Tag Archives: Ruth Ozeki

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage

I came across Murakami’s writing through 1Q84, his iconic alternative universe exploration of Tengo and Aomame. In all honesty, I “discovered” it through Audible.com for one reason: it was many hours in length and, for one credit, really good value!

And then I got swept up in this strange unsettling and unsettled narrative. It was like stepping into someone else’s dream! Familiar yet alien; recognisable yet surreal.

And, thanks to Aomame’s description of her name and the differences between Aomame and Edamame, I seem to remember getting a University Challenge question right.

So any way, after picking up Norweigan Wood , The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and Kafka On The Shore, Murakami has become one of those writers for whom a new novel is an event. There are a few novelists that have this effect: China Miéville, Hilary Mantel, Neil Gaiman….

So my picking up the wonderfully entitled Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage was always going to be exciting.

IMG_5225.JPG So, imagine my delight and pleasure that, as well as the book itself, there were stickers inside the front cover.

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IMG_5227.JPG Stickers!

Yes, stickers.

It’s perhaps 30 years since I had stickers inside the front cover of a book!

This must rank alongside such classics as Dress-Up Barbie and Design A Dinosaur World!

The blurb to this book reads as follows:

Tsukuru Tazaki had four best friends at school. By chance, all their names contained a color. The two boys were called Akamatsu, meaning ‘red pine’, and Oumi, ‘blue sea’, while the girls’ names were Shirane, ‘white root’, and Kurono, ‘black field’ Tazaki was the only last name with no color in it.

One day Tsukuru Tazaki’s friends announced that they didn’t want to see him, or talk to him, ever again.

Since that day Tsukuru has been floating through life, unable to form intimate connections with anyone. But then he meets Sara, who tells him that the time has come to find out what happened all those years ago.

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There’s an obvious geographical connection with Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale For The Time Being but there also seems to be a thematic parallel: the drifting, loneliness, a drift towards suicide.

Anyway, I’m going to stop gabbling now, bring that delicious sensual moment of teasing before I begin the book to an end.

2013 in Books

2013 drags itself damply and limply to an end this week. Unlike Dr Who, whose Matt Smith incarnation went out on Christmas Day with a bang, the final days of 2013 remind me of the lines from Eliot

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Anyway, I thought that I would bring the year to a close with a review of 2013 in books. And, to preface, this is books read by me in 2013 rather than written in 2013. There are still some 2013 books I’ve not got round to reading yet: The Luminaries and Jim Crace’s Harvest among them.

So. Here goes.

Top of my list is the Man Booker shortlisted A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki.

20131228-074227.jpg Utterly compelling and intriguing narrative voices, engaging characters, thoughtful, thought provoking and haunting. It is a book about reading and the relationship between reader and writer and genuinely made me think. And as my family and students will tell you, I try to avoid that if necessary! My somewhat gushing review is here as is a link to what happens when you gush too much about your book, here.

Second place on this wholly subjective list would go to Neil Gaiman whose beautiful Ocean At The End Of The Lane was powerful, touching, mythic and domestic all at the same time.

20131228-074349.jpg And a rollicking good read! Again, my review of it is here.

And at number three, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

20131228-075235.jpg Unexpected, tender, utterly humane. Simply a genuinely lovely book about an ordinary man and his ability to simple journey to say goodbye to an old friend who is dying. There were so many ways this could have become cloying or sentimental or just go wrong… but Rachel Joyce judged everything perfectly! Another link to my review.

Ali Shaw’s The Girl With Glass Feet certainly needs a mention. As I do this I question whether ranking them has value… Maybe just my top ten. I also realised that February was a great month for my reading!

20131228-080537.jpg I loved this book: again it was remarkably tender and quiet and personal and with a remarkable sensitivity to light. The descriptions were gorgeous – especially of the glass feet themselves. Yes it is that literal a title! My review of this modern fairy tale is here.

I think The Woman in Black by Susan Hill needs a mention too. A great book with a cracking plot and so consciously crafted by Hill’s own apparent delight in the gothic. It has been an ideal book to teach simply because of that conscious crafting of language. And also genuinely chilling and creepy. Some notes on it can be found here and here.

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The film adaptation of The Woman In Black was, however, a massive disappointment… which leads me onto another of my books of 2013 which also had a really bad film: World War Z by Max Brooks.

20131228-085920.jpg The book is your standard zombie-fare: for unknown reasons, the dead rise and kill and convert much of humanity before the human race makes a stand. What I enjoyed about it – and what was taken out of the film – was the multitude of voices and stories which took an unmanageably large global narrative and reduced it down to domestic individual stories. My original blog, follow the link.

And 2013 was a good year for the undead for me: Justin Cronin’s first two books of The Passage trilogy were a powerfully and occasionally lyrical post-apocalyptic vampiric vision with one massively evocative protagonist, Amy Harper Bellafonte. The US military discover a virus capable of imbuing great strength and healing and predictably attempt to create a super soldier serum which in fact creates vampires who – somewhat inevitably – take over the world. My review of The Passage is here and the slightly less satisfying The Twelve is here.

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To continue I do want to include the Man Booker shortlisted Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín.

20131228-093945.jpg. This is a hauntingly sad novel of the gospel story of Christ from the point of view of his mother trying to deal with the crushing fact of his death. I just wish I’d read this without having seen Monty Python’s Life of Brian! My review is here.

Finally, I’ll mention Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett just because it is by Terry Pratchett and therefore a ways going to be a great big fun read! My review of this is here.

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And what will be my first books of 2014?

Well, I’ve just bought The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

20131228-100005.jpg The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker

20131228-100058.jpg and The Silent Wife by A. S. A. Harrison

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Travels with Ruth

Oh dear!

Look what happens in my school if you accidentally leave a book unattended for a couple of minutes!

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Along with the following quotation

Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white. – Mark Jenkins

So, after many days away I have returned, this time to be loved, cherished and above all not forgotten.

I also want to say that if you ever change your mind and decide you would like to be lost, I’ll be waiting You’re my kind of time being, too.

Return to the Blog?

I feel that I’ve been neglecting the blog recently. So I am making a concerted effort to add more random, meandering and probably inarticulate gabblings – is that even a word? If not, it should be!

Gabblings. I like it!

Anyway, by way of a return, I thought I’d share my most recent purchases:

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These are from the Booker Prize Shortlist and it has become something of a tradition that I try to read as many of the Shortlist as possible.

It is expensive – and Waterstones is not the cheapest book shop in the world! – but I’m lucky that my birthday falls where it does!

Colm Tóibín’s Testament of Mary looks interesting, focussing on the humanity of Mary as in mother-of-Jesus.

The Tale For The Time Being has an intriguing front cover and I know nothing about Ruth Ozeki! In all honesty, this and Tóibín were both paperbacks and buy-one-get-one-half-price!

Crace is the one that appeals most from the blurbs. I’m anticipating a thunderously heavy atmospheric novel. The blurb reads thusly:

“As late summer steals in and the final pearls of barley are gleaned, a village comes under threat. A trio of outsiders – two men and a dangerously magnetic woman – arrives on the woodland borders and puts up a makeshift camp. That same night, the local manor house is set on fire”