Thursday, April 7, 2011

Murakami's Colorful Dreamscape

"Memories are what warm you up from the inside. But they're also what tear you apart." — Haruki Murakami (Kafka on the Shore)

Kafka on the Shore

Kafka on the Shore is a story about a fifteen-year-old bookworm who calls himself Kafka and runs away from home, partly to look for his long-missing mother and sister, but mostly to get away from his horrible father, whose crimes against him are never fully explained. Fate draws him to a town where, among other things, he meets two women who may well be his mother and sister, which doesn't prevent him from having sex with them. His story, which is as Oedipal as they come, is intersected with that of Nakata, a sixty-year-old simpleton who speaks kindly and politely to everyone he meets. A pleasant old man, who never recovered from a wartime affliction, a bizarre childhood accident left him learning-disabled, and unable to read or write. His needs, like his thoughts, are simple. Nakata now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom. Their odyssey is enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerizing events that transpires both Kafka's and Nakata's lives are interconnected, but exactly how this is doesn't become clear until the end, if indeed it does then.

It's one of the most engaging and magical pieces of literature I've read. Reality is unclear. The book presses the boundaries of what exists around the characters versus what exists in their minds. Powerful forces guide the characters with some known, some unknown. Odd things happen within the context of everyday Japan. A beautiful weave of metaphysical, philosophy, and wonderful characters that is both 'global' and 'Japanese'. Oedipal theory put to music, Hegelian subject given a body, Beethoven symphonies come to life. What I do admire about ‘Kafka on the Shore’ is its dichotomous structure and the way the two stories are intertwined and brought together towards the end. Not surprisingly, parallel worlds begin to intersect; the real world and the other side get all mixed up.

Murakami is obviously someone who thought deeply and originally about his world and theories he comes in contact with. Much like Kafka and Nakata and many of those they meet including some of the kitties. Only in a Murakami novel would you find raining fish, ghosts, people who are able to talk to cats, and Colonel Saunders (yes, of KFC) popping up as if it's completely the norm. This was one of those books that totally engulfed me. It was a trial having to put it down to go to work or sleep.

In all Murakami novels I have read so far, there were always some strong themes that stood out even in wild, mind-bending storylines. I loved his simple and trusting mind. One of my favorite parts of the novel was the way Beethoven's music struck a chord with him and stirred something inside him. I wish there was a bit more about how music brought about some kind of transformation of his persona. I also feel a lot of sympathy for Nakata. Due to a strange accident during the WWII he lost his ability to have feelings and memories. Imagine what living like that would be!

Haruki Murakami (村上春樹) is a popular contemporary Japanese writer and translator. His work has been described as "easily accessible, yet profoundly complex." Critics suggest his work draws from film noir and contains elements of magical realism.

Most of the things which I love about Murakami's writing are his completely ordinary characters which usually find themselves in completely extraordinary circumstances, and still rise to the occasion without batting an eye. I enjoyed ‘A Wild Sheep Chase’ is the endearing humor. I missed the music of the words which brought to life the prose of ‘Norwegian Wood’. I missed the splendid descriptions of scenes which made ‘Wild Sheep Chase’ so memorable. I loved ‘Kafka on the Shore’ although it lacks the emotional resonance of ‘Norwegian Wood’ (my favorite Murakami book so far) and because Philip Gabriel's translation is a little too American for my taste.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

CONFUSION from the heart

See my footprints. I have moved on. A victim of a raped soul. I’m just running, I’m only human.

Edison Chen is now making his comeback with a new album ‘Confusion’.

He’s grown, suffered and survived and now he’s ready to take the storm. Edison Chen aka EDC whose budding career went up in flames when he became a victim of stolen files that bared all, seen all and as he leaps from his chair and raises his voice, “I’m naked, man! I feel that way; do you understand what I mean? I’m stripped down to the bare. There’s nothing you haven’t seen. I’m good. I’m fine. I’ve let that all go. I’m not self-conscious anymore because I can’t be. There’s nothing left to be self-conscious about.” He was stripped down to the bare in many sense, he is now ready to uncover his past with renewed energies to his new album, ‘Confusion’. Some of his songs have already been released over the past few months and have been getting a lot of attention. Like “Mr. Sandman“, he got to do a collaborative version with Sammi Cheng and MC Hot Dog. The album took longer to create than any album he’s ever produced. It took him three years and he penned over 160 songs during the period when he left the entertainment industry. When he first started writing the songs, they were very angry, hateful and dark; a reminiscence of the past. A victim of an unfortunate raped soul, ignored by many whom he thought was his friends. All these painful experiences came from the scandal when he thought he had a group of close friends in Hong Kong but when shit hit the fan, these people pretended like they didn’t know him. Disappointing but yet it became crystal clear that as a person, he was nothing to them. Finding a bunch of real friends since then has really meant a lot to him.

Then his second batch of songs that he was writing was kind of lost with no hope and no feelings. His third batch came which was more like he was ready to come back with a positive note; the best lyrics and ideas condensed into a single album, his journey from his fallen world back to the studio for the recordings and came his most personal album ‘Confusion’. EDC is now back to show people through challenges and adversity. It is through perseverance and self-faith, there’s a light at the end of every tunnel.

Let’s not judge
Let’s not ridicule
Hold no grudge
Renew the fuel
Forgive and to forget, we are only human.

Hear the cry
Feel the pain
Leave the past
See my footprints
I have moved on, I am a victim of the past.

I’m dark with dirt
A victim of a raped soul
I have been in the cold
Hold my hand Mister Sandman
I’m just running, I’m only human.