Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Guillaume Morissette "I Am My Own Betrayal"

I read this book instead of watching the made-for-TV movie I was supposed to watch for a class. I loved this book. And by “loved it” I mean it imbued me with a whimsical sort of morose I don’t often get to experience, but always enjoy.
My favorite poem was “I have girly arms and I mean it.” My favorite lines in that poem were “I am so angry at my girly arms I could punch my dad in the dick, / which would have no effect because I have girly arms.” There is a bitter-funny element to this poem that reminds me of a story someone told me about a famous philosopher who, while reading Kafka, fell to the floor crying in hysterical laughter. Guillaume Morissette is very good at titling his poems (this probably involves the same skill-set as twitter, which is why he has such a nice twitter). I am terrible at titling my poems and always take the easy way out (which is probably why both my poem titles and twitter suck).
I recommend this book for the following occasions:
1. Taking the Megabus to a place you’d rather not be (Christmas is coming boys and girls)
2. During the period between when you get to a shitty class and when it starts.
3. Really anytime.
Real Talk:
One thing I find exciting about what is going on in literature right now is its break with realism, which has dominated fiction since the age of Flaubert. Morissette’s characters say bleak and ironic statements like “Circle of life, straightforward line of death. And I don’t care because I’ll probably be dead by then. So there’s no point in having kids anymore, we’re the last generation. I’m the last generation. Have a pepsi.” I realize some people do not enjoy this style, but I personally love this kind of absurdist writing. I do not feel it distracts or retreats from reality, but allows us to realize the unspoken absurdity of reality. We all sit around having Pepsis (I’m actually having a Coke right now, but same idea) and making small talk while we hurtle into environmental catastrophe and possible annihilation. Guillaume is playing with the apathetic auto-destructiveness of society in an effective way.
I look forward to seeing Guillaume’s progression, and encourage everyone to buy his book for themselves (or a loved one, Christmas is coming boys and girls) and help alleviate his “extreme poverty.”

Haruki Murakami: Kafka on the Shore (海辺のカフカ Umibe no Kafuka)

            Since it was first published in 2002, “Kafka on the Shore” has been highly regarded. It follows two separate but interconnected stories. In one, a 15 year-old boy who calls himself “Kafka Takamura” runs away from his dismal Tokyo life and the tyrannical rule of his father. Kafka hopes to find his mother who abandoned him when he was very young, taking along his adopted sister. The second follows Nakata, an old man who was rendered mentally retarded after a mysterious accident in his youth. The accident cause Nakata to lose most of his mental faculties, but gave him the ability to speak to cats. The two soon become embroiled in the bizarre occurrences Murakami is known for. Kafka finds his father’s oedipal prophecy coming true. Nakata’s simple life falls apart after meeting a mysterious man who calls himself “Johnnie Walker.”
            This was not one of my favorite of Murakami’s books. That’s not to say it wasn't good. “Kafka on the Shore” is a page-turner, with plenty of the magical realism, bizarre circumstances, and genre-melting madness that makes him one of the most dynamic and important writers of our age. It is, as many critics have noted, a kind of modern-day Greek tragedy. It also has strong metaphysical, science fiction, and romantic tendencies. I am a great lover of genre-breaking. There is also a good amount of suspense. Things seem to pop up out of nowhere, each more bizarre than the next.
 However, I was rather let down by the ending. Most of the book was held together by a feeling of dread. The two plots will be resolved and when they do it seems like it could only be traumatic and fantastical. However in this case it felt like there were still too many questions left to be answered. Kafka’s story in particular left something to be desired.
            Hardcore fans of Murakami will enjoy this novel immensely. However, I would not recommend it for first time readers.