Colson Whitehead was born in 1969, and was raised in Manhattan. After graduating from Harvard College, he started working at the Village Voice, where he wrote reviews of television, books, and music… COLSONWHITEHEAD.COM
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FOR THE WRITER IN YOU[R LIFE]
LIFE’S A BITCH
And That’s The Problem.
I yearn for that day…
You see, months and months ago — essentially an eternity in our hyper-paced, brain-frazzling, tele-connected, continually-morphing-right-before-our-eyes day and age — in an effort to enhance (establish?) my writing cred, I submitted a couple short stories to various literary journals in the hope that they will get selected to be published so that when I self-publish my short story collection I can add a highfalutin aside within the book’s front matter that gives a self-congratulatory thank you to these literary journals for their wisdom and insight in selecting my work to be published.
Can ya dig?
I bet you can…
As I’m sure you suspect, I subject myself to the subjective and contrary literary values of these human reviewers and editors because, just between you and me, I (like most other self-published authors I suspect) would like to someday be an unself-published author and be recognized as a “real writer” within the old slow (really, really slow) world of traditional publishing. (A good read on the question of whether one should self-publish or not can be found here.)
But man* let me tall ya that from all the brain-scattering hyperlinking/twittering/buzzfeeding** I’m now addicted to, I’ve become a very impatient man***, which is why back in 2011, after experiencing how long it took agent after agent to reject my highly exceptional queries (that, and because back then I wasn’t sure I would be of this world too much longer) I began all this ego-degrading self-publishing and self-marketing nonsense in the first place.
And which is why now, months and months after submitting my highly exceptional short stories to these good-fortuned literary journals I am getting extremely impatient with their less than expeditious responses and am once again beginning to rethink my strategy for literary fame and wealth, all of which is causing me to consider withdrawing my submissions and just go ahead and publish the damn short story collection minus the self-congratulatory front matter aside.
Off I go to my Submittable account for the third time this morning to see if the status of any of my submissions have magically changed to something other than “In-Progress.” At this point, I would celebrate even a status of “Declined” just so I can move on in certitude and vigor.
And, while I’m (over-)indulging in my self-inflicted publishing pain at Sumbittable, I invite you to indulge in a short piece of mine that was actually selected to be published by a highly respected (at least by me) though highly unknown independent publisher, and which can be found by click clicking right here.
Yeah, write on…
**included for dramatic purposes only – I’ve never actually been on buzzfeed…no, really
Mysterious Characters and Unforgivable Acts of Violence
by Jason Greensides
One piece of writing advice that never set well with me – however useful it is at a practical level – is to know your characters: that you should be able to understand every little aspect of your character if you ever want them to be believable, sympathetic, and to leap off the page. Of course, in general this is useful advice, however, not only has this the potential to make writing less fun (one of the reasons I write is to discover something I didn’t know), but seems a fundamental flaw in how we should perceive other people in everyday life, particularly the violent and anti-social ones. It presupposes that characters and real people can be fully understood (and therefore judged), which I believe to be not only impossible, but ethically wrong.
The Baltimore Riots and other events of social upheaval always produce the same reaction in me. Not: How could those people act that like that? But: How could those reporting on events (which, because of ‘likes’, shares and unseen algorithms, is actually you and I), cast absolutist judgement upon people whose circumstances we can’t fully comprehend, as they themselves can’t. This too is another reason why I hate that writing mantra Know your characters: How can I truly know my characters when I don’t understand all the things that make me me?
Not only do the episodes of one’s own life seen through the lens of chance obfuscate analysis of what motivates us – our childhood, our parent’s lives, our grandparent’s lives, and back through human history – but at a genetic level, when you analyse how genes move from generation to generation through natural selection. It is the interplay between their outward characteristics and the environment in which they find themselves, not foresight or inherent strength, that ensures their survival through time. Once you know this, you can’t help but come to the conclusion that really genes just make this shit up as they go along.
Then there are random geological and cosmic events that shape the course of the planet and life as a whole – an endless swirling and shifting series of events with (possibly) no primary cause, adding yet more uncertainly about what made us who we are.
And at the atomic level, Heisenberg stated that you can’t know the position and momentum of a particle to 100% accuracy. So if you can’t know that then how can you know everything about someone’s deeper motivations, which in turn are obscured by their own life’s events, and in turn their understanding of those same events.
Life is brimming with chance and the ever unknowable – it’s everything but perfect and absolute – and this is what we (as artists, as writers) must embrace if our work, however down-to-Earth, is to reflect the great mystery of existence.
The hard thing about this is, of course, when writing so called ‘evil’ characters (and if you’re still with me you’ll agree this is a useless term), or seeing ‘evil’ acts play out in society, trying to suspend judgement upon them is one of the hardest things we can do. If a group of guys broke into my house, for example, and assaulted me and my wife, I too would call them evil, would want absolute judgement to squeeze the breath from their throats. I too would not be able to forgive.
But we must try, because ultimately, however you think about it, there had to have been at least one Nazi who, while placing the cold barrel of his Luger to the back of the head of a Polish Jew, thought, ‘Seriously, what the hell am I doing?; there must have been one Cheka officer who, while denying a Kulak his daily allowance of bread, thought, ‘My wife is really not going to like this’; there must have been one RPKAD commando in Indonesia who, before raping the fifteen-year-old daughter of a suspected Communist, thought, ‘What if my own daughter found out?’ Then moral complexity is further muddled when we do not consider pilots of Allied forces carrying out the bombing of Dresden as monsters, do not view leaders of the Western world as having committed an atrocity when imposing economic sanctions on Iraq.
So, suspend your judgement in everyday life, if you can (and I, for my part, will try to suspend my judgement upon those who deal with sweeping, all-inclusive statements of evil), and maybe, just maybe, the characters you create may have a little mystery, may have a little of the unknown, may be dynamic enough to hold our attention until the last page.
It seems that some of you may actually think this blog is now about dogs and ramen. It’s not. That post about dogs and ramen was an April Fools’ prank. This blog has been and will continue to be all about books and writing in general and Kurt’s books and writing in particular. Right on?
Ha ha…what more can I say about the two submissions in response to today’s prompt other than they both are frikkin’ awesome and just the bizarre fun and wonder I was hoping for. The only problem is having to choose one over the other.
I had pretty much resolved myself to the international standard selection process of the Flipping of the Coin to let Chance decide. However, right before the flip, as the coined balanced precariously on my thumb, I manned* up, so to speak, and decided that I would not choose my selection by such a cop-out of a way.
The selection had to be up to me not a coin. I had to find a way to differentiate between the two. So I got to thinking about what if it were me writing a response to the prompt. Which response would I be more likely to write – the humorous or the macabre? Yeah, you guessed it, I probably would have gone dark with this one.
Consequently, it is my pleasure to present to you…
THREE MEN IN A BLOODY TUB
by Josh Wrenn
Detectives are baffled by findings of human remains found floating in the Channel. All of the dead were cut into pieces, but meticulously scrubbed clean of blood, fingerprints, and other evidence.
Lead Detective Jeff Murdock would not confirm the rumors that there is a serial killer on the loose, but did confirm that there are multiple victims.
Anonymous sources within the department tell BBC News that they believe there are at least two victims who were dismembered, cleaned, and then dumped into the Channel.
BBC News has also learned that a task force dubbed “The Butcher” has been set up within the department but has been unable to determine whether it is related to this case. We have also learned that at least one witness may have been brought in for questioning by the task force.
In other news:
The families of Westham’s famous Candlestick Maker, and his friend and world-renowned Baker are asking the public for assistance in finding the two men, who never returned home after a fishing trip. Anyone who knows anything about their whereabouts is asked to call 111.
Thank you very much Doug and Josh for your awesome stories. If either of you would like a digital copy of one of my selections at Amazon, please contact me through the Contact page and let me know.
And thank you to all who joined in the fun and took the time to “Like” the selections for yourself. You all, too, are frikkin’ awesome.
You know, some of our fairy tales and nursery rhymes can really make one wonder. Well, at least they make me wonder. For instance, I really wonder what the heck the impetus was for the creation of Three Men in a Tub.
Three men in a tub,
And who do you think they were?
The butcher, the baker,
They all sailed out to sea,
‘Twas enough to make a man stare.
But weird is cool because with it there often comes such wonderful possibilities. Such as the all the possibilities for the development of interesting back stories that bring light to such an odd, interesting poem.
And that weird also brings with it the possibility for today’s Flash Fiction Friday prompt.
Write a 750 word or less fully developed story that includes who the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker are, what their relationship with each other is, and the events and plot lines that lead up to and conclude right before the famous and oft-recited nursery rhyme begins.
A couple of logistical notes before we begin. I ask that henceforth all submissions for daily prompts be in by 7PMish each evening. That way I’ll have time to read through them and publish the selection by 8PMish.
And I also ask that there be no comments or other responses to the prompts other than prompt submissions. While I always love to hear from you, as witty and interesting and smart as you are, responses other than ones to the prompt kinda muddles things up a bit and will be deleted. Sorry ’bout that.
This is germane.
As you’ll be hearing more about the book (or certainly reading about it), I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself and give you a little background on the novel itself. I feel I should add a disclaimer at this point, because I talk about my characters in a very real sense. It’s how I see them – all the jokes about authors are based on truth; we do hear voices in our head and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
I’ve been writing since I could first craft a sentence and it has remained my one true passion. That isn’t to say I don’t have others, but writing is a big part of who I am. I can’t put a number on the short stories I’ve penned over the years, most of them aren’t worth reading, but they helped me hone the craft and continue to do so. We never stop learning and why would we want to?
Hands of Evil is probably my favourite of the Morgan & Fairchild series (though it’s only the second!). About fifteen years ago a character began to develop in my mind; a protector. His very essence is that of a soldier and he dogged me relentlessly. His name is Brad Morgan and I guess you could say he is to blame for my obsession with all things military.
When I did create a world for him to conquer, although I saw value in the end result, it wasn’t everything I expected it to be. At the time I had a young family and writing took a back seat for a while. That’s not to say Brad left me alone! He remained stoic and determined, waiting patiently for me to flesh out his adventure and commit to sharing it with the world.
My brother, whom I adore, enlisted in the Army around the time I wrote the book and we talked regularly about his own experiences. I loved listening to him describe his life in the armed forces. The more I listened, the more I began to picture the sense of family in his squad – the unity. It was a connection I hadn’t considered and I knew instinctively it was the element missing from Brad’s story. He didn’t have his family.
I’m not a planner, I never have been. I give the power to my characters and allow them to tell the story. Then, when it’s done, I go back and use every tool in my arsenal to whip it into shape; plugging those plot holes and polishing the heart of the tale. A fellow writer once taught me the benefit of giving our characters a voice, and so I wrote a piece of free-form fiction, in which I allowed Brad to talk about his team.
He introduced me to Kelvin Fairchild, his best friend and co-founder of Morgan and Fairchild. Almost immediately, Susannah McElvogue piped up; the undisputed leader of the group. She hasn’t quit since. I retold the original story, adding Brad’s team and Sins of the Father was born. It was never meant to be a series, and yet I couldn’t walk away from them. As soon as I came to the end of the novel, Brad faded into the background and another member of the team stepped up to the plate (I know, I’m mixing my metaphors!).
I’ve always had a soft spot for Jonathan Jukes (JJ). He takes far too much responsibility on his shoulders, and his personal demons have haunted him for a long time. He’s skilled, loyal and has a strength others can rely on. It is a pleasure to spend time with him. Hands of Evil is JJ’s story.
Thanks to Kurt for allowing me to share JJ with you. I’m excited to hear his thoughts on the novel, considering he is a military man. I may even get some tips for the third in the series, which I plan to publish next year. My brother has always been a sound advisor, and I pour over books relevant to the stories I’m planning. In this case it was all things related to close personal protection and the police force.
I hope you’re still with me at this point, and if you are, thanks for hanging in there!
It was a pleasure to stop by.
Ha ha…remember that Seventies show?
No..not that That ’70s Show.
I mean that game show from the Seventies…
Let’s Make A Deal.
What was that dudes name? Monty Hall, or something like that?
And all those crazy contestants all dressed up in their crazy costumes…
Man, that was awesome…
Such an awesome way to waste an hour of a life away…and a few good brain cells, too.
But that’s not why I called you all here today.
Today we are gathered here to discuss a way for you and I to make a deal of our own…
A deal all quid pro quo like…
A way for you to help me help you help me…
Yeah, well, anyway…As I’ve been sitting here waiting for the dispatch of the inaugural selection for our Indie Author Book Selection & Review to arrive…
Is the United Kingdom really that far away from the United States?
I tell you what, Barker-Simpson, your book better be good for as long as it’s taking to get to me…
Kinda makes a good tip o’ the hat to e-books, don’t it?
I could have been done and finished reading it by now if it had been an e-book…
Well, probably not.
I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it already…but I’m kind of a slow reader.
I mean reeeally slow.
So slow that by the time it takes me to read a book, real or otherwise, a real one could probably have been delivered from the UK.
Or the end of the universe.
Which is apparently the same distance…
Yeah, I read that slow…
Anyway. . .
So, I obviously have had a lot of time to think while I’ve been waiting for Melissa’s masterpiece of poetic mojo to arrive…
And I was thinking that, while this Indie Author Book Selection & Review (Can someone please come up with a better, less exhausting name for this thing?! Maybe we should call it InAuBoSe&ReMo in honor of the NaNoMo…god I can’t even finish writing the acronym its so bad. Well, not as bad as that NaNoBloPoMe thing or whatever that beast is.) is cool and all…and I really hope we do more in the future…I was thinking about other ways for me to find your book so I can read it and love it and review it like a masterpiece of poetic perfection deserves to be reviewed…
And I was thinking…you know…
Heck, I’d like my books to be reviewed, too!
Yup, that’s exactly what I thought.
Actually, that’s exactly what I think about often.
I sure wish more readers (and I check my Amazon stats every once in a while (okay, like hourly)…and I see that someone is buying my books, which leads me to believe that they are being read as well, so I think it’s safe for me to assume that I have at least some readers) would leave more reviews.
I know, I know…
I know exactly what you’re thinking right now…
You’re thinking that maybe no one is taking the time to review my books because, maybe, perhaps, it’s a distinct possibility that maybe my writing doesn’t compel these readers of my books to want to write a review for them…
That’s exactly what you were thinking, I know…
Because that’s exactly what I’m thinking, too…
And I think we’re both exactly right on this thought.
Maybe my stories just aren’t compelling enough…
But I would like to know for sure.
And how could I go about doing that, you ask.
Well, funny you should ask because I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about just that lately…
Seeing I’ve had so much time to think and all.
And I was thinking that maybe you could read one of my stories for me and write an honest to goodness legitimate review, you know, like a review you might read in a newspaper (if they were to still exist). A review unlike most of the reviews on Amazon. A review with a minimum of at least three (3) paragraphs – an intro, a supporting, and a closing paragraph. You know, basic essay writing that we learned back in grammar school…
Before you hightail your tail outta here…
Just listen to what I have to propose first, please.
The Happily Disgruntled Writer compares and contrasts differing philosophies on what it means to be a writer…
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Why Write, Dammit?! | KURTBRINDLEY.COM ★ THE ALT TO THE ALT, Kurt Brindley ✍ ✄ ✍, Lorna's Voice, and 2 others are discussing. Toggle Comments
Short version – No.
Less short version – A big fat ontological and/or (your choice) existential, HAYULL NO!
Look, Poet (and by Poet I mean it to include all Writers and all Artists and all Photographers and all Tree House Interior Designers and all…heck, I guess to me a Poet is just about any daydreaming Creator of the Sublime one could possibly imagine, regardless the flavor) I don’t mean to wax philosophical on your poetically waxing arse, but in my world (which, in my world, is the only world that really matters), if you’re more than two clicks of the mouse away from me, then you, my insecure little dream drawer, are dead to me.
Wait, if you don’t exist to begin with, then is it still possible for you to be dead to me?
Oh boy*, this philosophical stuff can get philosophically fuzzy real fast…
So, what do you say we just take a quick sidestep around that descartianly dangerous detour we were about to head down…
Besides, it just wouldn’t be rational within the context of me trying to save and secure your irrationally insecure existence within the existence of my irrationally insecure world, which, I believe I already indicated most redundantly, is the only world that really matters.
So anyway, back to the safety of my shallow point of a “Pro” Tip, if I have to go even slightly out of my way to find you…
Just like that you disappear.
Look, for me, and by me I mean us, at least those of us who are out there, and by there I mostly mean in the WordPress Reader, practically 24/7 pounding the pavement and beating the bushes (Coming soon, my next confessional: If I could marry a Cliche I would) looking to be swept off our creative-seeking feet by you and all those Poets who wanna be like you…
But in order for you to be able to sweep me off my creative-seeking feet, I first must be able to recognize your existence, which means you need to be right there next to me, present and accounted for, ready to welcome me to your domain at a moment’s notice, night or day, rain or shine…(ah, my sexy and ubiquitous little cliches, where would I be without thee? Well, for starters, I just might be properly agented and published, perhaps…sigh)
(J/k…agents and publishers are for sissies)
As long as I’m in the WP Reader, it’s all good for the most part.
In there, I can find you and, if you compel me to do so, there are multiple links within the Reader that I can click that will bring me right like rain into your poetic domain.
But finding you in the WP Reader is all a matter of luck. Posts are flowing fast through that stream, especially in the “Writing” tag where I mostly hang out.
I’d say chances of me finding you there within all that fanciful flotsam are pretty thin.
I guess I could find you if I were fortunate enough for you to find me first.
And now we’re starting to get closer to the quickly dulling point of this “Pro” Tip…
But we’re still not there yet.
Because even if you do visit my site the only way I’m going to know about it is if you “Like” or comment on one of my posts.
And what are the chances of that happening?
I’d say barely minimal if we were to take into account all the millions of WP Poets who are populating this proliferatingly populated planet.
But let’s say, for the argument’s sake — and for the merciful sake of me finally getting to the seemingly forever elusive point of this “Pro” Tip — that you did find me and “Like” and/or comment on one of my posts…
Then, yes, I would have proof of your existence in my Notification Archives, right?
Right. Of course, right. And that’s great and all…
At least for a short period of time.
Because as new notifications come in, the older ones get pushed farther and farther back into the forsaken and forgotten dustbin of digital history until finally…
You are “poof” no more…
And that makes me sad.
Alas, finally, alas…
Yay and hurrah, alas, we have finally arrived to the less than pointy tip of the Tip.
Um, excuse me, would you mind waking up now?
Alas, we have yet a tiny bit of evidence that may or may not prove that you do exist.
We have, alas, your gravatar picture located at the bottom of the post, where the “Likes” tend to gather.
And that, my patient Poet, is where I choose to go, prefer to go, to find you…
It is from there, that point of positivism where the gravatar representation of you exists, where you and I can hopefully begin to build a long-term friendly and collaborative relationship…
You know, I like being “Liked.”
And I like to “Like” things that I like.
So, I hear you asking, why not put those “Likes” that I like so much together to find new friends and collaborators?
For me, that is the number one way that I like go about finding new friends and collaborators…by visiting the domains of those who were kind enough to visit my domain and “Like” one of my posts.
If you “Like”or comment on one of my posts or pages, I can guarantee there will come a day that I will want to return the kindness.
There will come the day when I will click on your gravatar photo and hope and pray like hayull to the Writing Gods that you have properly set up your Gravatar Account so I can find you, visit your domain of a website, and allow you to cast your creative magic of a spell all about me.
Because I do…I really do…want to read your words or marvel at your photography and/or artwork in whatever form in which it may exist.
I really really do.
But, chances are pretty good that there is a pretty good chance I won’t be able to find you…
Because, based upon my slightly more than casual observances, chances are pretty good that you haven’t fully…or even minimally…set up your gravatar profile.
And that makes me sad.
It makes me sad whenever I click on your profile to learn more about you and to ultimately visit your domain to like and to “Like” you, and when I get there I find, to my sad dismay, that you do not have your website linked there.
What is a boy* to do?
I mean, I could try doing a google search or try typing in your handle followed by .wordpress.com…
And I have tried that on occasion…
And on occasion it has worked.
But let’s face it, mostly when I find myself at a gravatar profile that doesn’t, at a minimum, have a website linked to it…
All I can do it back arrow my way back home, back to my domain…alone.
And that’s pretty sad.
So, to help keep me unsad, please please please go to gravatar.com, sign in with your WordPress.com account if you have one (and why wouldn’t you? all the cool people do…), create a new account if you don’t, and then set up your gravatar profile all proper-like so I can find you, and worship your creativity, and become happily unsad.
And, I admit, there are quite a few steps involved in this process — so many that I am not even going to begin to list them all — so I can understand why so many of you Poets have accounts that lead me to No where…to No one…to your non-existence.
But, I really believe that if you are serious about poeting seriously and getting your magic mojo in front of as many creative-seeking eyeballs as possibles, you really should invest the time and effort to set up a smoking hot gravatar profile.
And even if you aren’t interested in doing all the work required to get your profile to the smokin’ hot level, then please please please, at minimum, at least, link your WordPress.com website to the profile. You can you at least, at a minimum, do that for me?
Then, when I click on your gravatar image at the bottom of one of my posts I will find more than just your pretty gravatar face…
I will find a link to your website…
Thereby, I will find a link to you…
And a way to validate your existence.
Here are a couple screenshots to give you an example of what’s involved in setting up your gravatar profile (click to enlarge)…
Now, I don’t know if my gravatar profile is smoking’ hot or not but I do know I have done my darnedest to take advantage of all the Gravatar options possible to make it as tight and professional-looking as possible, and as easy as possible for you to find me…
And by doing so, you, with your kindness and your favor, will validate my existence…
And that truly makes me unsad.
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Original review date: May 17, 2011
Nobel Prize winning author Kenzaburo Oe is one of the few contemporary Japanese authors whose writing does what I believe Japanese literature — strike that — whose writing does what I believe all literature should do: that is, it should expose our fears and force us to confront them. Like a shamanistic bloodletting, literature should mercifully, but without mercy, cut deep into our consciousness in an effort to reveal and release, exorcise, the things in life that have come to possess us—-our loves, our hates, our envies, our disdains; and afterwards, when the demons are either gone or have regained control, after the blood stops flowing and the wound hardens into a gnawing, itchy scab, it, literature, then forever stays with us and occasionally reminds us of that which we have, if not overcome, then at least managed to suffer through, as the thickened scar forever reminds the wary survivor.
Yes, I expect much from literature.
While I have read far too few Japanese authors, it is impossible for me not to compare the writing of those authors whom I have read against Oe’s, since his is such a powerful force in my literary life.
It’s difficult, maybe impossible, to compare the writing of authors of different literary genres and subgenres. How does one effectively size up an Oe novel against a Basho haiku against a Miyazawa fairy tale?
Acknowledging such difficulties, I know we still like our “best of” lists so here is a somewhat rankish list of those few Japanese authors whom I have read, ordered based on the subjective impact their writings have left on me, on how deeply they cut into my consciousness, on how thick the scar they leave behind.
I love poetry and I consider myself a poet, but as a reader I am drawn mostly to the novel. So it’s no surprise to me that the list consists of those authors known primarily for their novels. Most of the authors are dead, but the three who are still with us bookend the list: Oe on top and Yoshimoto and Murakami at the bottom.
Though his name is listed next to last on the list — which doesn’t necessarily mean his writing is bad (although I do believe Yoshimoto is properly placed at the bottom as she is a less than good writer, especially when compared to Oe) — when discussing contemporary Japanese novelists, the first on the list to be discussed, even before Oe, at least in terms of international popularity and readership, is Haruki Murikami.
These days, Murakami’s work dominates Japan’s literary scene, and much of the international one, as well. From what I’ve learned about his work ethic his is a completely earned and deserved domination — when working on a novel he rises at 4:00am, writes for five to six hours, runs 10 kilometers, and is in bed by 9:00 pm; he rigidly sticks to this herculean writing process and daily routine until the novel is complete.
I like THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE. I think it deserves to be as widely read as it has been. It is an intriguingly complex story with many layers, possessing much of what I like most about Japanese writing, and which, fortunately for me, is what most of what the Japanese writing that I have read is about: the sense of loneliness and despondency in the face of an ever more changing and complex world.
But it seems THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE is a bit too complex an effort with too many layers for Murakami to effectively manage.
The protagonist of the story, our non-hero, is Toru Okada, a still young but nearing middle age out of work lawyer. He is out of work by his own choosing, apparently because he has become disenchanted with his line of employment and his place in life. First he loses his cat, then his wife. During his quest for both, he finds and develops a relationship with a flirty teenager, with two sisters (one a prostitute of the mind whom he encounters in both his real and dreamed worlds, the other a prostitute of the flesh), a rich widow and her mute but spiritually communicative son, and a World War II veteran with a fantastically horrific yet achingly beautiful story to tell. To manage his downwardly spiraling and dangerously out-of-control and confusing life, Toru takes refuge within a deep well, which seems to be some sort of all consuming event horizon between his reality and his dreams.
Yeah, it’s as wild and mesmerizing and frustrating (often not in a good way) ride of a novel as it sounds.
My two biggest criticisms of Murakami’s novel are that it is too contrived and too insecure.
I know much of the story is fantastical and captured within a dream state, but it doesn’t feel natural. No matter how bizarre and far out crazy weird a story is it should still feel natural, as if that is exactly how life is meant to be. Some of my favorite novels are captured firmly within these realms; particularly Franz Kafka’s The Castle and The Trail.
We know that Murakami was greatly influenced by Kafka. So much so he entitles of one of his books Kafka on the Shore. But no matter how fantastical and surreal Kafka gets, his writing feels natural within those unnatural realms. Murakami’s does not. His feels choppy, forced, and, as I said before, contrived.
I also get impatient with Murakami’s lack of trust in us, the readers. This lack of trust may mean he is somewhat insecure in his own writing ability. He explains things too much. He leads us throughout the story with too much detail and suggestions as to the meaning behind what it is he wishes for us to learn from his words. Unlike Kafka who takes us blindfolded onto his bizarre journeys, abandones us deep within the remote wilderness of his unfinished tales, and leaves us to our own devices to find our way back to safety, Murakami has no such confidence in either us, himself, or both.
Maybe it’s overly descriptive because unconsciously he understood that the story was too ambitious and unmanageable for him to successfully convey.
Regardless what my criticisms are, THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE is an immense success. As testimony to its international appeal, an “interdisciplinary theatre production” based upon the novel premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival. Its trailer looks amazing and captures the essence and weirdness of the story.
In the end, Murakami’s THE WIND-UP BIRD CHRONICLE does not do for me what Oe’s The Silent Cry or A Personal Matter does. While it is surreal and sometimes dark and creepy in a soulful and insightful way that I mostly enjoyed, it has no staying power. If there has been any cutting from it, it has been bloodless and superficial. Ten years from now, I foresee the novel leaving no haunting or even memorable scars on my consciousness.
★ = Unreadable
★ ★ = Poor Read
★ ★ ★ = Average Read
★ ★ ★ ★ = Outstanding Read
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ = Exceptional Read
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