Target Demographics Can Be Wrong

Chronic Chronicler:

As always this bog makes brilliant points and I couldn’t agree more with this one. Have a read and follow them if you haven’t already! Oh, and I will try to do some reviews at some point, in case you thought I had vanished into the ether.

Originally posted on Lady Geek Girl and Friends:

There is so much great geek media out there to enjoy: movies, video games, television—the list goes on. It is my solemn belief that these are art forms, and deserve all the discussion we give them, from the critical (like representation) to the mundane (shipping). The range of topics shows how much these art forms resonate with audiences. But to more effectively have these discussions, I think it is important not to dismiss shows with a younger target demographic.

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Febookuary – The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared – OK Now These Title Lengths Are Getting Silly

13486632Hello and welcome to the end of the road. Yes, I know that many of you will be in tears that this frankly fantastic book reviewing series is coming to an end. I know there are tears of joy but I’m just going to smooth over that fact. It’s kind of appropriate that the last novel I review be about a man in the twilight years of his life so here goes this last Febookuary obligatory overview!

Allan Karlsson, having just turned one hundred, is not too keen on celebrating his birthday. So, not giving much thought to his actions as he is susceptible to, he climbs out the window and steps out into the flowerbed. He knows all the residents of the retirement home will be there, along with the mayor, the local paper and the retirement home’s bad-tempered director Alice. They’d all be there waiting. But Allan had no intention of being there.

Yet from the time between his disappearance and getting on a bus, he manages to steal a suitcase full of stolen money and has a Swedish gang on his tail and also the police who are trying to find the disappearing geriatric. But this isn’t the stickiest situation he’s been in. From blowing up bridges, to walking across the Himalayas, from chatting with Harry S. Truman, to having a drink with Josef Stalin, Allan may be old, but he’s had a far from boring life. And it hasn’t stopped yet.

So let’s just be frank about this. This book is incredibly funny. Jumping from his adventures in the present day, to his incredibly interesting life of the previous one hundred years, Jonasson weaves a tale that manages to pack in a lot of laughs as well as many brilliant side characters and history to go along with it. We get a sense of Jonasson’s sense of humour straight away as, while Allan is escaping from the elderly care home, he comments;

‘Allan cut across the churchyard to the south, until a stone wall appeared in his path. It wasn’t more than a metre high, but Allan was a centenarian, not a high jumper.’

It’s this sort of gentle humour that allows the novel to plod along with a pace that makes you forget its near four hundred page length. While it generally won’t have you bursting out in raucous laughter that will have tears streaming down your eyes, it’ll certainly have you guffawing in a place or two; especially when elephants are involved.

This sort of humour rests mainly on Allan himself who, for lack of a better phrase, is quite innocent. He is almost Forrest-Gumpish in this innocence, although without the mental deficiencies of Forrest. He really wishes for a bed, food and vodka and if all criteria are met, he’s content wherever he is. He doesn’t do politics or religion either which, in a century where these played a massive part in shaping the world, to have Allan outside of this is quite enjoyable, his apathy bemusing and entertaining those he meets in his travels, and believe me, whether historical or completely fictional, there are all colourful and vibrant in their own peculiar ways.

Now you may not know this, but I’m a bit of a history lover. I mean, I don’t always delve into it with a euphoric bliss, but when it’s there I appreciate a bit of history. Jonasson must have had my 8-bit picture by his desk when writing his novel as the tale appeals so deeply to my historical heart. Name dropping US Presidents and Russian dictators, as well as his involvement in historically momentous events allows you to slip into Allan’s shoes, or slippers depending on which time period you are in, and really take in all the surrounding.

But I must admit that, with this being Jonasson’s first literary endeavour, there are occasions that you do get the impression that he is cramming historical facts which, while interesting for me, may become a bit boorish for those of you who un-historically inclined. I hear there is no cure for this disposition so all I can say is sorry to you. You’re missing out.

However, for those of you who find pleasure in the detail, there is so much that can fascinate your mind, will make it reel back in horror and lean into the pages of the book to inspect the prose ever more closely, with knowledge and imagination blurring into one divine whole.

I apologise for the brevity of this Jonas-Jonasson_2271517breview, but having to write this with the midnight hour close at hand, there is very little I can do. However all I can say that this novel is worth the read. The pages simply fly by from one preposterous situation to the next. A veritable farce in ink. It’s charming, witty, at times soulful, but always returning to blissful humour.

Sorry I probably ended on such a low note but thank you all for joining me on my Febookuary adventure. I hope you all have enjoyed it as much as I have. I was going to do a themed month for March, but I feel I may need to slow down for a while and let myself return to reviews that would pounce upon me and beg them to be reviewed. So back to the status quo for now I don’t know exactly what I’ll review next, but when I review it, I hope you’ll all be there to read it. Once again, I hope you’ve enjoyed this Febookuary and thank you all for reading!

Febookuary – The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly – Naivety Turned Wise

17707648Hello there and welcome to yet another late review which I feel apologising for will seem disingenuous as it’s a habit I seem to be falling into with increasing regularity. Regardless, I’m glad this book got half-voted, half-chosen by me for a review because I’ve been desperate to sing its praises for ages. What, am I meant to be impartial as a critic? Well I’ll try mystery voice in my head but I doubt it’ll be a success. So come mystery voice that I may need to go to my psychiatrist about, let’s go to the wonderful gumdrop filled world of the obligatory overview!

A hen who calls herself Sprout, is a caged egg laying hen who has laid her last and, on the instruction of the farmer’s wife, is about to be culled along with other battery hens. However, after being put into a wheelbarrow with other hens, Spout manages to survive an attack by a weasel due to a mallard duck. Although the duck tells Sprout to return to the Hole of Death, she claims that he being culled means she is free and wishes to enter the barn with the other animals.

This does not go well and, although allowed to stay a night, she is forced from the barn and is ostracised by the farmyard animals. This ostracism leads to a chain of events which, although Sprout is usually unknowingly participating in, leads Sprout down a life a caged hen should normally never lead.

Before I move onto the review proper I must admit that, while my review will probably come down heavily in this book’s favour, my judgement is not always so keen. Take for example the fact that I bought this book not because of a recommendation or even after reading the blurb which only made me feel justified in my book-buying senses.

No, my mind had been from looking at the delightful artwork on the cover and the quite absurdity of the title. Although it goes counter to the well-worn saying, but you really do have to judge a book by its cover. After all, no-one wants an ugly looking book.

But to return to the novel in question I must say that I admire Sun mi-Hwang’s use of language. While many authors thrive on the use of long and well worked sentences, filled completely with metaphors and imagery that could make one almost gasp for breathe at the end, as if we had completed some long trek up a mountain or swam across the Channel. Sun mi-Hwang goes the opposite direction. Her sentences end sharply. Almost abruptly. For example;

‘It was bright outside. The acacia tree on the edge of the yard was blooming with white flowers. Their sweet scent caught the breeze and wafted into the coop, filling Sprout’s heart. Sprout got up and shoved her head through the wire cage. Her bare, featherless neck rubbed raw.’

Hwang’s use of shorter sentences is both instances brilliant and irritating as, while I know some of these sentences can be strung together with commas and semi-colons to make a more flowing narrative like my English teachers taught me. Yet Hwang appears to flaunt these rules with harsher short sentences, bringing emphasis to every single thing that is happening.

hen-300x200The sentences ‘Her bare, featherless neck rubbed raw’ could easily be connected to the preceding sentence, but Hwang choose not to. Instead Hwang allows the reader to take in the action of Sprout’s neck being rubbed raw, imagining it in our heads as well as getting the discomfort of having that told to us in such a short sentence that we cannot hide from.

Yet while I say this book could be read by pretty much everybody, from energetic young children to armchair loving elderly people. And yet coupled with this universality is the subtle discussion of some pretty heavy themes. For example, when Sprout asks why she can’t live in the yard as she’s a chicken just like the free-range chickens are, the dog replies;

‘Ha! Silly chicken. What makes you think that? Yes, you’re both hens, but you’re different. How do you not know that? Just like I’m the gatekeeper and the rooster announces the morning, you’re supposed to lay eggs in a cage. Not in the yard! Those are the rules.’

‘But what if I don’t like the rules? What happens then?’

‘Don’t be ridiculous!’

This captures in such beautifully simplistic terms the concept of prejudice that can be interpreted in so many ways. The way Hwang captures the “not one of us” language can be used to reflect on so many forms of prejudices it’s simply delightful. Be it racism, fear of the “other” – e.g.: immigrants, people who rise from their class of birth, LGBT issues, etc., all can be derived from this, and many other passages which I daren’t spoil for you. Suffice to say, with such simple words comes the force of an earthbound comet.

Although I can’t go into all of the themes lest I spoil the novel for you entirely one theme I will note that Hwang makes abundantly and repetitively clear in The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly is death. Death is always surrounding Spout, even from the very beginning of the novel. Even before the mention of being culled, we get the sense that Sprout is on the way out as, after having laid her soft, blood-flecked egg;

‘[She] couldn’t even stand upright today. No wonder – somehow she had managed to lay an egg without having eaten a thing. Sprout wondered how many eggs she had left inside her; she hoped this was the last one.’

Without saying it, you can feel the Sprout’s mortality ebbing away in these lines. The fact that she wishes this egg be her last is, at least for a egg laying hen, a death sentence. But death is not something that is shied away from, rather, it is laid bare for all to see. From the mass grave of chickens she escapes from after the weasel attack, to her possible death of being left in the open of the yard where the weasel could strike, death, usually personified by the weasel, is always present and never leaves.

It teaches us a good lesson about death as most modern cultures do not experience death in the ways we used to. It’s out of the way, behind blinds or sterilised so not to upset our sensibilities. Hwang lays it before us as raw as Sprout’s neck. We cannot escape death no matter how much, or how little, we think about it. Like the threat of the weasel, death is always there.

Yet this does not mean we do not strive against death, for through Sprout we see that we must fight against death with all we have and, while it will eventually come, we must live life rather than have a life that it the mere waiting for death.

2col_330x300_market_focus_aod_sun-mi_hwangThe inside sleeve of my copy compares it to E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web and George Orwell’s Animal Farm. And the shocking thing is, they are right to compare it. The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly is one of those fables that come once a generation. With a protagonist we want to survive and thrive, ideas like death, sacrifice, individual and group identity, and, importantly, motherhood that educate us silently, as well as a plot that one can hardly not enjoy and perhaps shed a tear about, this book should, nay will, become compulsory reading.

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed reading this review as much I have writing it. If want to keep updated on my writings then follow me here on WordPress, as well as Facebook and Twitter so you don’t miss anything. Next will be my last Febookuary review, The Hundred-Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. And again, thanks for reading!

Febookuary – The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Both Pleasing and Vile

Jekyll_and_Hyde_TitleWell here we are: the final week of Febookuary and only three reviews to go. Damn the momentum has been hard to keep up, with last week being a great example. Hopefully we can all forget about that with this review of one of the most well-known horror characters in fiction, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. So quick, let us transform into that ghastly and repetitive of things, the obligatory overview!

One day when the lawyer Gabriel John Utterson and ‘man about town’ Richard Enfield are on their weekly walk when they spot a man trample over a young girl. Utterson and Enfield apprehend the man, who reveals himself to be Mr Edward Hyde.  Disgusted by Hyde actions, as well as his somehow indescribably disgusting appearance, Utterson; Enfield and the girl’s family force Hyde to pay £100 for his behaviour. Hyde retrieves from the account of a well-known and respected gentleman, Dr Henry Jekyll.

After a certain time, Utterson brings up the topic to Jekyll after one of his dinner parties; having learned that Hyde is the sole beneficiary from Jekyll’s will and fears he is being blackmailed by Hyde. Upon hearing the mention of Hyde, Jekyll turn pale, yet assures Utterson that Hyde should be left to his own devices and that everything is alright. Over the coming years, the actions of Hyde and the growing reclusiveness of Jekyll begin to draw suspicion which ends in one of the greatest revelations in literary history.

Well that was probably one of the most half-useless overviews I may have ever written for my blog. Why half-useless? Well I’m guessing that many of you have probably never read this book, yet most, if not all of you, yes even you literary novices, have some sort of inkling as to what the famed twist is. Shall I tell you and risk ruining it for those who have not heard? No, I shall not. I’ll just leave the ninety-nine percent of you feeling smug while the one percent searches Google for answers.

Back from Google? Well onwards then, and I may I thank you for returning after your brief departure. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a fantastic examination of the duality of people, the face that we show to the public and the inner evils that reside within use made manifest. This loathsome yang to a person’s ying is best described by Enfield who, upon asked what Mr Hyde is like responds;

‘He is not easy to describe. There is something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something downright detestable. I never saw a man I so disliked, and yet I scarce know why. He must be deformed somewhere; he gives a strong feeling of deformity although I couldn’t specify the point…’

Dr_Jekyll_and_Mr_Hyde_poster_edit2The deformity that Enfield cannot describe is that of our inner evil or inner demons; however you wish to describe it. That internal villainy resides within all of us and by having it come forth in corporeal form allows us to examine both the characters of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and of ourselves.

The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde works in a similar fashion to Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and, indeed, was published only four years apart, in 1886 and 1890 respectively. There seems to have been a Victorian fascination with vice and corruption, allowing us to indulge our evil sides while remaining virtuous in our other selves, be they in a painting or the bottom of a potion.

On that note, Robert Louis Stevenson makes a good point on addiction, noting that, after attempting to abstain from his draft that, like a drunkard, his demons could not be satiated;

‘My devil had long been caged, he came out roaring.’

The way in which Jekyll abuses his draft to the point where he can no longer be without it, despite long periods of abstaining from its temptations, is quite a good commentary on substance abuse both then and now. While The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde does not deal with any real substance for abuse, it was not a new topic, with The Picture of Dorian Gray, Charles Dicken’s The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870), Edgar Allen Poe’s short story Ligeia, and perhaps most obvious of all Confessions of an English Opium-Eater by Thomas de Quincey (1821). There are more to mention but I doubt that you’d want me to list them all. Suffice it to say, the topic of addiction was as much prevalent in Victorian times as it is now, but perhaps with greater literary results because of it.

Robert_Louis_Stevenson_Knox_SeriesThe Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a remarkable short read that deserves the popularity it has maintain since the late nineteenth century. While some of the characters are a bit two dimensional, it is elevated by Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and the dual nature of man and how we can be both respectable and deplorable, and yet still ever so intriguing.

Thank you for reading! I know it’s a little late but I hope you’ll forgive me. If you’d like to read more of The Chronic Chronicler, then follow me here on WordPress, Facebook and Twitter. Also don’t forget to like, comment and share with all your friends and enemies. My next review will be The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-mi Hwang. Thanks again for reading!

Febookuary – Burmese Days – An “Inferior” Tale

Burmese_daysAs the old cliché goes, better late than never I guess. I apologise to, I estimate, all three of you who were eagerly awaiting the Burmese Days review on Monday and found nothing but the blankness of my writing failures. That and my review of Colorless Tsukuru. I had been busy as of late and, while I could have avoided such tardiness by planning ahead and writing my review in advance, I was a bit too lethargic on that score and am now in the situation of having to write at least three reviews very quickly.

So to make up for this I shall be putting anew timeline out for my reviews which, I hope I will stick too. So here’s a revised timeline for my next three reviews which I hope will be satisfactory to you, my beloved audience, and my own tired finger bones.

The Strange Cade of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson – Monday 23rd

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly by Sun-mi Hwang – Wednesday 25th

The One Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson – Friday 27th

Hopefully this tight schedule will be completed and will leave me time to wallow in self-pity as I do only a four reviews for upcoming Movie March, such is my waning devotion to the themed-ness of this year. But enough of this, it’s time to sally forth to the obligatory overview for George Orwell’s first novel Burmese Days.

U Po Kyin, a corrupt, affluent and a man ‘so fat he had not risen out of his chair without help’ , seeks to enter the prestigious European Club which is being pressured into taking a native member, much to the chagrin of several of the members. However he is blocked by Dr. Veraswami as, not only a man who adores the Empire, he is also friends with the white teak trader, John Flory. However, U Po Kyin has plans to make this change.

Unaware, Flory has become disillusioned with his life in Burma, seeing the British Empire’s presence there not ‘to uplift our poor black brother’ but rather ‘to rob them’, something which he admits in participating due to his involvement in the teak industry. Friendless, scarred, cowardly, yet tied to Burma in such a way he can never be to England, Flory meets Elizabeth Lackersteen and is smitten. Seeing her through romantic eyes, Flory deems Elizabeth to be the answer, a non-racist white lady whom he can be with, rather than the reality of what is before her.

Thus these two tales intertwine, the vigorous campaign against Veraswami and Flory’s crusade for an illusionary gem, this is a story that will make you look at Empire and shudder to think that we have such high opinions of it.

So now I must address the people outside my window, which is surprising considering I’m writing this particular bit on the second floor of my house, holding banners, wearing derogatory and cheap looking t-shirts as well as babbling almost incomprehensibly about why I’m not reviewing Nineteen Eighty-Four or Animal Farm. You know, the ones that people have heard of and maybe three of them have read.

But the problem is you already know they are masterpieces of literary dystopia and have become embedded in our social conscious, even inspiring everyday phrases like ‘Big Brother’ or ‘All animals are Equal, but some are more equal than others’. In contrast Burmese Days is a relatively unknown work which still has great value as social commentary on attitudes towards colonisers and the colonised. So there, I’ve given my reasons, not push off before I come out there and correct your monstrously misspelled placards.

So one thing Orwell makes abundantly clear in this novel is that racism is a topic that pervades British society almost with impunity.  In a time where racism is, while not eradicated as it will unfortunately never be, is seen a repulsive notion, to have it splayed on nearly every page is quite a shock to the system. Ellis, a local company manager, is a most notable example of this as, while he frequently takes drinks from his Burmese butler, he angrily decries;

‘No natives in my Club! It’s by constantly giving way over small things like that we’ve ruined the Empire… The only possible policy of to treat them like the dirt they are…. We’ve got to hang together and say, “We are the masters, you are the beggars –you beggars keep your place!”’

I hope a few, if not all of you, squirmed a bit after reading that quote. It’s vile and bigoted, yet that was the worldview of many imperialists. While there is an argument that empire can be a “civilising force”, what with improved infrastructure, education, etc., empire stimulates oppression, racism, extracting natural resources for their own profit (something which Florey is part of) as well as a whole assortment of other pros and cons which have filled many history books and the coffins of many wars.

quote-i-always-think-they-re-rather-charming-looking-the-burmese-they-have-such-splendid-bodies-just-george-orwell-257240But even when Orwell shows Florey, the seditious, almost friendless man who sees the British presence for what it really is, cannot escape from the racism that pervaded society as, when he speaking on wanting a wife who ‘would love Burma as he loved it and hated it as he hated it’ he cannot envision being married to anyone other than a European stating;

‘A friend. Or a wife. The quite impossible she. Someone like Mrs Lackersteen, for instance? Some damned mem-sahib, yellow and thin, scandalmongering over cocktails, making kit-kit with the servants, living twenty years in the country without learning a word of the language. Not one of those, please God.’

The fact that Florey cannot even contemplate marry one of the native Burmese, valuing the white Mrs Lackersteen over Ma Hla May, his own mistress who has been with Florey for two years, is a sad indicator of how racist ideas seeped people consciousness in ways that, perhaps not in such a vulgar way, such as small opinions and marrying within one’s ethnic group, still remains to be quite prominent for many people.

Yet, perhaps not on racist issues but certainly on imperialism, Orwell shows that these ideas are not solely held by the white colonialists, but also in the colonised in the form of Dr. Veraswami. Veraswami is a true believer in the imperialistic dream that the British created a better life for the Burmans, arguing that;

‘Could the Burmese trade for themselves? Can they make machinery, ships, railways, roads? They are helpless without you. What would happen to the Burmese forests if the English were not here? They would be sold immediately to the Japanese, who would gut them and ruin them. Instead of which, in your hands, they have actually improved. And while your business men develop the resources of our country, your officials are civilising us, elevating us to their level, from pure public spirit.’

It almost wrong foots you, seeing a Burmese man defend the Empire with such vitriol, but there lies Orwell’s brilliance, allowing you to see the Empire from both sides of the argument while telling his story in his own way, from his own viewpoint, given that Orwell was a policeman in Burma from 1922-1927 and spent years writing his first work and, even then, had to publish in America before Britain due to fears of his work being depictions of actual people and events and the possibility of the ensuing libel action.

BRITIAN ORWELL FILESThere is much more to be said on imperialism, racism, and even how we identify ourselves with all of this, but I must bring this review to a close. Burmese Days is one of those works that, although written by a great author, has had its greatness forgotten in the wake of more memorable, or at least, more hyped works. Burmese Days is one such work. It’s unflinching account of the waning days of British Empire and the attitudes of those who lived within it, being at once compelling and repulsive. Truly it is a work that deserves a bit more coverage, lest we retreat back to our notions of the wonder and splendour of the Empire tales of old.

Thanks for reading this review and I’m so, so, sorry about the delay and I shall try to be on time with my next review! Please follow me here on WordPress, as well as Facebook and Twitter to hear when my next review goes up. My next review, of course, will be Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

Also if you’d like to learn a bit more about Imperialism here’s some links to Crash Course videos:

Imperialism: Crash Course World History

Asian Responses to Imperialism: Crash Course World History 

Congo and Africa’s World War: Crash Course World History

Febookuary – Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage – Possibly the Longest Title I Have Read in a While

murakami-coverI can’t believe it. It’s finally happening. Not only have I reached halfway in Febookuary but I’ve completely sold out and I’m reviewing another Haruki Murakami novel just because I can! If you don’t know I reviewed Murakami’s excellent Norwegian Wood back in 2013, when my blog was still young and untainted by the harsh reality of my addiction to writing and themed posts.

Seriously though, of the vast swathes of literature I could have delved into and made merry with, I opted to go with an author I have already read instead of broadening out my already slim book reviewing section with more authors. It bugs me enough to write these two paragraphs about it. And wait for it, there might be a third which may try and dig me out of this hole. And look below, there it is!

To be fair to myself, I thought it fair to review this as, unlike most of my reviews here, this is a book is a new release, only coming out in Japan in 2013 and the US and UK in 2014. I know The Fault in Our Stars and soon to be reviewed The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly aren’t exactly old, but to have a book that at least is somewhat hot off the press at least gives this reviewing month some relevance to literature coming out now. And with that let’s go over to the obligatory overview for the latest.

Tsukuru Tazaki is a man in his mid-thirties who does something he has been hoping to do since he was a young boy: he builds train stations. Although he doesn’t exactly get to build new stations, rather, maintains existing ones, he is happy with his job. However Tsukuru is not a happy man.

As a teenager Tsukuru was part of a group of colourful people, their names all having something to do with colours while Tsukuru remained colourless and, to his mind, without anything special about him. However Tsukuru remained happy in this group, feeling;

‘Like an equilateral pentagon, where all sides are the same length, their group’s formation had to be composed of five people exactly – anymore or any less wouldn’t do. They all believed this was true.’

However Tsukuru leaves for Tokyo to attend a prestigious engineering college and, while all is fine to begin with, Tsukuru returns back to Nagoya one day and finds no-one meets him. He calls and no-one answers. Eventually he gets through to his friend Ao who abruptly tells him that they never want to see him again. Now, all those years later, after having lived, or rather existed, with this knowledge, a woman named Sara comes into Tsukuru’s life and pushes him to find out what really happened all those years ago.

Now to the review proper. I must admit that, having only read Norwegian Wood and loved it, I may have gone into this novel with hopes of something resembling that particular work. To be fair, the styles are similar in quite a few way, with Colorless Tsukuru being centred on a certain realism and on how people try to move on with their lives, as well focusing on people’s relationships. However Norwegian Wood was at its core a love story, and a very prominent one at that, whereas Colorless Tsukuru feels more like a commentary on how we carry baggage and sometimes need closure, even if it means going halfway across the world to get it, with a loose love story plonked very near it.

This is a theme which Murakami makes sure we realise with enough power to be measured on the Richter scale. The fact that emotionally traumatic things can happen to people through one event, even an event which we have no knowledge of, can change our lives irrevocably; that we can never turn the clock back on, leaving us only to think of what could have been over what actually happened.

It’s quite a sad concept and yet very relatable. I am in no doubt that people have not thought as to where their lives may have led them if they had done one thing instead of another, or if someone else had done one thing rather than going in a different direction. This looking back and fondly wishing over what could have been is something inherent in all of us, making the story sad yet also endearing.

0810-bks-Smith-sub-COVER-articleLarge-v2Just to pile on the sadness, Tsukuru has a very negative view of himself when surrounded by others which takes form in how he perceives names. He comments that his friends had names with the colours red, blue, white and black in them respectively whereas Tsukuru, as you may have guessed, had no such colour. While the others used their colours as nicknames;

‘[H]e just remained Tsukuru. How great it would be, he often thought, if I had a color in my name too. Then everything would be perfect.’

This mild obsession with his lacking something is not solely down to colour, rather it is also reflected in quite a large way in how Tsukuru views himself. Even early on the novel, Tsukuru’s self-deprecation is evident:

‘But when it came to Tsukuru himself, there was not one single quality he possessed that was worth bragging about or showing off to others. At least that was how he viewed himself. Everything about him was middling, pallid, lacking in color.’

Again this shows how, perhaps not everyone but at least some, view themselves from time to time. Sometimes more than that. It’s an unhealthy behaviour that people can get hung up on. To give an example, it is like thinking that you are probably unlikely to be remembered in two hundred years’ time. By then all of us living will be dead and no-one will remember us. Only a few will be remembered by what they did or said while the rest of us will perish into anonymity.

Yes that was a bit depressing wasn’t it? But seriously, this is a completely unfeasible and unhealthy life goal. To be remembered out of the seven billion of us is a hard thing to do. Even people famous now will in all probability be forgotten leaving only a few to be remembered. Being forgotten and not remembered is what most people will come to, but to obsess on that fact is detrimental to your life, just as it is to Tsukuru’s and his feeling of lacking compared to others. We put colour in our own lives; that is what is important.

I know I’ve probably given a really superficial and not very well thought point on what is probably a really serious issue but I hope I’ve not angered too many people or sent anyone into a self-existential crisis.

But Murakami also gives cause for hope in the form of Sara. Sara represents something new in his life, something vibrant and wonderful that he is just getting to grips with.  She encourages him to move on with his life by settling what has happened in the past. The continual prospect of something new is a fundamental change from the tales of a man who is very much preoccupied with his own past. It gives Tsukuru a chance to move on while not making it fundamentally clear whether this is the cure-all for his past woes.

haruki-murakamiBut one thing I must note is, while I have only scratched the surface of the points this novel goes into, this novel definitely says some brilliant to say, even if the majority of them are a bit melancholy. It does follow a certain pattern similar, but still falls a little short of Norwegian Wood, although very similar in style. Yet Colorless Tskukuru is most definitely worth your time to read as, while it gives no definitive answers on happiness, it does give you a detailed and compelling look into how people handle emotional trauma and how, if you can, try to put it behind you.

Thank you all for reading, I hope you enjoyed this review! If you liked what you read then please follow me here on WordPress as well as Facebook and Twitter! My next Febookuary review will be George Orwell’s look at British colonial life in Burmese Days. But to reiterate, thanks for reading!