Murakami short stories you can read online, some Japanese detective fiction and a little bit of magic.
Presenting, the Brunch Book Challenge
The idea is to motivate you to read, by putting a number on it: 30 books in 2015. Just keep us posted on Twitter, tagging @HTBrunch using the hashtag #BrunchBookChallenge
Murakami For March
Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami
This is a collection of six short stories, published last year in Japan. In each of these, the protagonist is a man without a woman. There is no translated version yet – a pity because it is so very fashionable to read Murakami. But three of these stories are available on the New Yorker web site.
Yesterday is about a relationship that could never be (“That’s what we all do: endlessly take the long wway around”). In Scheherazade, a man is confined to his house, and a woman visits him twice a week to bring food and supplies, “each time they had sex, she told Habara a strange and gripping story afterward”.
And the newest, Kino, is about a quiet, middle-aged man who buries his feelings when his marriage falls apart – when he becomes a man without a woman – and opens a small neighbourhood bar.
Murakami’s tropes – cats, snakes and jazz – make appearances, of course, so the story means different things to different people. But ultimately, it’s about how essential it is to face your emotions, to feel. And it reminds you that, “memories can be useful.”
– by Saudamini Jain
All the world’s a freak show
The Last Illusion by Porochista Khakpour
The century is turning, there is a frenzy over Y2K and the World Trade Center is still standing tall.
In her second book, Iranian American novelist Porochista Khakpour reimagines the 9/11 era through the story of Zal – a ‘human catastrophe’ in a world hurtling towards catastrophe.
Born in a rural Iranian village, pale of skin and hair, Zal is deemed a “white demon” by his mother and confined to a birdcage. He takes on the habits of pet birds around him.
Years later, he is rescued and introduced into the First World: New York. Here he meets the anorexic Asiya, who has premonitions that the world is going to end. And he makes the acquaintance of illusionist Bran Silber.
But will NYC accept Zal or will the Bird Boy still be a “freak”? Will Silber help him realise his dream of flying? And will he finally discover his humanness in Asiya’s arms? And can love not convert the most “feral” of beings?
Dark, witty, painfully forthright, and downright original, this is a coming-of-age story, of magic and modern American neurosis, of characters who’ll break your heart, of heartbreak and of love itself – lots of it.
– by Satarupa Paul
You can keep guessing
Malice by Keigo Hagashino
When you read this genre, it’s only human instinct to fish around for hints in the story from the very first chapter. But here, simplicity seeps through style and into the plot and into the characters, making any educated guess seem like a horribly ill-informed conjecture – which, of course, is a good thing.
Without revealing too much, or confusing you with the Japanese names, here’s the plot: a bestselling novelist has been murdered. His childhood friend discovers his body. There are many possibilities of who the killer could be, and you begin to follow the clues. But this is not a whodunit, and before you know it, detective Kyochiro Kaga solves the mystery. However, there’s still a fair amount left.
Because in this book, hunting down intent is the real game, more than the act of murder itself: what made the killer do it? What phase of the killer’s life gave birth to the malice that resulted in the murder? It will keep you guessing.
– by Asad Ali
From HT Brunch, March 1
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