Review: Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami

I closed this book wondering what the hell had happened.  John Updike described it best in his New Yorker review: “Haruki Murakami’s new novel, “Kafka on the Shore”, is a real page-turner, as well as an insistently metaphysical mind-bender.” It is definitely both a page-turner and a mind-bender!

“Kafka on the Shore is powered by two remarkable kafka on the shore by haruki murakamicharacters: a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home either to escape a gruesome oedipal prophecy or to search for his long-missing mother and sister; and an aging simpleton called Nakata, who never recovered from a wartime affliction and now is drawn toward Kafka for reasons that, like the most basic activities of daily life, he cannot fathom.  As their paths converge, and the reasons for that convergence become clear, Haruki Murakami enfolds readers in a world where cats talk, fish fall from the sky, and spirits slip out of their bodies to make love or commit murder. Kafka on the Shore displays one of the world’s great storytellers at the peak of his powers.” (GoodReads)

Kafka on the Shore was published in 2006 and went on to win the World Fantasy Award for Best Novel (2006), the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize Nominee for Longlist (2006), and the PEN Translation Prize (2006), among others.

Murakami tells the stories of the two protagonists, Kafka and Nakata, in alternating chapters building us up to the main event in splendid Murakami fashion.  The way is sprinkled with metaphysical breadcrumbs moving you forward in the story, letting you know something extraordinary occurred and will occur.  It is a fascinating read but like his Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World you don’t get clear cut answers.  You must make sense of the mystery for yourself.

I’d be lying if I said I completely understood everything that went on in the novel when I read the last line.  I felt baffled despite having seen many of the breadcrumb details sprinkled throughout the story come together.  I will have to read it again.  On his official website in response to questions about the book Murakami himself recommends reading the book several times to fully comprehend it.

“I suggest reading the novel more than once. Things should be clearer the second time around. I’ve read it, of course, dozens of times as I rewrote it, and each time I did, slowly but surely the whole started to come into sharper focus. Kafka on the Shore contains several riddles, but there aren’t any solutions provided. Instead several of these riddles combine, and through their interaction the possibility of a solution takes shape. And the form this solution takes will be different for each reader. To put it another way, the riddles function as part of the solution. It’s hard to explain, but that’s the kind of novel I set out to write.”

I enjoyed reading Kafka on the Shore and am looking forward to reading 1Q84 which is next according to Jessica’s Book Oblivion post on the best way to read Murakami which I am following.  Having read two of Murakami’s books so far I also recommend reading Hard Boiled Wonderland first before Kafka on the Shore.  Murakami has become a firm favourite of mine for his wonderful blend of the metaphysical and magical realism with ordinary life and people.

Have you read Kafka on the Shore? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

 

lilolia review rating 4 stars great

 

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The Art of Tsundoku

Tsundoku is a Japanese word defined as “the act of leaving a book unread after buying it.  Typically piling it up together with other such unread books”.

It is both pleasing and reassuring that the word Tsundoku exists because it just goes to show that I’m not alone in the world.  There are, in fact, people as far away as Japan who have been doing just as I have for so long that there’s an established Japanese word describing the act.  If only we had such a gem in English.

Some, like in this LA times article, would say that Tsundoku is a bit of a problem and would liken it to hoarding.  I, on the other hand, believe Tsundoku to be a fine art.

We’ve all done it.  You go into the book shop for nothing in particular because, naturally, we are drawn to places filled with books.  Browsing turns to buying and the new book gets added to the stack on the bedside table (also commonly referred to as the TBR pile). You don’t start reading it immediately because you’re in the middle of something and maybe you’ve already got something lined up next.  So it waits for you to be ready.  And there you have it – Tsundoku.

The art of it is in the choosing – skilled choosing – because you know your own interests and you will one day get to that book.  You’ll inevitably have days when you don’t have a clear idea of what you want to read next or you’re not in the mood for what you’d planned on reading next and on these occasions I have gone to my shelves and found plenty of unread books some of which have turned out to be favourites.  The art of Tsundoku is knowing your own tastes and knowing what you’ll enjoy reading at some point.

An added advantage is that if you’ve been reading a certain kind of book, going back over your Tsundoku books can help you get into something new and take you in a different direction.

Skillful practice of Tsundoku can actually be a wonderful gift to yourself.  A fabulous surprise.  A grand voyage of discovery.  A certainty that you’ll always have something good to read.  Fear not the ever increasing TBR pile, instead, embrace the art of Tsundoku.

Macaneta: Bridging The Gap

Macaneta is cut off from the mainland by the Inkomati river.  People make the trip out to this rural area to spend time on the beach.  It’s a very natural, sparsely inhabited place where cattle roam the wetland close to the river and its community have to make daily trips to the city and surrounds by ferry for everything they need.

The ferry is pretty iconic around here because if you’ve visited Macaneta you have undoubtedly spent some time waiting in line to be ferried across the river.  It isn’t a very large ferry either – it only carries 6 cars at a time and takes about 20 mins to make the crossing.

MF 5 - 20121228 - Lightroom Jul 2016

A new bridge is set to replace the ferry that wanted to die ages ago.  The community have had to make their way to the mainland by ferry or boat for a long time and this bridge will be life changing for them.

The bridge brings a lot of advantages that could not be foregone but as I looked through some photos from a few years ago I had to wonder how it will affect this little nature paradise.

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Instagram Discovery #3 Ng Weijiang

I found Ng Weijiang  (@orhganic) through an article on Exposure Guide where you can see some of his incredibly cool collages made by taking advantage of the Instagram layout to create larger art pieces composed of individual posts.

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A photo posted by Weijiang (@orhganic) on

His feed is a beautiful blockwork of monochromatic photography.  Most of his work is street photography and architecture in subject – always well composed with interesting perspectives.  Every now and then you see the beginnings of one of his collages starting to take shape one square at a time.  It’s magnificent!

I’m positive you’ll enjoy following him as he journeys through the urban world and occasionally turns it on its head one square at a time.

 

Operation Declutter Your Home: The How & Why

Two years ago I packed up my entire home into boxes for a move to a new house.  Ultimately, we didn’t move to that new house and I was stuck with all my stuff in boxes.  While it was disappointing at the time, I look back with gratitude because it enabled me to do something very important.

I didn’t have the energy to immediately unpack everything because I was still quite disappointed with how things had turned out so I just unpacked what I really needed for that week.  After that first week there were certain special items I missed having around me so I unpacked those.  Within the first month I had unpacked what I really needed and what was very important to me and nothing more.

Months passed and what I came to realise was that I had been harbouring a LOT of stuff that I thought I needed, wanted, or would one day use that was just cluttering up my space and my mind.  The really important result of not having all that extra stuff out is that I had the space both physically and mentally to re-evaluate my life a bit and see what I wanted to do next and how I wanted to live.

“Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle.”
Marie Kondō

It seems that when you have all the stuff from your past still cluttering your home it becomes difficult to see the changes you actually want to make.  Your stuff holds you back.  I highly recommend clearing out the clutter to make space for the new to come in.  Once I had everything out of the way I began to see how I could make my home’s style a better reflection of who I am now and what I’m aiming for.

“The space in which we live should be for the person we are becoming now, not for the person we were in the past.”
Marie Kondō

I don’t expect you to go and pack up your whole house as I did to figure out what is worth your space and what is not (although if you can it works well) but I do have a strategy that I think can help you reach the same results in increments.  Instead, pack up room by room.

  • Go into a room of your house and pack everything up.  Take this opportunity to clean the room top to bottom.
  • Leave this room over night or as long as it takes for you to go into the room to do something.
  • Then unpack only what you need for the task or for a week.
  • After a week unpack the things you really miss having around you but be strict about this.  Only the stuff that truly means something to you like photos, special gifts or ornaments, etc.  Do not riffle through boxes and pull out stuff just because it has a memory attached to it because that’s all your stuff.  Just those things that can’t be replaced.
  • Throughout the first month only unpack those things that you need, those special things that you enjoy having around you and which are in line with your current mindset and home style.  Leave everything else in the boxes.
  • After that first month anything that remains in those boxes you should consider donating, selling, or throwing away.

Move from room to room in this way and if you are honest and strict with yourself you should have cleared out plenty of clutter and maybe even made a bit of money from it.  When it comes to clothes the one month rule won’t apply to seasonal clothes so you may have to revisit your wardrobe each season and cull those pieces that don’t get worn within one month.   Give it a try and see how you do.  Do it every year if you want to.  Like everything the more often you do it the better at it you’ll get.

If you find yourself needing a real push to help you declutter you might want to read famous Japanese organizing consultant Marie Kondo’s book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.  It is jam packed with quote-worthy motivation and revelations.

What’s your take on clutter, love it or hate it?

 

 

Review: The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

The Unbearable Lightness of Being is a 1984 novel hailed by many as a modern classic.  It is set in the Spring Prague period of 1968  and what the characters in the novel describe as a time of Russian occupation of Prague and the Czech Republic as a whole.the unbearable lightness of being by milan kundera

Reading the reviews on GoodReads there seems to be a consensus that the plot and characters in the novel are underdeveloped and that the purpose of this novel is a philosophical one.  I would agree that the plot was lacking but I found the characters and the setting quite interesting.  That’s the part of the book I enjoyed.

What annoyed me was in fact the attempts to make this novel a philosophical one whereby a narrator reflecting on the characters and their circumstances inserted itself into the story and ultimately, for me, just detracted from the parts that made the book enjoyable.  The references to  Friedrich Nietzsche’s concept of eternal recurrence were boring and out of place.  I think if you’re going to use a novel to expound your philosophical ideas then write the story, plot, and characters so that they show us this idea instead of interrupting it to try to squash the idea into it.

I don’t have anything against the philosophical novel but I really need it to be well woven into the story otherwise you might as well write a non fiction piece.  Show me, don’t tell me.  That’s why I read fiction.

The setting and the characters were definitely unique and I enjoyed the perspective.  On a whole I gave the book 2 stars though because upon reading the last page I just felt it could have been done better.  I would love to hear what others thought of this book so if you’ve read it please share your thoughts.

 

lilolia review rating 2 stars ok

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Review: The Dhammapada translated by Eknath Easwaran

The Dhammapada is a collection of the sayings of the Buddha in verse form.  It is one of the most widely read of the Buddhist scriptures and the most essential.  There are many translations but I chose Easwaran’s because of a recommendation – the source of which I can’t for the life of me remember.

“As irrigators guide water to their fields,
as archers aim arrows, as carpenters carve
wood, the wise shape their lives.”
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The Dhammapada is an easy and enjoyable read.  It is full of simple wisdom some of which may seem likeThe Dhammapada Eknath Easwaran common sense but is lovely to be reminded of from the Buddha’s unique perspective.  He has a very simple and down to earth way of delivering essential truths which is the essence of his teachings.

“…the Dhammapada seems more like a field guide. This is is lore picked up by someone who knows every step of the way through these strange lands. He can’t take us there, he explains, but he can show us the way: tell us what to look for, warn about missteps, advise us about detours, tell us what to avoid. Most important, he urges us that it is our destiny as human beings to make this journey ourselves. Everything else is secondary.”
Eknath Easwaran, The Foreword

The Dhammapada is described as a handbook to the teachings of the Buddha but it is Easwaran’s informative introduction on Buddhism and the text that give an extra insight to the seemingly simple words of the Buddha.  I enjoyed reading his introduction and it serves as a great starting point not only for this text but for Buddhism on a whole.

If, like me, you’ve never read any Buddhist texts (or much about Buddhist teachings) this short book of verse is a great place to start, particularly Easwaran’s translation.  The opening verse of the Dhammapada is a profound reminder that our lives are shaped by our minds and we become what we think:

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought:
we are formed and molded by our thoughts. Those
whose minds are shaped by selfless thoughts
give joy whenever they speak or act. Joy follows
them like a shadow that never leaves them.”
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It happened that earlier this year I read Siddhartha by Herman Hesse, then some weeks later Easwaran’s Dhammapada, followed by The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle which in retrospect could not have been better planned.  I didn’t read them back to back but each prepared me for the next and I think I was able to take a great deal more from each one’s message for having read them in this order.  Obviously you don’t need to read them like this but if you’re interested I enjoyed this reading order.

I enjoyed and recommend reading The Dhammapada.  A wide variety of translations exist but I found Eknath Easwaran’s Introduction a highlight of reading this book.  He has also done translations of the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita which I hope to get to at some point also.

lilolia review rating 4 stars great

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Instagram Discovery #2 Beat The Grind

Beat The Grind is a travel blogger with an amazing eye for capturing a place and its people.

You can read about his travels on the Beat The Grind blog in a bit more detail but if you’re not into reading, no problem! His Instagram feed is stunning and you’ll see the world as if you were travelling by his side.

What I really enjoy is Beat The Grind is not just about the sights; it’s about the people who live there, their way of life, their street art, food, and what happens to be going on there at the time.  It’s the full story.

A great feed to follow for some awesome visual storytelling.

2016 Baileys Women’s Prize Winner

The winner of this year’s Baileys Women’s prize for fiction is Lisa McInerney for her debut novel The Glorious Heresies.

Margaret Mountford, Chair of Judges, commented: “After a passionate discussion around a very strong shortlist, we chose Lisa McInerney’s The Glorious Heresies, a superbly original, compassionate novel that delivers insights into the very darkest of lives through humour and skilful storytelling. A fresh new voice and a wonderful winner.”  You can read the official announcement here.

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

The Glorious Heresies by Lisa McInerney

“One messy murder affects the lives of five misfits who exist on the fringes of Ireland’s post-crash society. Ryan is a fifteen-year-old drug dealer desperate not to turn out like his alcoholic father Tony, whose obsession with his unhinged next-door neighbour threatens to ruin him and his family. Georgie is a prostitute whose willingness to feign a religious conversion has dangerous repercussions, while Maureen, the accidental murderer, has returned to Cork after forty years in exile to discover that Jimmy, the son she was forced to give up years before, has grown into the most fearsome gangster in the city. In seeking atonement for the murder and a multitude of other perceived sins, Maureen threatens to destroy everything her son has worked so hard for, while her actions risk bringing the intertwined lives of the Irish underworld into the spotlight . . .Biting, moving and darkly funny, The Glorious Heresies explores salvation, shame and the legacy of Ireland’s twentieth-century attitudes to sex and family.” (GoodReads)

If you’re interested you can have a look at the 2016 Baileys Women’s prize shortlist for some reading inspiration.

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Photography Experiment: Abstract

Sometimes we focus heavily on exposure settings to create sharp and well composed images while we garner experience to improve our photography.  And while it’s a very good idea to get acquainted  with the ins and outs of the exposure triangle out in the field it can become monotonous and, dare I say, uninspiring.

The last thing you want is to lose that wonderful feeling of getting lost in the moment of capturing that all photography enthusiasts feel when experimenting with new subjects and light conditions.  One great way to add diversity to your photography is to try abstract techniques.

The fantastic thing about experimenting with abstract photography is that, firstly, there are no rules.  Abstract is what ever you want it to be.  And secondly, what ever rules we have been told about photography technique can be broken when experimenting with abstract.

Panning

The rule to always use a tripod when using a shutter speed of about 1/20 or slower can be discarded if you decide to experiment with motion blur and panning.  You can create some beautiful images by slowing down your shutter speed and panning your camera.  This works particularly well in low light conditions with an adjusted aperture & ISO to avoid a blown out image.  The great thing about trying this technique is you’ll learn more about what your camera can do and about exposure all while being creative in a completely different way.  There’s loads you can do with panning so have a look at this article with examples for ideas.

Zoom Burst

In this technique you can handhold or tripod your camera.  Again you use a slow shutter speed and once you’ve pressed the shutter you zoom in to (or out from) your subject.  It creates a very interesting effect and is a lot of fun to experiment with.  You can read more about zoom burst in this article which also has some nice examples.

These are just two examples of ways you can experiment with creating abstract photography.  You can read about some other ways to do this in this article.  The idea is to create and practise using different creative techniques than you would normally use when you’re out capturing.  It’s a wonderful creative exercise and the results can be surprising.  You might even get that creative boost you needed when you return to your normal photography.

Post Processing

I’m a huge fan of post processing too so the fun doesn’t have to end once you’ve created the image.  You can also do all kinds of cool things with your abstract images in post processing particularly related to colour.  So don’t forget to get creative on your computer and experiment with colour and texture.

If you’re keen you can share your images on Instagram using #LiloliaPhotographyExperiment and #Abstract

Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

American Gods by Neil Gaiman has been sitting on my TBR list for a good long while and for good reason as it’s won a lot of great awards: Bram Stoker Award for Best Novel (2001), Hugo Award for Best Novel (2002), Nebula Award for Best Novel (2002), Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel (2002), among others which you can see on GoodReads if you are not yet convinced.american gods by neil gaiman

“Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the magic day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life.
But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and a rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.
Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined—it is a job that takes him on a dark and strange road trip and introduces him to a host of eccentric characters whose fates are mysteriously intertwined with his own.” (GoodReads)

I’m so glad this book didn’t sink into the oblivion that is the bottom of my TBR list because it is as great as people say it is.  This is the second of Gaiman’s books that I’ve read and I really enjoy his voice and storytelling.  He’s pretty masterful at writing everyday life mixed with fantastical elements and bringing in all together into a highly believable and immensely enjoyable read.

The characters are amazing and the story is full of surprises.  I can’t say much about it specifically without potentially dropping in spoilers for those of you who’ve not read it so I shall remain silent on the details.  Suffice to say that this was a fantastic book which provided me with a few days of fabulous escapism.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a bit of urban fantasy and a really well written story.

 

lilolia review rating 5 stars excellent

 

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Instagram Discovery #1 Brice Portolano

I discovered Brice Portolano through a Lens Culture article; Arctic Love: Way, Way Out in the Wilderness in which Portolano talks about the beginnings of his No Signal series of photo essays.  The photos in the Lens Culture article are from his Arctic Love photo essay which is one of four in his No Signal series.

Arctic love

A photo posted by Brice Portolano (@briceportolano_) on

“With over half of the world’s population living in urban areas, man has never been so disconnected from nature and the open spaces.  Through the photography project ‘No Signal’ started in 2013, Brice Portolano documents the return of man to nature in the western world and the reflections surrounding this issue.” 

The hauntingly beautiful images from Arctic Love led me to his website where you can see the rest of this project and his other work.  Ultimately I ended up on his Instagram feed to follow him and his work and you will not be disappointed.  The beauty continues there and I believe you will enjoy following him as he continues to share images of his projects and travels creating a captivating Instagram feed.