A Topsy-Turvy Month
If there is one word that is to describe what kind of reader I am it would be “impulsive” because that is the type of reader that I am. I tend to read whatever book that comes to mind, regardless of the author and regardless of the author. That is why I find myself surprised this 2018 because I against my impulse. I wouldn’t normally dedicate a whole month digesting a particular genre or theme and I did it not only once but three times already (April – Asian Literature Month, August – Young Adult Fiction Month, and September – Man Booker Prize Month). And October was no different.
I was supposed to to complete my 2018 Top 20 Reading List in October. I only have three books left on the list: Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits, David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest and Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. I started the month right with the South American classic The House of the Spirits. I was able to start as well on Wallace’s labyrinthine classic work, Infinite Jest. However, the book’s complexity was just too overwhelming. In times I get stuck with the narrative, I read other books instead. Without consciously choosing to do so, I unexpectedly delved into the world of magical realism.
It was in 2015 that I was introduced into this surrealistic literary genre. Through Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84, I was mesmerized (and overwhelmed) by this new strange world where parallel and alternative worlds coexist, where there is no boundary between the dead and the alive, and where cats talk. It was a whole new dimension in my journey through the diverse world of literature. Taking cue, I begun expanding my reading experience by trying other works of magical realism. Here is my October 2018 reading list.
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
I started my October 2018 reading adventure with what is popularly touted as Isabel Allende’s magnum opus. Although this is my first venture into her works, I was nonetheless anticipating it because it is part of the 1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. Moreover, a new author and a new book is always a guarantee for a new experience. And it did exactly just that as The House of the Spirits riveted me from start to finish.
Of the magical realist works that I have read in October, this is perhaps the least “magical realist” because it sparingly delved into the humdrums of the fantastical. However, it was still equally fascinating and powerful. Allende skillfully played with different themes and elements which highlighted how Latin culture mirrors so much that of the Philippine culture such as how both cultures revere the smallest unit of societies, family. Although the book was published years ago, I was struck by how exactly it depicted the current political climate in the Philippines. I didn’t expect it but I really did fall for this South American classic.
Read my review of this South American classic here.
Sputnik Sweetheart by Haruki Murakami
A dive into the world of magical realism wouldn’t be complete without one of its proverbial masters. Over the years, Haruki Murakami fascinated the world with his brand of surrealism. This earned him a healthy number of critics as well because of his “unJapanese” brand of writing. Critics aside, Murakami is a literary genius especially that it was his works that really got me into magical realism. Sputnik Sweetheart is my eighth Murakami and as expected, it did not fail to transport me into a different world.
The thing I like about Murakami is that he gives a different atmosphere in every book. The way he navigates the humdrums of the supernatural is always fascinating; it is magic in itself. Sputnik Sweetheart is a more watered-down version of the epic tour-de-force titled Kafka on the Shore but it is a masterpiece on its own. It is a riveting tale about the choices people make vis-à-vis their dreams. Murakami’s vivid imagery and masterful storytelling is soaring as always. This novel is one of my favorite Murakami works.
Read my thoughts on this Murakami classic here.
Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami
And yet another Murakami work to feed my appetite for magical realism! Killing Commendatore is Haruki Murakami’s latest work. As expected of a Murakami, a certain hype was built up around his newest work which recently came out; the English translation that is. Of course, I am one to jump into the bandwagon. When copies of the book begun flooding Philippine bookstores, I immediately bought a copy. Without further ado (and in spite of Infinite Jest), I immediately immersed into Murakami’s latest work.
Unsurprisingly, Murakami didn’t fail to fascinate with his enchanting work, his dive into the oblivion of parallel and alternative worlds. Using trademark Murakami elements, he weaved a narrative that also contains allusions to F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classical work, The Great Gatsby. Murakami has quite built, over the years, a reputation for his mastery of magical realism. It is loaded with the same old Murakami elements but it felt like an abstract. I neither hated nor loved it because it felt unoriginal. As a reader, what I found lacking in the narrative is vision. It didn’t give any perspective on where Murakami’s brand of writing is headed for.
Read my thoughts on Murakami’s latest work here.
The Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Here is yet another renowned author who fascinated the world over with his surrealistic tales. An uninitiated reader, I innocently picked up his work, One Hundred Years of Solitude even though I barely had any iota of what it was about. However, I was simply fascinated by the cover page and the title. To be honest, at first, I found his work very overwhelming (I had the same reaction with Murakami’s 1Q84). But as I turned one page after the other, I came to appreciate the beauty of this complex work. I followed it up with two more of Marquez’ works and in 2018, I had my fourth, The Autumn of the Patriarch.
The Autumn of the Patriarch is a satire of dictators, something that South Americans know a thing or two about. In this aspect, it mirrors the political aspects of Allende’s The House of the Spirits, another South American work. Although The Autumn of the Patriarch is a quicker read compared to most books, its long sentences made it an energy-zapping and mind-boggling read; it doesn’t make you catch your breath that easily. It was Marquez’ vivid imagery that salvaged the narrative. Nevertheless, it was still a fascinating read.
So that was how my October reading month went. It didn’t go the way that I wanted to because I still haven’t completed my 2018 Top Reading List although I am still reading Wallace’s Infinite Jest whenever I can. I am hoping to finish it in November; I will no longer insert other books. Once I complete this complex work, I will immediately follow it up with Leo Tolstoy’s timeless classic, War and Peace. It is the last book on my 2018 Top 20 Reading List.
“Despite the enormous quantity of books, how few people read! And if one reads profitably, one would realize how much stupid stuff the vulgar herd is content to swallow every day.” ~ Voltaire