Book Review: Men Without Women by Haruki Murakami

Men Without Women is a collection of seven short stories written by the famous writer, Haruki Murakami. Murakami’s original works are in Japanese, and his books have been translated into 50 languages. I read the English translation.

Can we take a moment to appreciate the front and back covers? The back cover starts with the word, 女 ‘woman’ and it transforms into a puzzle piece. The front cover depicts a man with a puzzle piece missing. He is a Men Without Women.

Haruki Murakami is my favourite contemporary writer. He often writes about the themes: isolation, loneliness and loss. These are stories of men who have lost important women in their lives, sometimes to other men, sometimes to death or due to complicated reasons. The impact of these women lost and gone forever cut deeply, and sometimes life will never be the same again.

I was pleasantly surprised at how different each story is. I really enjoyed reading six of the seven short stories, which is a really high number. My favourite story from this collection is “Kino.”

Murakami often writes about sex, so don’t be surprised about that if you read his works. I started reading his novels when I was in high school. Another common feature in his works is that the endings are often open to interpretation. You may be disappointed at the endings of some of these stories, or really confused. However, he gets you to think critically about the stories which draws upon your imagination and creativity. As a reader, you are an active agent.

This was a really quick read, which shows how invested I was in these stories. I love short stories because they are little gems. I recommend Murakami’s books because his writing is engaging and because he really brings his characters to life. I believe that he has a lot of knowledge on human emotions. Every time I read his books, I gain new perspectives.

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[Book Review] Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up

Title: Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up

Author: Marie Kondo

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Marie Kondo’s KonMari method has become very popular because of her Netflix show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. I started reading my copy of “Spark Joy” before her show was released, and in this post I will talk about this book and her show.

A bit about the KonMari method: The basic idea is to gather all the possessions in each category (clothes are one category, for example) into one place in the house. Then, one by one you feel the item close to your heart and decide if that item sparks joy for you. If it does, keep it and store it properly in your house. If it does not spark joy for you, thank it and donate it.

“Spark Joy” is a detailed, step-by-step guide on how to tidy up belongings in the house, such as steps on folding clothes, and organizing the items in each category. Kondo also has the book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” I haven’t read that one, and I’m not sure if I need to because honestly, I think that one book is enough.

Since Kondo has her show, does that mean that reading her books are not necessary? You should watch at least one episode of her show if you have Netflix, and if you buy into the KonMari method, watch more episodes. You may find that simply watching the show is enough to tidy up your home, closet and workspace. However, if you really want a more in-depth guide and if you believe in the KonMari method, then I recommend that you buy the book(s). I often see many misconceptions on social media and even in videos on Kondo’s teachings, but I assume that those people have only watched the show (or haven’t watched the show at all). The book addresses all those misconceptions.

My personal opinion is that the KonMari method works. I know this, because I’ve tried it myself. After reading her book halfway, I became motivated to tidy up and ended up donating four bags of clothes. I used to keep clothes because they were cute, even though I never wore them. They didn’t actually spark joy but I used to feel that it would be a waste to get rid of them. I don’t miss anything I donated, and Kondo talks about that. I also bought a sock organizer and three boxes to store my belongings. These ideas were from her book. I feel more relaxed in my room now because, 1) there is joy and 2) there is less clutter.

Overall, I love the KonMari method. I don’t follow everything religiously, and I do think that we should all be critical readers and viewers. We have the ability to pick and choose what we think will work for us, but the general idea of the KonMari method has value. Kondo’s Netflix show may be sufficient, but if you want more information then I recommend reading “Spark Joy.”

Book Review: Monkey [Part 1]

Monkey, also known as Journey to the West 西游记 or Sun Wukong 孫悟空, was written in 1592 by Wu Cheng’en. It is one of the Four Great Classical Novels of Chinese literature. Most Chinese people know the story because it became enormously popular through its television adaptations and plays. It influenced some of the earliest Chinese and Japanese animation. It also influenced many series like Dragon Ball. 

I’m reading an English translation by Arthur Waley. Waley only translated 30 chapters out of 100 episodes. However, it’s still one of the best English translations out there. He omitted most of the poetry. If you like poetry, hopefully you can find a version that includes it. There is poetry in this one, but very little of it. 

Page count: 350

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Synopsis: Monkey is “born” and becomes the Monkey King. He then trains under a Master and learns the secrets of immortality. Monkey then becomes very cocky in his abilities and creates havoc in Heaven. He challenges Buddha and loses terribly.

The above synopsis is only on the first part of the book. I wrote broadly because I didn’t want to spoil too much. The rest of the book will be on the pilgrimage to the West. Monkey travels with Tripitaka, Pigsy and Sandy to retrieve sacred scriptures and enlighten people about Buddhism. They face many adverse monsters and bodhisattvas along the journey.

I’m writing about the parts in isolation because there’s too much content to cover in the first quarter of the book. I divided the book in my own way: Part 1 ends when Monkey is punished by Buddha, before he begins the pilgrimage. Other people include Tripitaka, Pigsy and Sandy’s stories into the first part but I think those stories make up its own part.

There are lots of flaws, but it’s understandable because it was written in 1592. What I perceive to be “flaws” are:

  • Fights are not detailed at all. For example, “x and y battled z many times and then y fled.” (I’m using my own words here, but that’s the gist of it.)
  • No character descriptions. I know what Kuan-yin looks like because I’ve seen television adaptations and because of my culture, but not everyone has the same experience as me.
  • The epic part of Monkey challenging Buddha is only told in a mere three pages.

I believe that television adaptations do a better job at these. However, nothing can compare to the book in my opinion, because so much happens in every page. No adaptation can possibly cover every single detail, whether it’s showing hundreds of thousands of men fighting against Monkey, or all the events that happen. Expect “ten years passed” thrown around every few pages.

One of the biggest reasons, in my opinion, why this story is so successful is because of Monkey. He is so clever, witty, confident and funny. Although he disturbs Heaven and so many characters, he’s so likable.

I recommend this classical novel to everyone.

Book Review: Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination

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Edogawa Rampo is known as the Father of Japanese mystery writing. If you are into mystery or horror, read this book! There are nine short stories in this book, and I’ll be talking about two stories that left lasting impressions on me.

1. The Human Chair

I was sucked in the story before I realized it. The writing is superlative! It’s about a person who stays inside a chair and his experiences of people sitting on him. It was weird but it was right up my alley. I was so fascinated, I could not stop reading.

Then I read Junji Ito’s retelling of the story! Junji Ito is a popular mangaka who specializes in horror manga. Junji retells The Human Chair with an alternate ending and I loved it. I recommend reading Rampo’s short story then reading Junji’s manga.

2. The Red Chamber

Have you ever thought about the perfect crime, and if such a thing is possible? This short story talks about the perfect crime, and it does have logic to it. Several examples are provided in this story. One line I loved from the story was, “Not any ordinary type of murder, I told myself, but murder which would baffle even Sherlock himself!”


It was interesting to see that Sherlock reference but it makes sense because Rampo was influenced by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It was also interesting to see Edgar Allan Poe’s influence on Rampo’s writing, because Poe was a significant figure to Rampo’s work.

This shouldn’t be surprising, but many of these stories are about murder and a lot of the times they are told from the murderer’s perspective. I get that it’s not for everybody!

Book Review: No Longer Human

I’m branching out into book reviews now.

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Background information: This book was written by Japanese novelist Osamu Dazai. It’s the second best selling novel in Japan. Dazai committed suicide shortly after the book was published in 1948.

The book is divided into three notebooks: childhood, high school and university, and adulthood. Yozo never thought of himself as a human. The book is about his life, and a lot of miserable events happen to him. Yozo never truly felt happiness.

I became interested in No Longer Human because a lot of people said that it was “depressing” to read. However, I never felt sad while reading it. The book is in first person and I understand why Yozo did the things that he did. I don’t think Yozo did anything wrong and never felt frustrated with his actions either. Instead, the book made me feel very calm. I never felt angry or any other strong emotion. A friend of mine stopped reading the book halfway because it became depressing to read. I had a different experience because the writing compelled me to finish the book. Even though my heartstrings were not tugged or pulled, I was interested in reading the story to the end.  I was about to finish the book without having formed an emotional attachment to it until I read the last page of the third notebook.

I was shocked. There are three sentences on the last page, and I could not believe it. The last page of the third notebook changed my view of the book completely. The writing is phenomenal! I do recommend this book.

Fair warning: It may be triggering for some people because there is suicide, death, rape, and self-sabotaging behaviour.

Manga I’ve Dropped

It seemed many people enjoyed my post on anime I’ve dropped so I decided to make a post on manga I’ve dropped!

1. Dragon Ball

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I know that the show was a lot of peoples’ childhoods but I never got into it. The first few chapters of Dragon Ball did not interest me because there was urine, butts – just gross things. I like characters in bishonen style better. That’s just my personal preference.

2. Mikan no Tsuki

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The art style is not very good and the story was confusing. Overall, not a good impression.

3. Kirihito Sanka

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This manga is by Osamu Tezuka, the godfather of manga. I understand that he is massively influential to anime but I am not his fan. I’ve read a bit of Lost World, Astro Boy, and Ribbon no Kishi. I’ve also watched Metropolis.

I am not his fan because 1) he grossly exaggerated features of POC. For example, I don’t like the way he drew Chinese characters or African characters. It’s stereotypical and racist. Kirihito Sanka (Ode to Kirihito) was done in 1971. While I can see that it was made many, many years ago, I still don’t like it. I know that some American cartoonists did the same thing too and I don’t like that either.

2) There was rape in Kirihito Sanka, more than once. 3) Reading Kirihito Sanka made me groan at so many moments. The characters are ridiculous and I don’t agree with many of their actions.

4. Masamune-kun no Revenge

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Masamune kept talking about taking revenge on Aki but he ran so many errands for her, like getting bread for her.

???

Okay… I thought this was about revenge, not about becoming her servant. Masamune needs to grow a backbone and I don’t see anything there is to like about Aki. I don’t care if she’s cute! I don’t like anyone in the series.

5. Chobits

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I’m not big on robot manga or anime. Chi is adorable but that’s basically all there is to her. Picking her up from the trash reminds me of picking up a stray cat from the streets. Yet, she is seen as a love interest and it just doesn’t sit well with me.