Say something about yourself!
"The first thing you must know about me is that is I am colossally fat. I eat what I want, and furthermore, I eat whenever I want...and I do feel very shy and sort of encassed in something, as if I were a cello, or an expensive gun..." so the character Arthur writes about himself in an unflinching confessional letter to a former love whom he has not seen for decades..when he was merely "plump." The self-described grossly obese Arthur is given a distinguished and compassionate voice by narrator Keith Szarabajka, in a remarkable performance that brings real heart and soul to this wretched lonely human being.
On the opposite end of the physical scale is Kel: tall, blonde, high school heartthrob that leaves his letter jacket on the shoulders of his girlfriend, then drives off in his BFF's BMW. But, Kel crosses the tracks and goes to a run down home, to a mother he disdains for her weaknesses; she is passed out on a sofa wearing a holey T-shirt that reads: It's 5:00 Somewhere! His father walked out when he was 4--he is so sure that his father is the source of his own tall good looks, his extraordinary athleticism, and all that is good in himself; while Mom represents imaginary illnesses, excuses, failures, and all he deems repellent. Also in this wonderful cast is Yolanda, the tiny pregnant Latino cleaning girl, whose sequined-sneakered feet dangle over the sofa when she breaks to watch her favorite soap on TV, and who yells at the honking cars during a huffing Artur's first arduous walk in years, "Hey! I'm pregnant here!"
Heft is a superb character-driven novel that had me in tears more than once. From Arthur's apprehensive yet straighforward introduction, to Kel's self-aware confessions of sorrow and regret, and the streetsmart directness of sassy Yolanda--- Moore has written a bittersweet intersection masterpiece that will etch itself in your heart. With such a significant novel...it is hard to conform to M. Twain's advice: "when you catch an adjective, kill it!" With apologies to Twain...Heft is elegant, beautiful, unforgettable, wise, tender, hopeful, humble, and what it is to be HUMAN; one of my all time top picks. I hope you enjoy this one.
I love/hate Umberto Eco. "Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself..." There are very few authors as complex and knowledgeable; there are even fewer that can challenge and inspire as Umberto Eco. I have re-read, cross referenced, and researched, as much while reading his books as when writing my dissertation--but isn't that what great writers do for us? They expand us. And, while I always feel a bit obtuse reading Eco, I always come away enlightened. His mind is an encyclopedia, all-encompassing, his wit is delightful and at the same time biting and hilarious.
Prague Cemetery's plot is intricate to say the least--19th century European espionage, conspiracy theories, Freemasons, Jesuits, Illuminati, Hitler, Dumas, Hugo, "Froide", Satanists, the New World Order and the Elders of Zion. All the more fascinating because of Eco's background in Semiotics, and the VERY interesting "A Note From the Author" wherein Eco personally explains the characters actually existed! [*see Amazon.com site to read this letter to the 'Dear Amazon Readers']. The story is told by a vitriolic schizo character with "a soul so dark as to cast a shadow in hell'; he could easily be a monster straight out of Eco's On Ugliness. Within 30 min. the mystery narrator ("pleased to meet you, hope you guess my name, woo woo.") offends, criticizes, disgusts, and outrages every race, nationality, ethnicity, sex, and religion--his only complimentary words used to describe the gourmet dishes he savors. Perhaps my only complaint: with such powerful elements and such an engrossing storyline, I'd have appreciated less venom--but I hope Eco never conforms to my personal predilections! (And wouldn't a recipe companion be too fabulous!)
Undeniably a difficult read (for me at least), and not meant for people that tend to be easily personally insulted. It's meant to be disturbing, it's meant to agitate some brain cells. Kirkus review probably summed it up best with this one word: HUMDINGER. While The Name of the Rose remains my favorite Eco novel, I found Prague Cemetery absolutely fascinating and will enjoy the personal prerequisite second, possible third, listen. George Guidall does a lovely job of narrating the translation, as if you are reading beautiful Italian with your English brain.
Persevere; I think of my mother saying to me, "Sit down and practice that piano! One day you'll thank me!" Read Eco and you'll thank yourself.
In Haruki Murakami's own words:
"It's all pointless--assuming you try to find a point to it." Kafka on the Shore
"It's not that meaning cannot be explained. But there are certain meanings that are lost forever the moment they are explained in words." 1Q84
I read this book last year, my first HM read, which I jumped into with no knowledge of the author, and having read no reviews of the book at all. Since then I have read several of Murakami books, and not because I am an enthusiastic fan at all--I actually found myself a little disturbed by Kafka on the Shore. I was bothered by the wierd sexuality, the blurry boundaries and constructs, the pointless ramblings, the silliness I thought bordered on insult to the reader. I read interviews Murakami had done, I read about his background, I read very dissected critiques by scholars of Murakami books, and still held on to a bit of repulsion towards Murakami's books. But...I kept reading his books! I was drawn to them; they haunted me, they stayed with me, persistently colored my mind.
When 1Q84 was released, I bought it impulsively,then wondered why. I realized that Murakami writes for the reader; I understood that what brought me back time and time again to HM was the fact that somewhere in me, I knew that in HM's books I was in the presence of genius. I could read/listen to HM and drift through a dream, like closing my eyes and floating on a raft in the pool, I didn't need to make sense of the journey--I just enjoyed it.
I relate this only to try to explain the experience I had with Kafka on the Shore, It was in many ways magical and lasting. I'm not sure I loved it, but it captured me. I could compare it to the other books of his but I will not because it has been done--I will leave you with my experience and say that Murakami, like any author, is not for everyone--just like Beethoven or Mozart are not for everyone--but their genius cannot be argued. I am looking forward to listening to 1Q84--just picking the right time to be consummed. If you are compelled to find meaning in every event, to right each word with your own understanding, read again the top 2 quotes by Murakami...you may "find" something that isn't even really there at all.