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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

On Murakami

It seems that with all my hype about Paul Auster's new book, "Travels in the Scriptorium," I have neglected one of my other favorite writers, Haruki Murakami. I first discovered Murakami in 1993. My friend then (wife now) was reading "Norwegian Wood" in the original Japanese and somehow because of the Beatles' connection the book attracted me. A year later, I found myself living in Japan and my friend's brother (now brother-in-law) gave me a copy of "Norwegian Wood" in English translation. It is a book that changed my life; that is not hyperbole. This book helped me enjoy literature like I had not before. In fact, it is the first book that actually made me cry (real tears and sobs) as a reaction to a turn in the plot. I have read all of Murakami's work just as I have read all of Auster's books. They are vastly different in style but somehow they connect at some levels. Murakami's work is like walking into a Salvador Dali painting (that's the way I can describe it and make it interesting for people new to Murakami). I actually had an opportunity to meet with Murakami in Washington, DC in 1999. He was kind to sign copies of his book we (friend then wife now) brought along with us, and Murakami and I had an opportunity to share some ideas about baseball, a shared passion. His latest effort (translated to English) is "Kafka on the Shore." Although I am always quick to recommend "Norwegian Wood" as a first choice for those new to Murakami, "The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle" is, in my opinion, the best of all his books. Oh, and before I forget... if you loved "The Great Gatsby," you'll love "Norwegian Wood." I hope by this post to put at peace the controversy as to who I like best between Murakami and Auster. I like them both the same, really. Murakami because I have known him for a longer period of time, but Auster because he writes so beautifully it's hard not to like everything he writes.

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Sunday, November 26, 2006

George Washington

Monday, November 20, 2006

Marcus Aurelius, #02

I finished reading the biography of Marcus Aurelius I mentioned in an earlier blog entry. I said that I would come back and give my full opinion after I finished reading it. It must be difficult to write a biography of this kind. Anthony Birley does a great job in the first part, but the latter part of the book falls totally flat. Marcus' death is accurately portrayed in the sense that it happened suddenly. I believe there are few details, if any, beyond speculation because his death took place outside of Rome. It just seems to me that despite the citations from Dio, Birley did little to entertain or inform in the latter part of the book. If I find another (better) biography of Marcus Aurelius I will read it and review it here.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Billy Collins, of course

Scared of what computers can do nowadays?  Imagine this.  I recently reviewed “A Wild Perfection: The Letters of James Wright” on Amazon.com and to my surprise the next time I logged in, my recommendations (which incidentally are not “mine” to begin with) pointed at a collection of poems by one Billy Collins.  The reason I know about Billy Collins is that an author I follow online (her blog is fabulous, see entry for A Wild Perfection) is in love with Mr. Collins; I didn’t know him at all before Ms. Patricia Digh pointed it out to me.  So in all the algorithms that Amazon.com can come up with to pair me with things I don’t yet know or haven’t read or frankly have little care for, the Collins volume of poetry was a great temptation.  Too bad I recently ordered a $5.00 book online (including shipping) and the gesture did not endear me to my wife (  Collins may have to wait for now.  

So what’s all this with poetry?  I have been a fiction person and a biography, history and philosophy for the most part—including personal essays—but lately it has been poetry creeping up on me and monopolizing my interest.

Monday, November 06, 2006


I found an old library catalog card today. It has the information for a Yergin, Daniel. Some review or other about energy future, a report of the Energy Project at the Harvard Business School. It says that the volume "[a]nalyzes the current energy crisis and provides recommendations for an energy policy based on conservation and the development of solar technology." The card is from 1979. How pitiful that the more things change, the more they stay the same. But perhaps it is more than that. Maybe it's not about the millions of barrels a day we consume, but about the reality that no fail-proof policy can change. Sad world, really.