Haruki Murakami – Men Without Women



In general I like Murakami’s novels and his short stories but I had mixed feelings with this particular collection. First of all it’s not the quality of the stories. In fact I didn’t like one of them and that’s very good as I’m picky with short stories ( I blame Roald Dahl, his short stories were perfect)

What bothered me was the content of these stories. I don’t know if it is my age but I saw the majority of these stories as sexist. In this book all the males are slightly unpleasant, who view women as a commodity. These are men who visit prostitutes, cheat on their wives, leave them or simply use them. Women are portrayed as users and ummm that’s it really. I have to admit that I did feel uneasy reading this collection.

On the other hand these stories are well translated and are structurally tight. I won’t deny the fact that I enjoyed how well crafted they are and there was some pleasure in seeing how Murakami builds a story so well. Despite the less than appealing characters I still wanted to know how they would tackle the situations they were in.

Has anyone read Men without Women? any impressions similar to mine?



Jesse Ball – Census



Census is what I’d call a light, experimental novel. There’s use of mixed media and a writing style that is concise and slightly anecdotal. I would say that there’s an element of Sebald in this particular book, maybe with a bit more heart though.

A widow has learnt that he is dying so as a last move, he decides to sign up as a census taker and go on one last trip with his son before he gets his neighbor to take care of him. In the introduction Ball states that the son is modeled after his brother, who had Downs Syndrome, however in the book it is not mention but I think it is safe to work on the assumption that the son does have the same condition.

Morality is the main theme of Census. The main protagonists visit U.S. cities in alphabetical order, thus chapter one is A  chapter 2 is B. Each city has someone who reminds the unnamed narrator of the fact that he will die soon. Between these meditations, there are sections about a book that the narrator’s deceased wife wrote about Cormorants and us readers find out about the narrator’s and wife’s past jobs and lifestyle.

By the time Z arrives, there is a full eulogy about the narrator’s son and the eventual death.

Despite the overly pessimistic tone, Census is a surprisingly zippy read. Also Ball does not hammer in the themes of death, the outcome is a poignant, touching novel. Yet is also one that is playful in outlook and a joy to read. For those who say that post-modernism is just style over substance, I am glad to say that Census balances both with panache.

Thanks to Granta for providing me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Sean L. Maloney – The Modern Lovers


Funnily enough although I am a fan of Jonathan Richman’s solo work, I never really gravitated towards the The Modern Lovers album and although this 33 1/3 volume is ok, it did not reignite any deep appreciation.

Basically Maloney takes the title of a track on the Moder Lovers album, gives a brief description about it and veers off on a tangent about the history of the Modern Lovers. As I said before this volume is ok but not outstanding in anyway. There have been better books in the series focusing on the New York punk scene.

Paula Mejia – Psychocandy


The Jesus and Mary Chain’s debut album, Psychocandy is a big fave of mine. Essentially JAMC wrote pop tunes but disguised it with ear splitting feedback. Everyone should listen to Psychocandy at least once in their life and discover how melody and distortion can work hand in hand.

Although I did not learn anything new with this volume, it still is a great read. Mejia documents the roots of JAMC, what inspired them to record Psychocandy, some meanings behind the lyrics and then the cultural role Psychocandy plays thirty years later.

If you are a fan of the band read this. Although not an official history, Mejia manages to interview Jim Reid, Douglas Hart and Bobby Gillespie plus some other people who played an important role in the Scottish indie scene, so this is almost like an official band bio. I suggest reading this while having the album in the background as it weirdly complements the book.

Emily J. Lordi – Donny Hathaway Live


I tried to listen to Donnie Hathaway’s live album but I couldn’t hack it, in a way that made me eager to read the volume and on the whole I liked it.

Rather than focus on the Live Album Lordi pinpoints how Donnie Hathaway live was both the beginning and end of this singer’s career. There are some discussion about the significance of the covers in the record but really this is a loose bio, however the most interesting bit is Hathaway’s life after the live album and his descent into mental illness. It is uncomfortable reading but for someone who has never heard his music before, I thought it was a good introduction.

Ali Smith – Other Stories and Other Stories



Although I can say that I’m an Ali Smith fan, I just feel that her short stories do not do her any justice. In her novels, Smith is able to expand and develop her ideas but in the short story format she doesn’t come off as witty and the stories seem like good ideas that are brief and slightly forgettable.

That’s all I can say really. None of these stories really stuck with me but they weren’t bad either, just too brief for me to like them.

Neil Gaiman – Norse Mythology


Now and then I need literary comfort food and mythology fulfills that need for something familiar. Although I am more familiar with Greek and Roman myths, I do like the Norse ones as well and I know the main ones. Also Neil Gaiman is in charge of this project and this made me look forward to this book even more.

Gaiman takes the more famous stories from Norse mythology and then rewrites them using his accessible style. The end result is a handful of easy to read stories. All the big stories are here: the creation of the different worlds, Loki’s hair prank, Thor’s battles with the giants, Odin’s loss of his eye, Balder’s death and Ragnarok.

One of the main aspects of Norse mythology is that it centres around Loki, the trickster and Gaiman adheres to this, thus all the stories link together nicely.  Gaiman also drops the clues which eventually lead to Ragnarok, something which gives depth to the myths in this collection. Not to mention there’s Gaiman’s sly sense of humor running through the book and I did chuckle at his treatment of Thor as not too bright eating machine.

Norse  Mythology is excellent for someone who wants a basic knowledge of this rich, brutal and surreal mythology. Maybe an expert would find the stories here too familiar but even then Gaiman’s writing style transforms these myths into a fun read.