Give me books, fruit, french wine and fine weather and a little music out of doors. --John Keats

Monday, August 5, 2019

"The Versions of Us" by Laura Barnett

This is a heartbreak story, and a life story, and a love story. It's about Jim Taylor and Eva Edelstein and the three different routes their lives might have taken from the day they met onward.

I took notes on this book from the beginning: not because it contained profound thoughts that I wanted to remember, but because Sam read it before I did, and he warned me that it could be tricky keeping the three different versions straight. (He was right. And this is by no means evidence that either of us is remotely stupid.) However, after a while (and with my notes to refer to) it became somewhat easier to keep the threads untangled. Though I still found I frequently had to stop reading and look at the top of the page and remind myself of the current story.

As the years went by, it got to a point where there were just too many marriages, too many deaths, too many affairs, too many children. Though I was able to keep the right ones matched up with the right stories, it was all just too much. My last note reads "P 181: I am getting bored, and it's only halfway over," if that tells you anything. And it was too depressing! Not in the sob-inducing cathartic way, but in the mildly annoying way. One or another of the characters was always mucking everything up, making choices that prevented Jim and Eva from being together, and I kind of reached a point where I figured, you know what? Maybe they're not meant to be together. Rooting for them felt like too much effort.

Remember, though, reading love stories is generally not my thing. Obviously this book was not the one to change my mind.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

"Kafka on the Shore" by Haruki Murakami

Notice the location of the photo? 
I can sum up this book in one quote: "I never get bored when I'm with you. All kinds of off-the-wall things happen, but that much I can say for sure--being with you's never boring."

This was my first Murakami book, which for some reason I expected to be a difficult slog, but it was nothing of the sort. As Sam says, reading Murakami is like eating candy--easy and enjoyable. There's always something happening to keep your interest.

This is the story of the toughest fifteen-year-old in the world who runs away from home and ends up working in a small library. It's also the story of a simple-minded man who can talk to cats. And there's a cameo by Johnny Walker, and Colonel Sanders, and women who may or may not be the mother or sister of the runaway. It's on the bizarre side, but in a good way.

I think between Sam's take and my experience I have come to the conclusion that reading Murakami can be as difficult as you make it. I probably should have thought about this book more deeply than I did; I'm sure there are all kinds of layers I could have peeled back, because it's full of metaphors and symbolism. But it's not a reading requirement, and I was on vacation, so I took the easy route.

Sam (who has read at least three of them) thinks it's really only necessary to read one Murakami book. Agree or disagree?

"Imposture" by Benjamin Markovits

I broke my rule and read two more books before I blogged about this one and now I'm struggling to think what I might have said about it when it was fresh on my mind. I know that I enjoyed reading this book, with its old-fashioned writing and good story, but if there was anything profound on my mind after reading it, it's gone now.

This is a story about Doctor John Polidori, who was a personal physician to Lord Byron for about three years, and who wrote the short work of fiction The Vampyre as a result of the same challenge that produced Frankenstein. I liked it and you should read it.

Man, short blog post.