From the Muse’s Bookshelf: “The Call of the Wild”/“White Fang” by Jack London

It’s been a long time since I finished this book off (I actually started reading Murakami’s “Norwegian Wood” soon after, so there went all plans to do a book post right away), so let’s get right down to it!

If I had to describe these two books in one sentence, I would say this: They complement each other. Simply put, “The Call of the Wild” follows a dog who moves from the comfort of his human master to the more unforgiving master that is the wilderness. “White Fang,” however, is the complete opposite—it follows a wolf-dog from the harshness of his surroundings to the warmth that comes with (the right) human companionship.

“The Call of the Wild” starts off on a calm note, with the protagonist Buck in his master’s home. But things pick up when he is kidnapped and sold off as a sled dog. From then on, the rules he’s grown to know for most of his life—that of man—are broken little by little as he adjusts to the rules of the wild. With each turn, Buck’s mind sharpens. Yet, near the end of the novel, his ties to domesticity, to man, is broken for good.

The titular character in “White Fang” goes from wild to domesticity, but not without the harsh rule of man. After his human is tricked, White Fang lands in the greedy lap of another human—one who decides to use him in dog fights. But when White Fang no longer becomes useful, another human steps in to save him. At first this confuses the wild wolf-dog, but it is the beginning of a path to an unconditional love that exists between man and animal.

As a small side-note, more than ten years have passed since I read “The Call of the Wild,” and as for “White Fang,” I hadn’t read it at all (and watching the movie does not count). Still, I enjoyed both tales cover to cover.

Until next time!

 

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From the Muse’s Bookshelf: “Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World” by Haruki Murakami

Hello, all!

It’s been a little while since I last posted, and look where we are now: It’s almost summer! I finished off another of Haruki Murakami’s novels this week, and this is only the second Murakami novel I’ve read completely (the first? 1Q84, and you can find my reviews right this way.

What struck me about this was that the characters lack names. They’re only referred to by something that is used to identify them, whether it’s an object, the character’s age, or—in the End of the World—their profession. I was about three chapters in when I realized they alternated. One set of chapters deals with a data shuffler who lives in the Hard-Boiled Wonderland of daily life. The second set of chapters deals with a newcomer to a place called the Town, the only place of its sort in a bleak End of the World, where shadows are stripped from people upon entry. As the novel goes on, however, the way both worlds are connected is slowly revealed.

Given that I finished 1Q84 mere months ago, I really didn’t know what to expect when I started this one. Nameless protagonists aren’t something I’ve really encountered before in the stories I’ve read. It puts you in the protagonists’ mind, with a first-hand experience of things happening in both worlds. At the same time, you’re witnessing everything falling together. By novel’s end, I’d realized it wasn’t just a novel about two different worlds connected by one common link.

It was about human consciousness and what it means to exist.

From the Muse’s Bookshelf: “The Ocean at the End of the Lane” by Neil Gaiman

This post is a tad overdue.

So, a few weeks ago I was preparing to visit some family on the West Coast. Simplistic enough, right? Well, it meant that I also had to fly, which was something I’ve never done before.

To be honest, flying is something I’m not really afraid of—it fascinates me, actually. But it made me anxious. Really, really anxious. On our departure date, as I sat in that plane waiting for take off, I hurriedly pulled out a book; I figured it would help take my mind off of things. The book in question that I grasped in my hands as we took off and flew up into pale blue skies was Neil Gaiman’s “The Ocean at the End of the Lane,” and if I wasn’t staring out at the clouds every so often I think I would have finished it in the 4-hours-and-change that I spent in the skies.

 

“The Ocean at the End of the Lane” starts off with our narrator going back to his hometown for a funeral. After giving the eulogy, he drives along and finds himself at the Hempstock farm. At the duck pond in the back, his childhood memories wash over him, and he struggles to remember just what happened all those years ago when he was seven. Of all the things he experienced, one major occurrence plagues his mind the most:

What happened to his best friend, a girl named Lettie Hempstock?

What stuck out to me the most—and this is something I absolutely LOVED, by the way—was how reality and fantasy blurred. The reality of the situation is covered by the lens of what our narrator sees, and this also leads the reader to wonder just where the boundaries of reality and fantasy begin and end. As a whole, I loved the book from beginning to end, and I’m glad this was my introduction to Neil Gaiman’s work.

 

Now that it’s back on my shelf, I’m staring at the spine of another novel by Neil Gaiman: “Neverwhere.” But I have to finish off Haruki Murakami’s “Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World” first!

 

From the Muse’s Bookshelf: “1Q84 (Book Three)” by Haruki Murakami + Final Thoughts

I finished off this three-part mega-novel last night at around 3 in the morning, and to be honest, I cannot fully describe how I felt upon finishing it. “Indescribable” seems like a good word to use, so I suppose I’ll use that word to sum up how I felt. Like usual, my thoughts on Book 3 will be spoiler-free, but my thoughts on the trilogy as a whole will contain spoilers, which will be behind a cut.

Now, to sum up the final book in the trilogy, things converged and intersected. Paths crossed. Aomame is literally on the run after completing her task, only to find out she is harboring something within her. Ushikawa is tailing her, so he can bring her back to Sakigake. And Tengo deals with more loss, only to gain something that he thought was truly gone after two decades.

These three individuals converge and meet, with plenty of near-misses. There were times when I was literally screaming at my copy of the book, wondering if the two main protagonists would meet at one point. And when they did meet, well, it didn’t go the way I expected. Not that that’s a bad thing, but I really had no idea where the story was taking me. As for the ending, it seemed open-ended. Some plot points didn’t have their ends tied up, but again, that’s not a bad thing.

Under the cut are my spoiler-filled thoughts on the novel itself, so if you’ve finished the book, click away. If not, you’ve been warned.

Continue reading

From the Muse’s Bookshelf: “1Q84 (Book Two)” by Haruki Murakami

I finished part two of this three-part mega-novel recently, only to jump into part three soon thereafter. Again, I won’t spoil anything, but a quick summary of the events in book 2 will do.

 

Aomame has a major mission ahead of her, one that would put her life even more at risk, and Tengo falls deeper down a hole of twisted reality. People around him disappear into darkness, while Fuka-Eri leads him onward. The appearance of a major storm marks the beginning of the end, and the story behind the fabled Air Chrysalis is finally brought to light.

 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: This book is a heavy read. Not in terms of page number, but in terms of content. With that said, I’m looking forward to the end of this one, and can’t wait to see how it ends. The only problem is I’m not quite sure which book to read next:

After Dark
Norwegian Wood
Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Kafka on the Shore
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Of course, I need a small break from Murakami’s works, so I won’t read any of those books listed above until I finish Stephen King’s “On Writing.”

From the Muse’s Bookshelf: “1Q84 (Book One)” by Haruki Murakami

I picked up 1Q84 around a year or so ago, and I never really got around to it until early this year. I knew the book itself was meaty and thick. What I didn’t know was what awaited me upon starting Chapter 1. It’s indeed a story that goes from 0 to 180 mph real quick, what with being thrust into heroine Aomame’s…unique profession.

Aomame is a woman who lives according to her own set of rules, and plays by those rules. We don’t know much about her in the beginning, but I’m such a sucker for strong female characters and liked her immediately–and yes, this includes her quirks. Through her side of the story we meet the Dowager, an old woman that Aomame often reports to; the Dowager’s servant, Tamaru; and near the end of book one, the mysterious girl Tsubasa.

On the other hand, we are also introduced to the male protagonist Tengo: a man in his 30s who is a cram school teacher by day, and fledgling writer by night. He lives his life in perfect order, or so he thinks. His wheel of mediocrity is shattered when his friend Komatsu, an editor, drops a manuscript for “Air Chrysalis” in his lap to be edited. This is Tengo’s first introduction to the mysterious girl Fuka-Eri, a smart, yet odd, seventeen-year-old girl.

While there were many secrets revealed in book one of this three-part mega-novel, there is obviously more to be seen, what with the sneaky suspicion I have about the two main characters. There’s the matter of Fuka-Eri as well as Tsubasa, also.

Note that I tried to keep myself from spoiling anything major about this novel, so I sincerely hope that those who pick this up enjoy it as much as I have. And for the record: Yes, this is the first Murakami novel that I’m reading. Yes, I do plan on picking up the rest of his works.

From the Muse’s Bookshelf: “Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger

[Note: This post was supposed to be for last week, but due to some personal things going on it was delayed. There will be another FtMB post this week as scheduled.]

There was a time where I didn’t consume books like I do now, and that was during my second year in high school. I couldn’t really get into some of the books assigned to my class. That is, until a book with a plain white cover found its way into my hands.

That book was J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher in the Rye,” and I credit that title (and Salinger, may he rest in peace) with getting me back into reading for recreation, for insight, and most of all, for forcing me to look at the world we all live in differently.

“Catcher in the Rye” is told completely by its protagonist, Holden Caulfield, a student at Pencey Prep. It is through his point of view that the reader experiences the story, and as such, it’s his emotions and thoughts that are exposed to us. The novel traces his path from a temporary expulsion (where he can return after the Christmas holiday) to a trek through New York City, and finally, his journey home. Along the way, he encounters many people, all of whom have certain effects on him and his character. The most important person to him is his little sister, Phoebe, whose happiness he places over everything else.

Another individual he highly respects is his brother, DB, but what he despises is how DB “prostitutes himself” for Hollywood as a screenwriter.

I still remember (shyly) giving my viewpoint on Holden’s character, about how his acting out and doing what he did was a way of crying out for help. As stated before, all his encounters and interactions with people leave a profound effect on him, but by the end of his journey through New York, he finds that he  wants to “save” children from adulthood (and the characteristic changes of it). But, even though he tries to hide it, it’s clear that he is the one that needs to be “saved” as well.

The final line of the novel really hit me, because it reminded me about how we all form relationships with people. It all begins with a “Hi” or “Hello”, and sometimes, these friendships end out of nowhere, causing emotional pain. Holden has clearly been stung many times and tosses us this bit of “advice” in order to save us from it.