Friday, July 15, 2011

The Tobie Vanishes - a review of Haruki Murakami's The Elephant Vanishes

My partner, Rocky, got me started on reading Haruki Murakami.  I type this with some level of uncertainty, because to be quite frank, the book as been terribly good to read.  Not the type of books I am accustomed to, I admit, but then again, who am I to judge.  I'm barely an accomplished writer, not having been seriously noticed by any award-giving body.  Even the webcomics I am so proud of was practically ignored by the local scene.  I doubt my point-of-view when it comes to books accounts to anything.

Still, I find myself wanting to write it review right now, with my body still dripping from the shower I had just taken, to share how Murakami's book is affecting me.  I'm half inebriated from alcohol right now, so I am certain my words are probably more rambling than making actual sense.  But deep down I feel I have to write this down. I have to record these thoughts before they are lost forever.

There was this TED talk I watched some time ago about a woman talking about the pressures of coming up with the "next big thing" after writing something deemed successful.  About how acknowledging that one's creative work may be the product of allowing oneself to become the conduit for a muse or a daemon to release its inner creative workings.  I really admired that talk, but I found myself suddenly disheartened to learn she was the same writer who wrote that really inane book about first world problems.  Eat, Pray, Love I think it was.  I could be wrong.

I am not anyone accomplished after all.
Nor recognized.
Or respected.

Still, I want to write this right now and so even with the puddles from the shower forming at my feet, I am typing now at my laptop at practically 5 in the morning, hoping to set these words down to some temporal sense of permanency before I head to bed.

My beloved got me started on Haruki Murakami's The Elephant Vanishes, a book filled with short stories and snippets of not so ordinary life.  Each story presents itself in a different way, sometimes a tad confessional, at other times with a more direct attempt at narrating the events, and yet in all the stories I find myself reading I feel myself diving deeper into a sense of how profound each story is.  I don't attempt to use the word profound to sound like an artiste or anything special.  I simply mean to say, every single story I've read unlocks ideas and question in my head, making me ponder on who, what, whys and hows in a way that I actually find delightful.  Every single story makes no attempt to demonstrate the Hero's Journey, as Joseph Campell's (did I get his name right) Monomyth concept suggests.  Instead, each is a slice of (not so normal) every day life given a point of view that previously did not exist.

Murakami, to be blunt, is a genius.  His stories are compelling and through-provoking without pandering to the reader.  The mysteries he brings up are not question to be solved, rather devices that spark new insight or experiences for the reader to indulge in.  His narratives are quaint and direct, yet hide inner sublime meanings which I find literally intoxicating to indulge in.  Call me stupid, but I find myself limiting myself to a single short story per day I give myself to read his book, not wanting to have it end too soon.

The book is a fantastic read.  I find myself wanting so much to find a way to emulate his writing style, or at least emulate how devoted he is to sharing an experience that he seems to (at least for me) care nothing about hitting the expected norms of what a writer should do.  So many times in my life I would write something and others would question why I did not answer this or that question, or resolve this or that issue.  And yet, here is Murakami, with enough novels to make me weep in envy, doing the very thing I used to do, remain completely apologetic, and gain allocates for doing so.

I am in total envy for the craft and skill this man writes.

Every single story is a stab into my creative heart, reminding me that perhaps I need to find my own way of doing things.  Or perhaps, I should just turn a blind eye to every single act of criticism towards my work and just do what I want to do.  I used to proudly proclaim that my words, ultimately, are children of my creative soul not needing any outside affirmation or recognition.  But deep down, I know I am envious of my friends who have Palanca awards and National Book Awards to their names.  Carlo Vergara.  Arnold Arre.  And more.

Maybe someday I can refine my own works to reach an audience that will truly accept my work and find meaning in it.  Maybe someday I can tell others, "See.  This is me doing stuff I love.  And others see that."  But for now, all I can do is just write this review while half drunk and hope it makes sense.

The Elephant Vanishes is a fantastic read that I sorely recommend to anyone who has not yet dipped their souls into any of Haruki Murakami's works.  The book is definitely easy to read and even more satisfying to go through.   May I some day create something that accomplishes the same thing to my readers.

Until then, I guess you have my diliman comic to enjoy.
It ain't much.  It definitely ain't Murakami in any comparable level.
But at least it was something I really put my heart into doing.

Thanks for reading.
Thank you Rocky for letting me read this book.

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