Saturday, February 22, 2014

Being a Time Being

Up and down is the same. From up, down is up and from down, up is down.

A tale for the time being is the most unique book I've read. Ruth Ozeki takes you on a trip as a reader and she joins you as well. Ruth finds a freezer bag that has washed up to the shore in British Columbia all the way from Japan, which could be from the tsunami debris according to her husband Oliver. In the freezer bag, she finds a few letters in French, a sky soldier watch (a watch for a world war kamakazi soldier) and a French novel that if you open is actually a Japanese diary. It's the diary of Naoko

You remember the time when you were so immersed in reading a fiction novel that you dream about the characters in the story, and wake up feeling it was so real that it leaves you flustered? You know that feeling when the character in your novel seems to be falling into trouble and you really wish you could jump into the book and rescue, even it's by just giving advice or simply talking, or taking a stroll?
Well, so does Ozeki! And she reminds you of it and connects with you in a very intimate way. It's like she knows you, the reader, so well and then she makes you imagine her feelings as yours, her fear as yours just as she dwells into Naoko's fears and problems, just like she knew you would. Sometimes I read Nao chapter and Google some of the things she talks about to see if it's real. In the next chapter, Ruth does the same. 

Apart from the story being extremely captivating, it also helps you understand Japanese culture. With Ruth's Japanese ethnicity and Manhattan lifestyle, combined with Nao's Tokyo world and most of her life spent in California, the Japanese culture is explained to the external world. While Nao tries her best to tell you how her entire world has changed from California (where all the kids are always depressed and on pills) to Tokyo high school (with students bullying that foreign student and French-maid cafes where salaried men come) and the Zen lifestyle her great grandmother leads. Wherever there are words or cultural motifs that Nao doesn't realise needs explaining  Ruth picks out the Japanese words and phrases and Zen ideas to give you footnotes and occasionally even appendices. 

The book is about the journey you take as a reader with your writer, even experiencing a readers block. The ending could have been anything, or nothing at all. And you would not have been disappointed. Yet Ruth comes through with the most amazing ending which could look like an open ending but it isn't. By then you know what Ruth expects you to think and she just leaves a few words unsaid that only you can understand. Like it's written and unwritten just for you. Like how Nao had written it all just for Ruth.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sputnik Sweetheart

After reading Ruth Ozeki's book I understand Japanese culture more, a tiny bit more. Overlaying it with the urban solidarity and loneliness, Haruki Murakami's writing becomes clearer, a tiny bit.

There is always a lot of it I don't understand but that's how it's meant to be I believe. It's not meant to be logical. But it is somehow rational and that's how it's surreal and somehow you believe it's true.
If only one could truly disappear the way one can possibly disappear into a surreal world that you make it your reality if it is the only way.

To walk out one day and never come back. To wake up one day with silver hair. To believe you can be in two places at the same time. To decide which version of you is real.

It's a bit happier in tone than Norwegian Wood. But then again it has the surrealism that makes sad situations sound happy. There is a certain amount of similarity in the later half of the books.
A troubled young woman tries to find some answers while a young man who is love with her and an older woman who may love her, try to take care of her. But fail, or may be not. After all she is in a happier place, figuratively in one book and literally in the other. It's interesting when the other two people come to this conclusion. That may be they didn't fail her and may be she is happy and may be one day she will find her way back.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


A close call can be fun.
I usually give myself a lot of time to go to the airport. I also check and double check that I have my passport, some money and tickets. Before I leave I stand at the door, look back and think if I've left anything behind.
Today I forgot my passport. My cab turned up early and said I should not be late and I hurried. Still no excuse for forgetting my passport. But he refused to turn around when I found out that I forgot my passport and instead went all the way to the airport to a different terminal and got me another cab to go home and come back. I managed. Rather my new cabbie managed, with trance music blasting through the cab. We drove home, picked up my passport, drove back to the airport, ran through fast track security and boarded the flight.
On the flight with my head splitting from too much excitement and spinning from two hours of road rash, the food didn't help. I was half sleeping, half reading and all the time feeling queasy.
But after a Spanish omelette, a smooth cab ride and some hot water in the hotel, I was all set to roam the city at 4 pm. The first place I went to was Santiago Bernarbéu.

The stadium was amazing and they give you good access to the stadium - the pitch, the benches and coaching area. The trophy room is unbelievable and the Best Club Ever Room is larger than life. The club is old and it's about the club rather than the players. So though Casillas and Ronaldo are on the cover of the brochure there is little about either of them.

The dressing room was a little random and people were taking pictures of everything, even the loo. And they have these photo booths that randomly do some  Photoshop. In the end there showed me a nice picture of Casillas and me but they wouldn't give it to me in soft copy so I didn't want it. We looked good together though.

After the tour, I went down to the palace. But couldn't figure out if I could go in or how. So just roamed about in the some gardens and took pictures from far.

Finally landed at Plaza de España. I walked up and down the lanes but somehow didn't feel like eating in any of those places and ended up in Starbucks. I sat there eating wraps, drinking coffee reading a Murakami book.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Books in the Fog

I only read fiction. It's not a policy or something. I have tried reading non-fiction but I wasn't able to and I am not proud of it. But I am happy with reading fiction and I read it for a million reasons. Just talking about one for now, teleportation. Transporting yourself into a different world, at a different time, using a good story and the power of your mind, except there is no transfer of matter involved here.
I am sitting right here in a bus and yet I am in the middle of a crowded Tokyo slum or in the bush in Africa or on a lonely shore in cold British Columbia or on the streets of London during the colonial times. 
You get a similar surreal feeling when you walk around on a foggy day. The very streets you knew so well are suddenly transformed one morning into a different dreamland. You may wonder when you wake up and look outside your window, if you are still asleep and in a dream. Reading on a foggy day can be even more surreal. Like you are floating around on a cloud and creating worlds out of thin air, I mean thick air!

One foggy day, I was on the bus to work, sitting by the window where I always sit and began reading. The window frosted, by the fog and the cold. The story took me into a different world and I floated around in this bright red box over clouds that I could mix and mash like play dough and jump across continents and time, to remote corners of the world and create a visual of the story I was inside. When I woke up from the spell, it was just before my stop but it took me a few seconds to recollect where I was and what I was doing.

I so wish that bus rides on forever and the story never ends.
Some day I should read in park when it is foggy. Could be interesting.

PS: reading A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. A wonderful book. A review soon, when I finish.

PPS: The picture is from this blogpost and one of the many pictures taken by one of the many dreams in this city (not by me). Go to the link to see more images. There are almost psychedelic.