Saturday, 14 June 2014

Un-Review: "PopCo" by Scarlett Thomas

In the absence of any real inspiration from the books I have read recently, and as my blog is so new to the world, I decided that I fancied 'reviewing' a favourite of mine.

It is difficult to explain why I adore Scarlett Thomas' books so much, though as I read one of them (any one of them), I have the overwhelming feeling that this is THE book I would write if I could. It is a very personal, emotional feeling which I hope everyone can feel when reading the books of at least one author.

I chose 'PopCo' to review, rather than any of her other novels, as the protagonist is the most like myself than in any other. I definitely get the feeling that in Scarlett Thomas' early works, particularly the Lily Pascale series, the protagonist is portrayed idealistically, and how I would want to be, rather than as a version of how I really am. I can only assume this is the same for the author, as her confidence as a person and author increased and she strayed away from idealistic characters and genre fiction.
'PopCo' and 'The End of Mr. Y', my favourites, fall somewhere in between genre fiction and pure literature. Original, thought provoking, fantastical stories, backed up by authentic, memorable prose - perfect.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Un-Review: "A Wild Sheep Chase" by Haruki Murakami

"Sheep hurt my father, and through my father, sheep have also hurt me".

Surreal. Surreal is the only word that quite fits the bill when describing 'A Wild Sheep Chase'. I have read a lot of Murakami, and am slowly working my way through his back catalogue, in no particular order. Murakami is certainly one of 'my authors', one of a small group of authors whose work just speaks to me, for better or for worse (Scarlett Thomas and Neil Gaiman are also in the gang), so any review will be a little biased. Author's obviously put a little of themselves in every book they write, and I assume these author's have a bit of them that matches a bit of me (this does make sense I assure you).

It is a bizarre, wistful detective story set in a version of Japan that is not quite real, but is the Japan we recognise from all of Murakami's novels. His books have probably ruined any future visits to Japan for me, I have unreal expectations of the country's otherworldliness.

You wouldn't believe me if I told you what the book is about, and doing this in any great detail would spoil the ride for you. From around page 200, at the end of every chapter I had to put the book down for a second and stare into the distance in order to re-assess the situation. In brief:  a disillusioned, aimless man with an infirm cat, and a girl whose ears have supernatural qualities, go on 'A Wild Sheep Chase' in order to clear up some copyright issues at his company - so far, so relatively normal right? Wrong, shit gets real, in the form of a missing acquaintance called 'The Rat' and his sketch of a mystical sheep, a sheep that people in high places are looking for, a sheep that has the power to make them, or break them. I know right?

The oddly original story is written so vividly by Murakami, with the tone changing a number of times throughout the book; from detective story, to adventure fantasy, to sinister thriller. I also find that, like all of Murakami's novels, the translation really adds to the text, and the same story written by an English speaker would be worlds apart from what we end up reading. The flow of the novel is perfect, unusual, but perfect.

Apparently this is the third book in a (sort of) trilogy, following on from 'Hear the Wind Sing' and 'Pinball, 1973'. However, these are the first two novels he wrote, and are extremely difficult/expensive to get hold of anywhere outside Japan. I am currently investigating the situation.

Read this book if: you are a world weary soul, you want to travel the world but also stay safe and warm, you want (or consider yourself to be) a kooky girl, you feel misunderstood, you like to be surprised, you like the simple plot devices of genre fiction but yearn for more, you need shocking out of any sort of inertia.