This post is a feature I’ve been wanting to write for some time. I discovered Murakami and his work about a year and a half ago, via the Selected Shorts podcast, where I first heard his short story “The Iceman” read aloud. Shortly after, I plunged headfirst into the bizarre, engrossing world of 1Q84 and haven’t been the same since.
Prevalent motifs throughout Murakami’s extensive body of work include cats, dreams and hallucinations, magical realism, androgyny, ears, aliens, fate, and coincidences (that are usually so much more than simple coincidences). Most if not all of these motifs can be seen in his longest work, 1Q84. The title clearly pays homage to Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, but the story is not the same.
As much as I’d like to write a review on 1Q84, that’s another post for another day. We’re here to talk about some of Murakami’s other work. He is considered one of the foremost authorities on modern literary fiction, having published several different short stories, novels, and nonfiction essays. Some of his most notable works include “The Iceman,” After Dark, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore, and Norwegian Wood (the movie adaptation for which is currently on Netflix). His prose is captivating, magical, and sure to win you over from the very first page.
If you’ve never read Murakami, check out “The Iceman.” And be sure to let me know what you think about it!
Have you read Murakami? What do you think of him?
P.S. Book Review: Flowers in the Attic by V.C. Andrews, Book Review: Oleanders in Alaska by Matt Thompson, Book Review: Adulting by Kelly Williams Brown, and Book Review: Morning Glory by Allison Blanchard.
I’ve read and reviewed plenty of books in my time. Some of these books have been written by individuals that I have not known personally (the vast majority. in fact). However, some of these books have been written by friends or colleagues with whom I am well-acquainted. When reviewing these books, I have to be careful to stay objective. I usually pretend that the book I’m reviewing was written by someone else entirely, someone that I don’t know, in order to give the review the emotional distance it deserves.
And if the book is bad (oh, God forbid it), then I lie. When my friend or neighbor or loved one asks me what I thought about the book, I spit half-truths through gritted teeth. This approach takes a great deal of energy and usually results in me feeling exhausted and unfulfilled by the conversation.
When it comes to Oleanders in Alaska by Matt Thompson, though, I’m happy to say that I do not have to lie. This book is fantastic. Let’s talk about it.
Here’s the book description from Amazon.com: “Not all lives seem connected, but when a storm hits in St. Laurent’s, Alaska, the lives of many are thrown together. They find that their lives weren’t really so far apart to begin with, but quite the opposite.”
Throughout the novel, the people of St. Laurent’s, Alaska interact and develop relationships with one another. Thompson handles their backstories with a masterful touch, revealing details only when they are relevant to the present action. Although the novel is short, it contains a great deal of emotional and psychological depth and character growth. The prose in and of itself is an absolute delight.
Thompson’s latest novel is a treat. Oleanders in Alaska presents the struggles, triumphs, and journeys of the citizens of a small Alaskan town. It is a pleasure to read and even more so to review. If you love literary fiction, you should consider this novel your next must-read.
Want me to review your book? Email me or leave a comment!
Author’s Note: This is an excerpt from the short story I read for my senior capstone presentation. If you’re interested in reading more of my work, feel free to contact me.
The therapist’s office was a stuffy, wood-paneled room with beige carpet, tall windows, and mahogany furniture. There were golden curtains on the windows. The room was furnished with four chairs, a desk, a bookcase, and a potted plant. The room reminded Sheila of her gynecologist’s office, though she wasn’t sure why.
“I’ve heard of you two,” said the therapist, a blonde woman who could’ve been a model were it not for her height. “Then again, I don’t know anyone who hasn’t. I’m surprised you’re just now seeking therapy for what you both went through.”
Sheila twisted the white gold band on her left ring finger. Although Dirk had taken his ring off, she wanted to keep hers on. She felt naked without it. She’d grown accustomed to its weight. “This isn’t about the island. It’s about an affair.”
Dirk scratched his red stubble. “It’s about our whole marriage.”
“I see,” said the therapist. She scribbled something on her yellow legal pad and tapped her pen against her nose. She could be pretty, Sheila thought, if only she did something about her weight and her nose.
“A week ago I found him having sex with someone else.” Sheila pulled her hair into a ponytail. She had to keep her hands busy so she wouldn’t bite her cuticles. She’d made them bleed that morning. Her fingertips were covered with polka-dot Band-Aids. “We’ve only been back for two months. How could this have happened so quickly?”
“Did you ask him about it?” the therapist asked.
Sheila felt like smacking her. “Of course I asked him about it. He’s my husband, isn’t he? Why wouldn’t I have asked him?”
“Hey,” said Dirk, bumping Sheila’s knee with his, “do you need to get some air?”
Sheila realized that her nails were digging into her thighs. She stood and smoothed her skirt. “I’d like a drink of water.”
While she watched the therapist pour her a glass from the pitcher, Sheila thought about water. She remembered how much they’d come to value water on the island. She remembered the first few days, lying spread-eagle on the sand with the sun beating down, begging for Dirk to kill her, please, so she wouldn’t die of thirst. She remembered him asking her when. He’d wanted her to be certain when she wanted to go.
In the present, the therapist handed Sheila the glass of water. Sheila sat back down. She chugged the water without stopping and drained the entire glass. Dirk took the empty cup from her and set it on the table in front of them. Sheila wondered if he remembered the water. She wondered if he remembered how it felt to be so thirsty, so bone-dry-as-the-desert inside of his cells.
“Sheila,” said the therapist, “when did you notice that something was amiss?”
Amiss, she said, like their marriage was a painting hanging crooked on the wall. Sheila stared at the glass on the table. She’d always known that she and Dirk were destined for divorce. As high school sweethearts, their chances of growing old together were slim. Both of them had known that going into the marriage. Still, they’d decided to make it work. If Sheila closed her eyes, she could still feel the way her wedding dress hugged her. She remembered the first affair. She remembered the second. Back in the present, her stomach lurched.
“We were doing all right until I cheated,” said Dirk. There was no need for him to elaborate. The therapist had their file. She knew about the affairs. What she didn’t know, thought Sheila, was how their time on the island had almost repaired them. She didn’t know that the day they’d found water had been the first time they’d made love in months. She had no idea that Sheila was pregnant again. She didn’t know that, and she most likely never would.
“Sheila,” said Dirk, “are you sure you’re all right?”
That concludes the excerpt. What did you think?