The Paperback Review: ‘South of the Border, West of the Sun’ by Murakami.

“Sometimes when I look at you, I feel like I’m gazing at a distant star. It’s dazzling, but the light is from tens of thousands of years ago.”

With ‘South of the Border, West of the Sun’, Murakami creates a tangible reality in the realm of fiction, vividly drawing parallels between the deceptively simple and happy, yet mundane lifestyle, with the absolute havoc of the mind and conscience.

The plot revolves around the life of Hajime, whom we follow from an early adolescence, through his textbook editing days and right into his thirties, drawing an arc of failed relationships that start and end with Shimamoto, his childhood muse, who he runs into after two decades since they last met. Shimamoto, with her mysterious aura, puts him in a rashly conjured readiness of throwing away his family, his business and all he had ever known.

The author spins a very abstract dreamscape piece of fiction with undefined elements of love, loss and uncertainty, enveloped in the blanket ambiguity,which plays a major role in the storyline, almost as if the storyline itself isn’t important, but the feelings and the emotions involved are. The ambiguity works both ways. For some, it might be an unwelcomed cliff-hanger while for the others, it might allow one to adopt, interpret and connect with the storyline in one’s own way, drawing connections from one’s own life that a reader may catch if he reads between those lines. However, many a reader might not be willing to do the same.

The book is more like a written equivalent of an abstract painting, where the reader would often hunt for details that were never revealed, to the extent, one might even eventually give up on the storyline and not care. For instance, who was Shimamoto now, after all these years? Where did she come from? Where did she go?

The book is beautifully written, and with all that vivid imagery, I was left longing for more.

The Paperback Review:’Origin’ by Dan Brown.

origin-825.jpgCaptivated by Dan Brown’s thought provoking ‘Inferno’ and ‘The Da Vinci Code’ ; even the character of Harvard professor Robert Langdon (I like to think of myself as a Langdon lass), Origin attracted an impatient wait. It is Brown’s fifth book of the Langdon series, who reaches the ultramodern Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain to witness the unveiling of a discovery made by former student and futurist Edmond Kirsch that “would change the face of science forever” and answer the questions-” Where do we come from? Where are we going?”. However, the meticulously planned seminar turned into utter chaos when Kirsch gets shot in the head during the reveal. Langdon, along with Ambra Vidal, the future queen of Spain and “beauty with brains” of this book, take it upon themselves to complete Kirsch’s unfinished task.

From William Blake’s poetry, Miro’s paintings and dodging bullets at the Sagrada Familia, to the rise of fascism in Spain and questioning religious faiths, the book has all the Brownian elements. But did it all result in the magical Brownian concoction? I think not.

The story begins and moves at a bullock cart’s pace, through a maze of art and culture references drafted like Wikipedia pages. To be brutally honest, you’d lose nothing by skipping a page or two. Or even a chapter. Langdon’s character somehow fails to impart that ”quintessentially Langdon” edge to the story, making him entirely replaceable in the plot. For instance, anyone into rainy day puzzles could look for that particular line of poetry by William Blake.

Brown does what he does best-cook up a suspense that will make your insides squirm, yet the final reveal merely lives up to the excitement of listening to a monotonous Ted talk. Let’s say Brown came up with nothing “earth shattering”. In fact, it was rather “eyeroll” worthy.

Of course, Brown’s books have always been nothing short of an eye opener when it comes to art, culture and literature, and Origin too offers a fair share of ‘did you know?’s. I wouldn’t count this book as Brown’s top, but I did learn this- it might just be possible to live in a museum in Casa Mila. It’s on my bucket list now.