Sunday, February 6, 2011

reading is pretty basic stuff

So AWP was awesome. I went down to DC with some friends from the program on Saturday and spent an entire day among fellow lit. nerds, publishers, and aspiring authors, to the point of getting both dehydrated and lost in AWP's cavernous bookfair, which took up the entire lower level of the Marriott Wardman-Park Hotel. I did get a lot of cool swag out of it, though, including lots of discounted books from people who marked out over my impressive mustache. I really should have grown this thing out years ago. I also met, and got books signed by, Chimamanda Adichie, Colson Whitehead, and Claudia Rankine, who also got a copy of Gouts of Angry Mist from me since it was partially inspired by her book, Don't Let Me Be Lonely. All three of them were really nice and seemed genuinely happy to be there.

Also worth noting: the first journal that ever published me - Front Porch Journal - had a table at AWP and gave me a free tote bag when I told them who I was. I think both sides of that conversation got warm fuzzies.

I also finished Kafka on the Shore yesterday, and am still processing it. Murakami's style is an interesting synthesis of magical realism and plainspoken slice-of-life routine, and he has said that this book needs to be read more than once to fully understand it. That actually makes sense, and I may pick it up again later because I'm not fully satisfied by it just yet. Murakami is notoriously fuzzy on the details of his books and rarely answers questions about what they mean, which is fine, but in some ways I think that's his way of covering his ass for not always putting much effort into resolving loose plot/character ends. Some of the characters' "ah-ha" moments in Kafka just don't feel earned, like they run parallel when the narrative claims they intersect.

But it's also true that Kafka hooked me on Murakami's voice and tone, which are as approachable as his content is dense and dreamlike. His pacing is slow, but he makes it work by drawing the reader into his characters' routines to the point where we become invested in them, and we care when things change. In artistic terms, he's not so much a precise pen-and-inker as much as a loose, cerebral watercolorist, creating just enough of a distinct image to draw the eye while leaving plenty open for interpretation.

Right then. Time to get myself together in time for tonight's Super Bowl party, in which I shall root against the Steelers and play B-Movie Card Game with my friends.

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