seventeen.

Dance Dance Dance by Haruki Murakami (1988)
 “Dance,” said the Sheep Man. “Yougottadance. Aslongasthemusicplays. Yougota dance. Don’teventhinkwhy. Starttothink, yourfeetstop. Yourfeetstop,wegetstuck. Wegetstuck, gottakeepthestep. Yougottalimberup. Yougottaloosenwhatyoubolteddown. Yougottauseallyougot. Weknowyou’retired, tiredandscared. Happensoeveryone, okay? Justdon’tletyourfeetstop….Yougottadance. Aslongasthemusicplays.”
 A man is trying to find out the truth about his ex-lover and he goes back to the hotel in Sapporo where they had stayed previously. Only the hotel isn’t the same. Instead of the run down small hotel, there is an enormous shiny new hotel. And the staff isn’t pleased when he asks about the other hotel.
But one of the receptionists is nice to him, and they become friendly. She also asks him for a favour when he leaves; could he look after a 13 year old girl on the way back to Tokyo? This girl, abandoned by her famous parents, and the man become friends, a friendship that will take them to Hawaii. And as their friendship evolves, the man is still looking for clues about his ex-lover.
Another great book from Murakami! I don’t know why I haven’t read more Murakami, there are three unread ones in my shelf, but I guess it’s good to save some for later. I don’t think I really got the end right, but it doesn’t matter as the journey there was such a delight to read. 
It is definitely the characters that made this book. He described them so well that they came alive in my head. And yes, the Sheep Man scared the hell out of me.

thirty-seven.


the Most Beautiful Woman in Town and Other Stories by Charles Bukowski (1983)


This book is filled with short stories, and they all include at least one sexual act.

Charles Bukowski is one of my favourite dirty old men, but this collection of short stories takes it one step too far. Necrophilia, paedophilia, rape and murder is never pleasant to read about, but having to read it from the doer’s perspective was terrible. And I’m glad I have read all the good stuff from Bukowski before this book.

Read his novels instead of this.

eighty-four.

Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987)

“124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom. The women in the house knew it and so did the children. For years each put up with the spite in his own way, but by 1873 Sethe and her daughter Denver were its only victims. The grandmother, Baby Suggs, was dead, and the sons, Howard and Buglar, had run away by the time they were thirteen years old – as soon as merely looking in a mirror shattered it (that was the signal for Buglar); as soon as two tiny hand prints appeared in the cake (that was it for Howard). Neither boy waited to see more; another kettleful of chickpeas smoking in heap on the floor; soda crackers crumbled and strewn in a line next to the doorsill. Nor did they wait for one of the relief periods; the weeks, months even, when nothing was disturbed.”

Sethe, a runaway slave girl, kills her eldest baby girl, Beloved, when her owner comes looking for her. Beloved haunts the house until a day when a former slave, who knew Sethe from a farm, chases the ghost away. A few weeks later, a beautiful girl, turns up at the house, claiming she is Beloved.

The story changes between present and past, and thus gives a good insight in the lives of slaves at the time of the American Civil War. The language reminded me a lot of William Faulkner, though a lot easier to follow. Such a sad and violent tale. I will definitely read more by Toni Morrison, who got the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993.

“Could she sing? (Was it nice to hear when she did?) Was she pretty? Was she a good friend? Could she have been a loving mother? A faithful wife? Have I got a sister and does she favor me? If my mother knew me would she like me?”

seventy-nine.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami (1987)

“Once the plane was on the ground, soft music began to flow from the ceiling speakers: a sweet orchestral cover version of the Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood”. The melody never failed to send a shudder through me, but this time it hit me harder than ever.”

Toru is reminded of a girl he loved a long time ago, Naoko. She was the girlfriend of his best friend who killed himself very suddenly at the age of 17. Naoko and Toru meet again when they are at university and they start taking long walks all over Tokyo. Naoko is not dealing well with the death of her childhood boyfriend and after sleeping with Toru she ends up in a sanctuary.

This book is full of lonely messed-up beautiful people reaching out to other lonely beautiful people. And so much death. But also love. And a fair amount of popular culture and sex. I had Eleanor Rigby by the Beatles stuck on my mind while reading.

“I trudged along through each day in its turn, rarely looking up, eyes locked on the never-ending swamp that lay before me, planting my right foot, raising my left, planting my left food, raising the right, never sure where I was, never sure I was headed in the right direction, knowing only that I had to keep moving, one step at a time.”

Murakami has been on my book-shelf for years and yet all the wonderful things I have heard about his writing, I never picked him up until now. And how much did I like him? I just ordered two more books by him off Amazon.

fifty-nine.

the War of the End of the World by Mario Vargas Llosa (1981)


Brazil, 1890s. A mysterious prophet is walking around Bahia, telling tales of doom and swearing that the newly established Republic of Brazil will fail. He is followed by the poor, but also by thieves, murderers, whores and other he has put his hands on. They build a new town, where the rules of the Republic don’t exist. The regional government of Bahia doesn’t like this and sends an army and this is the start of the long war between the prophet’s people and the Republic of Brazil.

This was a hard read for me because it is so richly detailed. Every character is described, often starting by his birth, and thus I could only handle about twenty pages a day. Was it really necessary to describe the war from every angle? It is as brutal and dark as Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy but mixed with magic realism. But it misses something, because I felt that I could at any point in the book stop reading and it wouldn’t have mattered if I finished it or not. I guess it didn’t make me curious about what would happen next.

And oh, I read a Norwegian edition and it had so many typos and occasionally bad language that it made me sad (and glad that I bought it at a second-hand store).

fifty-six.

Less than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis (1985)


Clay is home in Los Angeles for Christmas from his first semester at a college on the east coast. He does nothing for the holidays, except partying, seeing friends, getting wasted and seeing a shrink.

Poor little rich kids with no present parents. This book is boring until the last thirty pages when things start to go wrong for Clay’s friends. And then it sort of goes to the extreme, but then back to apathy again. This book was nothing I haven’t read or seen before.

If you want to read a brilliant book by Easton Ellis, I recommend the Rules of Attraction. Same theme, just much better. The film version is definitely my favourite college film, and I mainly love it so much because it is so different from the book. I usually watch it, then have to read the book, and then watch it again. Brilliant.

forty.

Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga (1988)

Tambu is not sorry for that her brother died. Because his death means that she can go to the mission school as she is the oldest girl. She also moves away from her life as a peasant and to her uncle’s house at the school. Her uncle is the head of the family as he is educated by the whites and the headmaster at the school and therefore rich. Tambu is eager to begin her new life as an educated girl and leave her old life as a poor peasant behind.

Tambu is very bright and resourceful and is doing everything in her power to achieve her goals. Because her parents only could afford to send one child to school and because she was a girl and her brother not, he was sent. Realising how important education is, she plants her own crops and sells them in order to pay for her own education. And when her brother dies and she finally can go to a better school, she studies hard to be one of the best in her class so she can get scholarships to go on to higher education. But she also realise that being educated means leaving her peasant identity behind, no longer staying in touch with her family and culture. But she also discovers that being educated means having other troubles.

This book made me realise how important education is, having taking it for granted all these years. Such a wonderful book about and Tambu is definitely a heroine. I’m very tempted to break my self-imposed no-more-new-books-until-2011-rule to buy the sequel with the curious title the Book of Not: Stopping the Time.

sixteen: eco-terrorism

Mengele Zoo by Gert Nygårdshaug (1989)


First of all: why has this book not been translated?
Somewhere in the South American rainforest a young boy is collecting butterflies. He is aware that the indigenous peoples are being treated badly by the men of power and he decides to kill the leader of the military police. One day his whole village is slaughtered because they are opposing an oil company on their land. The boy escapes and runs into the wilderness where he is found by a magician. As they travel around South America he sees that multinational companies are killing the land and he decides to win the land back. A few years later he and three friends scare and amaze the world with the eco-terrorist group Mariposa.

It is beautiful yet a brutal book. Magic realism with amazing descriptions of the environment. Not a bad thing to say about it. Strongly recommended. And the next time I’m near a book store I’m buying the sequel, Himmelblomsttreets muligheter.

It reminded me a lot of another brilliant book with the same theme, the Monkey Wrench Gang (1975) by Edward Abbey. This one is about the damming of the Colorado River and a group of people who start blowing up construction supplies and bridges. Where Mengele Zoo is serious and sad, the Monkey Wrench Gang is a lot of action and also funny. Yet there are a lot of similarities, like the ideologies behind the terrorism and the love for mother nature.

fourteen.

Blood Meridian or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy (1985)


Texas-Mexico border, 1850s. Indians are the common enemies and hunters are paid for Indian scalps. The book follows a kid from Tennessee across the land, trying to survive, hunting and being hunted.

“See the child. He is pale and thin, he wears a thin and ragged linen shirt. He strokes the scullery fire. Outside lie dark turned fields with rags of snow and darker woods beyond that harbor yet a few last wolves. His folk are known for hewers of wood and drawers of water but in truth his father has always been a schoolmaster. He lies in drink, he quotes from poets whose names are now lost. The boy crouches by the fire and watches him”.

McCarthy writes beautifully, yet this book is so violent I could feel it in my stomach. He leaves nothing to the imagination when it comes to the slaughtering of villages and it is not a pleasant read for the faint-hearted like me. This book has also had me dreaming of arid desert and creatures living there.

It was a brilliant read, but I still favour the Road when it comes to McCarthy. And I have the Border trilogy to look forward to.

thirteen.

Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco (1988)


This is without a doubt the hardest book I have ever read. I almost gave up after the first twenty pages as it was just a bunch of weird names and references. I have never googled more while reading a book and the impressive thing is that everything is correct. How Umberto Eco was able to write this book, I can’t even imagine.

What is it about? I’d say everything. It is about three men working at a publishing house that hear a strange story concerning the Templars and then decide to look into it. And then they realise that there is a universal master plan that various secret orders are still looking for. This book manages to connect everything from the Crusaders to Hitler. It is confusing and demands a lot from the reader. I don’t think I ever have learnt so much from reading something that is pure fiction. It is one of those books that I need to reread after reading a 1000 more books.

I loved Lia, the narrator’s wife who had the most down-to-earth answers to the conspiracies. The part where she compares magic numbers to orifices in the human body is simply brilliant.

What I really didn’t like about this book, was that a lot of it was in in other languages. With it being sources, I do understand why, but it just made it more confusing. I might have missed something significant because I cannot understand Italian or French. But that is my only complaint.

I can’t wait until I get home to my bookshelves so I can read the Name of the Rose by the same author.