Friday, April 14, 2006

"The Fall of the Roman Empire" by Haruki Murakami

Is this narrator crazy? you might ask, and we wish we had a ready answer for you. Maybe he's just a little... obsessive, and a little muddled when it comes to mixing up history and the weather and his girlfriend's sexual particularities. And maybe neither his diary nor his memory is telling him the truth. Translated from the Japanese by Alfred Birnbaum. Read by Scoot. Time 10:35.

We like this little anecdote about the popularity of Haruki Murakami's 1987 novel, Norwegian Wood: A big bestseller in Japan, it was sold in two volumes packaged together, one volume green, the other red. Devoted fans would dress in colors to match their preferred volume. Imagine the streetgang warfare. We saw him give a lecture once in America, and it was supremely boring--he didn't even read any fiction! (But it must be admitted that at that point his English was still pretty uncertain.) Well, we concede that his fiction might be a lot more interesting, and you might want to begin with the stories collected in The Elephant Vanishes (including the one here) or a novel like Kafka on the Shore or Sputnik Sweetheart. At the very least, they're good titles!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

"The Angel" by Hans Christian Anderson

Flying to heaven with a recently deceased child in his arms, an angel conveys to the child touching secrets and profound wisdom. A discarded plant is rescued, as well--and all ends happily, we guess--but it's still so depressing! Translated by E. V. Lucas & H. B. Paull. Read by Scoot. Time 6:04.

Maybe we're not supposed to be praising all things Danish these days, and after all he does have that middle name guaranteed to provoke some people, yet this is one writer whose works still live and affect lives. Anderson was the unschooled and unhappy child of desperately poor and alcoholic parents in Odense, Denmark--yet he had the wits and imagination to rise above his surroundings and captivate his countrymen and then the world with his various writings, most especially his original fairy tales which still are read nightly to children everywhere. Despite the fact that 2005 saw great celebrations upon the bicentennial of his birth, there are still very melancholy aspects to this "ugly duckling's" life--which one is welcome read about elsewhere.