Alright, just a quick note, let's try and use a little discernment to keep out major plot spoilers from the discussion at least for the month of March. I realize some will be reading slower than others, and I don't want the book discussion to spoil anything right away. That being said, you honestly can't have a completely decent book discussion after finishing the book without revealing some spoilers, so at some point next month, I'll put a big spoiler warning in the sub-heading to this thread and, after that, we can talk about anything and everything.
I've only heard a little bit about Murakami, but I'll have to say I'm already in love with his writing. Yes, his writing does have a dreamlike quality to it like I'd heard. His descriptions of things like the library or the forest are worth double-underlining and saving to read again later. I realize it's a translation, and I also realize that every English translation of a foreign work can't be along the quality of Alexander Pope's renditions of Homer, but Philip Gabriel hasn't done too bad. Hell, it's a night and day difference between Gabriel's translation here and Reg Keeland's translations of Stieg Larsson. Again, Murakami sounds like he can sweep the floor with Stieg Larsson's writing any day of the week. It's always lovely finding a new author who can actually write. So I'm very happy to just be beginning Murakami's works.
I'll begin with two main thoughts, on the philosophical side for now ...
, whenever I read a thoughtful/philosophical novel, I usually try to get a grip on what worldview the story is based in. Doing so usually helps me understand where the author is coming from, and helps make sense of things that often don't make sense before figuring this out. As I understand it, there are basically five main philosophies/religions/worldviews (generally speaking) that every single writer on the planet is going to end up in:
1 - Theism - there is one God
2 - Atheism - there is no God
3 - Polytheism - there are many gods
4 - Pantheism - everything is god / an impersonal force is in everything
5 - Agnosticism - there's just no way of being sure
Any novel that discusses philosophy is going to end up falling into one of these camps. There are always little hints. And while I understand different characters can espouse different philosophies, eventually a trend is going to emerge that points more in one direction than in another. I'm in the middle of chapter 22 now, and I'm getting the sense that Murakami, or at least the world in this novel, is pantheistic. Clues so far include ...
Nakata let his body relax, switched off his mind, allowing things to flow through him. This was natural for him, something he'd done ever since he was a child, without a second thought. Before long the borders of his consciousness fluttered around, just like the butterflies. Beyond these borders lay a dark abyss. Occasionally his consciousness would fly over the border and hover over that dizzying, black crevass. But Nakata wasn't afraid of the darkness or how deep it was. And why should he be? That bottomless world of darkness, that weighty silence and chaos, was an old friend, a part of him already. Nakata understood this well. In that world there was no writing, no days of the week, no scary Governor, no opera, no BMWs. No scissors, no tall hats. On the other hand, there was also no delicious eel, no tasty bean-jam buns. Everything is there, but there are no parts. Since there are no parts, there's no need to replace one thing with another. No need to remove anything, or add anything. You don't have to think about difficult things, just let yourself soak it all in. For Nakata, nothing could be better.
"... I've always been impressed by your insights, and I find the worldview that runs through all your publications very convincing - namely that as individuals each of us is extremely isolated, while at the same time we are all linked by a prototypical memory. There have been times in my own life that I felt exactly the same way."
"Are you a foreigner, Mr. Johnnie Walker?"
Johnnie Walker inclined his head. "Well, if that helps you understand me, feel free to think so. Or not. Because both are true."
Nakata was lost. He might as well be talking to Kawamura, the cat. "So you're a foreigner, but also not a foreigner. Is that what you mean?"
"That is correct."
Nakata didn't pursue the point.
"Connections change too. Who's the capitalist, who's the proletarian. Who's on the right, who's on the left. The information revolution, stock options, floating assets, occupational restructuring, multinational corporations - what's good, what's bad. Boundaries between things are disappearing all the time ..."
"But it's a hopeless situation."
"That depends," Oshima says. "Sometimes it is. But irony deepens a person, helps them mature. It's the entrance to salvation on a higher plane, to a place where you can find a more universal kind of hope. That's why people enjoy reading Greek tragedies even now, why they're considered prototypical classics. I'm repeating myself, but everything in life is metaphor ..."
, looks like this story is also turning out to be pretty deterministic, at least that's how it's seeming to me so far. Fate is going to be an important part to this story. You never know, some of the characters may turn out to have free will towards the end, at least I sure hope so. Clues include ...
"'Even chance meetings' ... how does the rest of that go?'
"'Are the result of karma.'"
"Right, right," she says, "But what does it mean?"
"That things in life are fated by our previous lives. That even in the smallest of events there's no such thing as coincidence."
"But the whole thing's all fixed already. I can't just suddenly say I quit and stop what I'm doing."
"Kafka, in everybody's life there's a point of no return. And in a very few cases, a point where you can't go forward anymore. And when we reach that point, all we can do is quietly accept the fact. That's how we survive."
"Listen, Kafka. What you're experiencing now is the motif of many Greek tragedies. Man doesn't choose fate. Fate chooses man. That's the basic worldview of Greek drama. And the sense of tragedy - according to Aristotle - comes, ironically enough, not from the protagonist's weak points but from his good qualities. Do you know what I'm getting at? People are drawn deeper into tragedy not by their defects but by their virtues. Sophocles' Oedipus Rex being a great example. Oedipus is drawn into tragedy not because of laziness or stupidity, but because of his courage and honesty ..."
"My father told me there was nothing I could do to escape this fate ..."
"My father polluted everything he touched, damaged everyone around him. I don't know if he did it because he wanted to. Maybe he had to. Maybe it's just part of his makeup. Anyhow, I get the feeling he was connected to something very unusual. Do you have any idea what I mean?"
"Yeah, I think so," Oshima says. "Something beyond good and evil. The source of power, you might call it."
So there we go, just a couple lines of thought I'm developing as I keep reading this.
Edited by Persiflage, 07 March 2011 - 10:00 PM.