby Dick. (a glimpse of the reason) So I ditched the idea pretty soon.

Rating: 3
I’m torn between 3 and 3.5 rating, but I think I’d just give it a 3. I wasn’t exactly satisfied with the book. I didn’t find the whole Oedipus complex theme very attractive either. I’m hoping for a better Murakami next.

Original Title: 海辺のカフカ (Umibe no Kafuka)
Pages: 489
Publication year: 2002 (Japanese), 2005 (English)
Awards: 2006 World Fantasy Best Novel

First line
“So you’re all set for money, then?” the boy named Crow asks in his typical sluggish voice.

Last line
You are part of a brand-new world.


“If the words can’t create a prophetic tunnel connecting them to the reader, then the whole thing no longer functions as a poem.” ~ Oshima p254

Also reviewed by

Trish | Tanabata | Gautami | C.B. James | Nymeth | Bellezza | Charley | Arukiyomi

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

I’m running bookrings for this book.
1 copy in Singapore
1 copy goes around the world (currently traveling to Europe)
If you’re in Singapore I will gladly lend you my copy (I can easily send it by mail). If you’re somewhere else, you can join the ring :)

Got this from: Borders Singapore
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

From the back cover:
“Toru Okada’s cat has disappeared and his wife is growing more distant every day. Then there are the increasingly explicit telephone calls he has started receiving. As this compelling story unfolds, the tidy suburban realities of Okada’s vague and blameless life are turned inside out, and he embarks on a bizarre journey, guided by a succession of characters, each with a tale to tell.”

In my own words (halfway through the book):
Main character is a guy in suburban Japan, living with his wife, and cat which disappeared at the beginning of the book. At first looking for the cat, he starts to meet all kinds of weird characters with their own quirky stories and personalities. At several parts of the book I found myself like the King in 1001 Arabian Nights when his wife stops telling her story in the middle of exciting part, “Nooo, don’t stop here. Please continue!” Which is exactly what the guy does when all these weird people he meets suddenly decides to stop their tales for whatever reason. Love this book :). I found myself reading like a little kid, all wide-eyed and open-jawed throughout the book.

After I finished the book:
Not exactly sure if I like the second half of the book (I totally love the first half!). The book is a trilogy. The third part gets much weirder. A lot of things are left unanswered at the end, which left me a bit unsatisfied. But my friend said that’s what makes a book great, like what makes a movie art house, that you leave things for the audiences to figure out (I’m not totally convinced though. He’s British =P). Still at the end this is a book I would highly recommend for anyone to read. It’s also one of the 1001 books you must read before you die :).

It’s definitely a page turner and it’s a very thick book. This is the third Murakami’s book that I read. I plan to read ALL of his books (that’ll take me a while. He got about 10 books or so). He’s the second author whose books I want to read all. First was Amy Tan.

Memorable Quotes

“Curiosity can bring guts out of hiding at times, maybe even get them going. But curiosity evaporates. Guts have to go for the long haul. Curiosity’s like an amusing friend you can’t really trust. It turns you on and then it leaves you to make it on your own- with whatever guts you can muster.” ~ pg 65

“When you get used to that kind of life- of never having anything you want- then you stop knowing what it is you want.” ~ pg 72

“The passage of time will usually extract the venom from most things and render them harmless.” ~ pg 79

“You’ve got to spend your money on the things that money can buy, not worry about profit or loss. Save your energy for the things that money can’t buy.” ~ pg 115

“Memories and thoughts age, just as people do. But certain thoughts can never age, and certain memories can never fade.” ~ pg 207

“There is nothing so cruel in this world as the desolation of having nothing to hope for.” ~ pg 346

“Hell has no true bottom.” ~ pg 547

Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami

Note: I used to write about books I read on my book site, but then I’m getting uncomfortable with a few functions (or lack thereof), and I’m so busy, or lazy, whatever you wanna call it, to fix it. So I’m trying this new format of writing about them on this blog. I’m still not sure whether it’s best. We’ll see.

Got this from: Joakim (borrowed)
Rating: 3 out of 5

I can’t get enough of Murakami. I read Norwegian Wood, this, and now continuing with The Wind-up Bird Chronicle.

Interesting uncommon topic. About lesbian love. I told that to Joakim, he bought it soon after, finished it in one weekend, then lent it to me :).

Well, that’s about it really. Like Norwegian Wood, you can’t really summarize what’s in the book without giving too much away. In a few words, Norwegian Wood is about someone who loves a girl who has mental illness. Sputnik Sweetheart is about unreachable lesbian love, and the guy who loves this girl. Simple, yet complicated.

I don’t think this book is his best. It’s getting quite draggy at the end and going nowhere. Still, for me it was engaging in many ways. I’m a total sucker for Murakami now, so I’m biased. *rabbit-hopping happily to his next book*

Memorable Quotes

“Don’t pointless things have a place, too, in this far-from-perfect world? Remove everything pointless from an imperfect life and it’d lose even its imperfection” ~ pg 4

“No man should go through life without once experiencing healthy, even bored solitude in the wilderness, finding himself depending solely on himself and thereby learning his true and hidden strength.” ~ pg 5

“What’s nurtured slowly grows well.” ~ pg 16

“The world’s crawling with stupid, innocent girls, and I’m just one of them, self-consciously chasing after dreams that’ll never come true.” ~ pg 55

“When did my youth slip away from me? I suddenly thought. It was over, wasn’t it?” ~ pg 86

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami

norwegian woodI LOVE THIS BOOK! I really like Murakami’s style of writing. This is the first of his book that I read, for sure I will keep going to read all of his books. I guess if I were ever to write a novel, I would HOPE to write like him.

It’s hard to explain what’s the book about. My friend Justin put it simply with his thick British accent, “It’s about nothing really, but I just can’t stop reading it. All the characters in the book have at least some degree of mental illness.” I’d also like to add that a few of them commit suicide. Oh and there’s a lot of sex going on too. Very Japanese-y if you ask me. All the quirkiness and suicide culture..

There’s one whole chapter all about conversation on a Sunday afternoon. In fact, there’s a lot of meaningless conversation in this book. How Murakami makes it interesting, it’s all in his master skill :). You gotta read it for yourself.

People say that this book is the only one of Murakami’s that’s very close to reality. The rest is all dreamlike and surreal. In any way, Norwegian Wood was the one shot him to fame. It’s very popular in Japan, Korea, and Western hemisphere.

~ Finished it on 10 July 2007

4.5 stars
1987 (Japanese), 2000 (English), 400 pp

Memorable Quotes

“Which is why I am writing this book. To think. To understand. It just happens to be the way I’m made. I have to write things down to feel I fully comprehend them.” ~ Toru Watanabe

“All of us are imperfect human beings living in an imperfect world. We don’t live with the mechanical precision of a bank account or by measuring all our lines and angles with rulers and protractors.” ~ Reiko Ishida

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