book review – ‘dance dance dance’

danceI began Haruki Murakami’s book Dance Dance Dance with high hopes. I’ve already read 5 of his novels, including one directly related to this, A Wild Sheep Chase. My high hopes were in no way disappointed! As I finished this book last night, I literally just sat on the couch and stared at the wall for a while…running back through my mind the final few chapters of the novel. I don’t know if it’s from my widening experience of reading Murakami, or reality, but the end part of this book seemed to be some of his most potent writing that I’ve experienced.

The story basically picks up 3 years after A Wild Sheep Chase, and though it’s not technically part of the Rat Trilogy, I would say it’s good to at least read A Wild Sheep Chase beforehand because it allows you to get to know the main character (and several minor characters) rather well. I could have understood the book fine on its own, but its power was increased because of my prior reading. As I neared those final few powerful chapters (and especially the last one), my knowledge of the narrator made their impact even more profound.

Dance is typical Murakami – stunningly well written (and translated), with beautifully smooth transitions between everyday world we all live in and the dream-like alternate realities his characters encounter. I’ve said it before, but no one reminds me as much of Gabriel Garcia Marquez in the ease with which we move between the magical and the “real.” Perhaps Murakami is not purely “magical realism” (though at times I think that could be argued…), but the dream world is an ever waking reality in his novels. I find myself often in a semi-dreamlike state while reading him, drawn into the world he creates and living in it, as it were my own. The rare novelist who can do that is a true master!

I’ll leave you with just a taste of Murakami:
“…It was cool as water. Time wavered, sequentiality twisted, gravity lost its force. Memories, old memories, like vapor, wafted up. The degeneration of my flesh accelerated. I passed through the huge, complex knot of my own DNA. The earth expanded, then chilled and contracted. Sheep were submerged in the cave. The sea was one enormous idea, rain falling silently over its vastness. Faceless people stood on the beachhead gazing out to the deep. And endless spool of time unraveled across the sky. A void enveloped the phantom figures and was encompassed by a yet greater void. Flesh melted to the bone and blew away like dust. Extremely, irrevocably dead, said someone. Cuck-koo. My body decomposed, blew apart – and was whole again.” (p.391)

You can pick up Dance Dance Dance at your local, independent bookstore, or at Amazon.

Post by Matthew Jackson

don’t know why

I didn’t really have a plan for what to post on my blog today…since I’m not pressuring myself to post daily, I figured I probably wouldn’t post anything today. But then, in my car on the drive to work, I heard this song. It’s beautifully sung, wonderfully put together, and quite nicely written as well. I’ve loved Norah Jones’ voice for a long time, and this song has been a favorite of mine as well. If you’ve never heard her, then discover a new brilliance – and for those who know her, enjoy!

Norah Jones – Don’t Know Why

I waited ’til I saw the sun
I don’t know why I didn’t come
I left you by the house of fun
I don’t know why I didn’t come
I don’t know why I didn’t come

When I saw the break of day
I wished that I could fly away
Instead of kneeling in the sand
Catching teardrops in my hand

My heart is drenched in wine
But you’ll be on my mind
Forever

Out across the endless sea
I would die in ecstasy
But I’ll be a bag of bones
Driving down the road alone

My heart is drenched in wine
But you’ll be on my mind
Forever

Something has to make you run
I don’t know why I didn’t come
I feel as empty as a drum
I don’t know why I didn’t come
I don’t know why I didn’t come
I don’t know why I didn’t come

Okay, so I typed up this post and hadn’t posted it yet when I came upon another old favorite song of mine on Spotify…so I decided, “since this is a music video day…let’s have two!” Brilliant harmonies and instrumentation in this song.

Blind Melon – Mouthful of Cavities

Post by Matthew Jackson

book review – ‘from the mouth of the whale’

From_the_Mouth_of_the_WhaleSjon is a writer largely unknown in the US; at this point, only 3 of his works have been translated into English. He is more well known as the writer of lyrics for the singer Bjork, though he’s done much more than that. After reading From the Mouth of the Whale, I will be reading his other 2 translations, and waiting anxiously for the remainder of his work to be translated.

I don’t typically discuss storyline in a book review, and I’ll stick to that pattern here. The book definitely has the feel of an epic, though it’s just over 200 pages long. The writing is brilliant – Sjon hands us a beautiful fruit that we’re to look at from all sides, peel lovingly, and relish, planting the seeds for future growth when we finish. There are two very distinct styles of writing in the book, blended together perfectly. There are times (the majority of the book) where the protagonist speaks directly, like a stream of consciousness, or stream of thought (that phrase fits better, I think). These parts of the book are my favorite, and Sjon’s mastery of this type of writing is a breath of fresh air. All too often, when an author attempts any sort of “stream of consciousness” writing, the thoughts become muddled, and the story line lost. I’ve found myself in the middle of many long passages like this, wondering to myself ‘what the heck is going on?’ Sjon never falls into this failure. The passages definitely jump around like thoughts truly do, but always return to the main impetus – you never lose the momentum of the story, and the wandering thoughts actually enhance the reading experience, rather than distract from it. In a word – brilliant.

The other parts of the book are more traditional prose, sometimes 1st person and sometimes 3rd, but working to move our vision of both the story and the character (Jonas the Learned) ever forward. The deciding moment of the book – the trial of Jonas – is never seen directly by the reader, but described in retrospect a bit at a time as we meander through the rest of the life of “the Learned.” Whether stream of thought or traditional, the prose of Sjon is always magnificent…and his translator does a beautiful job of relaying the subtlety and nuance of language and sentence structure. The number of unique tales (about Jonas) that fit into this relatively short book is impressive; you feel that you grow to know the character deeper and deeper with every page you turn. The parables at the beginning and end of the novel are particularly worthy of note, as is possibly my favorite section, about the whalers from Spain come to whale off the coast of Iceland.

I have to include just one brief quote, to give you an idea of the richness of Sjon’s prose:
“…To watch a book burn…My eyes are smarting…In the conflagration I hear the breath of the man who composed the text, and the breath of the man who formed the words, one after the other, and the breath of the man who reads it…I hear this trinity breathing as one and the same being, steadily in and out, until the fire consumes the breath from their lungs, disbanding the fellowship of those whom the book nurtured, like the soil that brings forth different plants…And many were the intertwined souls that burned at Helgafell when the old monastery library was cast on the bonfire, along with the few holy relics and statues that had not already been destroyed…Alas, I was there!…” (pp 47-48)

You can buy the book HERE, or find it at your local independent bookstore

Post by Matthew Jackson

haiku

I had a hard time deciding what to post today…it’s certainly not always easy to pick out something to post on an author blog, especially if you want to try and keep things new and fresh. I particularly like doing book reviews, and have one planned for tomorrow, but I know readers want to see more than my opinion on some books! So I think I won’t necessarily try to post every single day, and I’ll be sure to mix in some original writing every week. I really need to do some short story and short essay writing soon, so hopefully a bit of that will begin appearing before too long.

So today I decided to work out a few traditional haiku. I’ve always loved haiku, and in fact one of the reasons I so love poetry in general is the sparsity of words that relate profound and beautiful ideas. Enjoy!


alone, you and i
dream our dreams of make-believe
sit still, little boy


veins run clear on hand
on leaves, on volcanoes, on
everything with life

Post by Matthew Jackson

and age shall twilight

twilightMore original gnoetry (see some earlier posts if you’re unsure what gnoety is all about) – I particularly like the way this one turned out.

and age shall twilight

The poem in its original form:
and age shall twilight with forsworn wrinkles prognosticate
presents so making main powerful time and i
the more inferior controlling will those public shame
alone praise what subscribes me accumulate and flame

The poem with only punctuation added:
and age shall twilight, with forsworn wrinkles, prognosticate –
presents so making main, powerful time and i
the more inferior, controlling – will those public shame
alone ,praise, what subscribes me? accumulate and flame

The poem with only line breaks added:
and age shall twilight
with forsworn wrinkles
prognosticate
presents so making main powerful
time and i
the more inferior
controlling
will those public shame
alone praise
what subscribes me
accumulate and flame

The poem in final form, with punctuation and line breaks:
and age shall twilight –
with forsworn wrinkles, prognosticate
presents so making/main
powerful time and I,
the more inferior, controlling –
will those public
shame
alone
praise what subscribes me –
accumulate and flame

Post by Matthew Jackson