Maya Goode

Tony Takitani – Haruki Murakami – Literary Roadhouse Ep: 12

Next week’s story Constance’s Law by Bridget Hardy

This podcast is available on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spreaker. Please take a few moments to leave a review ( for Spreaker follow & heart us). Those reviews encourage us and help us be found by new listeners.

This week both Gerald and Maya both found the story difficult to enjoy, while Anais loved the story enough to give it 5 Bradberries. Despite Kenechi’s absence due to exams, this weeks podcast prompted a great discussion about what it is that lets a reader to get close to a story. You can find the Author Spotlight for Haruki Murakami.

Yes, we do have a rating scale based on Bradberries! For the history of this goofy system, see Anais’ post “Read Short Stories or Ray Bradbury Cries.” If you want to design a Bradberry, we’d love to see it. Anais has the urge to create a Bradberry collage… Imagine, Bradberries on your desktop! You gave last week’s story, Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor, 3.75 Bradberries.

On a scale of 1-6 Bradberries, how do you rate ‘Tony Takitani‘? Tell us in the comments below or via voicemail, and we will give you the final tally on the next episode.

Next week we are reading Constance’s Law by Bridget Hardy.

Author Spotlight: Haruki Murakami

Photo by Eamonn McCabe Photo by Eamonn McCabe

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.” ― Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood

Haruki Murakami, like his protagonists, is not drawn to crowds or fame. When asked by the Paris Review if he has any literary friends, he responded with “No, I don’t think so.” When pressed, he elaborated

I’m a loner. I don’t like groups, schools, literary circles. At Princeton, there was a luncheonette, or something like that, and I was invited to eat there. Joyce Carol Oates was there and Toni Morrison was there and I was so afraid, I couldn’t eat anything at all! […] I just want to have . . . distance.

Murakami’s preference for distance has left an impression on his writing, which features recurring themes of alienation and loneliness. His work is frequently melancholy, marked by fatalism, and tends to the surreal. His fiction is heavily influenced by Kafka, but it is not bereft of humor. Quite on the contrary, Murakami’s dry humor shines through the melancholia, in part due to his admiration of the American satirist Richard Brautigan.

In addition to Kafka and Brautigan, Murakami names Chandler, Vonnegut, Salinger, and Kerouac as early influencers, as well as Western classical and jazz music. His taste for Western culture falls out of step with his parents’ profession. He was born in 1949 to two professors of traditional Japanese literature.

Their love of both traditional culture and writing did not immediately pass down to their son. Murakami began writing fairly late, at the age of 29, but his appreciation of the arts was fostered early. He studied drama at Waseda University in Tokyo, where he met his wife Yoko whom he married at age 23. Although Murakami does not claim any writers in his social circle, he compares Yoko as the Zelda to his F. Scott Fitzgerald — his first reader, trusted advisor, and confidante.

By age 29 he was running a jazz club in Tokyo named Peter Cat, much like the protagonist of his later novel South of the Border, West of the Sun. According to an oft-repeated story, he was inspired to write his first novel, Hear the Wind Sing (1979) in 1978 while watching a baseball game in Jingu Stadium between the Yakult Swallows and the Hiroshima Carp.  When American Dave Hilton hit a double, Murakami suddenly realized that he could write a novel. He went home and began writing that night, and completed Hear the Wind Sing in ten months. He sent it off to the only literary contest that accepted a work of that length, the Gunzo Award, and, naturally, won Best First Novel.

Since then Murakami’s novels and short stories have won numerous awards. His most notable works include Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World (1985) A Wild Sheep Chase (1982), Norwegian Wood (1987), The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (1994-1995), Kafka on the Shore (2002), and 1Q84 (2009–2010).

Several of his works have been adapted for film or stage, including a 75 minute film adaptation of this week’s story “Tony Takitani”. The film played at various film festivals and was released in New York and Los Angeles on July 29, 2005.

As Murakami tells it, he was intrigued by the name Tony Takitani when at a garage sale in Hawaii he found a yellow T-shirt that said, “Tony Takitani, House (D).” At the time, Takitani was running for office. Murakami decided to write the man’s life story.

Early in his career, Murakami maintained a position of social detachment, refraining from commenting on social or political issues. But he credits a stay in the United States in 1991 as changing his position from one of detachment to commitment. His early books, he said, originated in an individual darkness, while his later works tap into the darkness found in society and history.

This shift is reflected in both his work and his public life. The Wind-up Bird Chronicle (1995) is considered his first socially conscious book, dealing in part with war crimes committed by the Japanese in Manchuria. This is a topic which stays with Murakami to this day, as evidenced by his April 2015 call for Japan to apologize for the atrocities committed against China, Korea, and other countries during WWII.

His social consciousness extends beyond socio-political awareness to individual intimacy and care. In interviews, Murakami stresses the importance of being kind to his readers and serving their needs in his writing. In 2014 he launched an advice column where he personally answers fans questions about their everyday lives, from how to navigate sticky social situations to, of course, love.

Image taken from Mr. Murakami's Place. Image taken from Mr. Murakami’s Place.

“I can’t think of another writer alive today with the kind of intimacy he has with his readers — and he takes it very very seriously,” says Roland Kelts, a journalist who has previously written about Murakami for The New Yorker.

Although his advice column is written exclusively in Japanese, the Washington Post has written a piece with translated excerpts that capture the quaintness and sincerity well.

His commitment to people has made him a natural choice for Time’s 100 Most Influential People in 2015. Writing for Time, Yoko Ono states

He is a writer of great imagination and human sympathy, one who has enthralled millions of readers by building fictional worlds that are uniquely his. Murakami-san has a singular vision, as informed by pop culture as it is by deep channels of Japanese tradition.

A list of short stories by Murakami and published by the New York can be found here.

Everything That Rises Must Converge – Flannery O’Connor – Literary Roadhouse Ep: 11

Discussion Notes: Everything That Rises Must Converge

Next week’s story Tony Takitani by Haruki Murakami

This podcast is available on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spreaker. Please take a few moments to leave a review ( for Spreaker follow & heart us). Those reviews encourage us and help us be found by new listeners.

I am glad we had Jocelyn Johnson as our first guest. The sound quality is lower than usual, but she was a wonderful guest and added a lot to the discussion. Jocelyn and Maya found the story well crafted with a few key places where something felt off. Gerald enjoyed it as well and we had an interesting exchange on Class in the US verses the UK. As usual, Kenechi did not disappoint with a strong divergence of opinion. I hope you enjoy the episode. You can find the Author Spotlight for Flannery O’Connor here.

Yes, we do have a rating scale based on Bradberries! For the history of this goofy system, see Anais’ post “Read Short Stories or Ray Bradbury Cries.” If you want to design a Bradberry, we’d love to see it. Anais has the urge to create a Bradberry collage… Imagine, Bradberries on your desktop! You gave last week’s story, “The Handsomest Drowned Man In The World” by Gabriel García Márquez, 5.5 Bradberries.

On a scale of 1-6 Bradberries, how do you rate ‘Everything That Rises Must Converge‘? Tell us in the comments below or via voicemail, and we will give you the final tally on the next episode.

Next week we are reading be reading Tony Takitani by Haruki Murakami. I hope you enjoy it!

Author Spotlight: Mary Flannery O’Connor

Between Mary Flannery O’Connor’s diagnosis with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus in 1951 and her eventual death in 1964, Flannery O’Connor wrote more than two dozen short stories and two novels. Born on March 25th, 1925, in Savannah, Georgia (USA), she died on August 3rd, 1964 (aged 39) in Milledgeville, Georgia, from complications of the disease, which had also killed her father.

After a strange episode when she was a young girl, being featured on Pathé News for having a trained chicken that could walk backwards, she graduated from Peabody Laboratory School and Georgia State College for Women with a social sciences degree. Whilst she attended GSCW, she served as editor for the college literary magazine, The Corinthian, and contributed many cartoons and written pieces including essays, fiction and occasional poems.

She won a scholarship to the State University of Iowa to study journalism, but after one term she decided that journalism wasn’t for her, and asked to be transferred to the prestigious Iowa Writers’ Workshop to study for a masters in Creative Writing.

Her style has been described as ‘Southern Gothic’, filled with black humour and her characters are often morally flawed. Despite being a devout Catholic, her stories often feature fundamental Protestants. The writing is underpinned by her characters’ struggle with human sinfulness and a desire for divine grace. She wrote: “Grace changes us and change is painful.”

She also weaves dark humour through her stories, often based on the disparity between her characters’ limited perceptions and the awesome fate awaiting them. Another source of humour is frequently found in her portrayal of well-meaning liberals trying to cope with the rural South.

O’Connor was hard-working, spending each morning writing even as she struggled in her later years with lupus. She never married, relying for companionship on her close relationship with her mother and her vast correspondence. Writer Betty Hester received a weekly letter from O’Connor for over nine years.

For her work, she received many honours, including an O. Henry Award in 1957 and the National Book Award in 1972, and she was the first fiction writer born in the twentieth century to have her works collected and published by the Library of America.

The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World – Gabriel García Márquez – Literary Roadhouse Ep: 10

Discussion Notes: The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World

Next week’s story is Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor

This podcast is available on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spreaker. Please take a few moments to leave a review ( for Spreaker follow & heart us). Those reviews encourage us and help us be found by new listeners.

Wow, we found a Magical realism story Gerald liked! I was over the moon with excitement and the podcast doth bubble over. The messy video is on our Youtube page, and the glistening audio podcast is above. Check out the great article Kenechi wrote for the Author Spotlight on Gabriel García Márquez. You can feel the passion he has for this author and it’s a wonderful read.

Yes, we do have a rating scale based on Bradberries! For the history of this goofy system, see Anais’ post “Read Short Stories or Ray Bradbury Cries.” If you want to design a Bradberry, we’d love to see it. Anais has the urge to create a Bradberry collage… Imagine, Bradberries on your desktop! You gave last week’s story, “The Old Man at the Bridge” by Ernest Hemingway, 4 Bradberries.

On a scale of 1-6 Bradberries, how do you rate “The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World“? Tell us in the comments below or via voicemail, and we will give you the final tally on the next episode.

Our Special Guest Host for next week, Jocelyn Johnson chose the next story! We’ll be reading Everything That Rises Must Converge by Flannery O’Connor. I hope you enjoy it!

The Old Man at the Bridge – Ernest Hemingway – Literary Roadhouse Ep: 9

Discussion Notes: The Old Man at the Bridge

Next week’s story is The Most Handsome Drowned Man in the World by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

This podcast is available on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spreaker. Please take a few moments to leave a review ( for Spreaker follow & heart us). Those reviews encourage us and help us be found by new listeners.

This week’s story was divisive with both Kenechi and Gerald enjoying it a lot more than either Maya or Anais. That said, Maya was the most disappointed and the conversation was interesting, as Gerald and Anais tried to pinpoint the problem. The messy video is on our Youtube page, and the glistening audio podcast is above. Check out the great article on Ernest Hemingway Gerald wrote. It was a wonderful read and full of information I didn’t know.

Here is the video I promised on where to start with several authors, including Hemingway by Ashley Riordon.

And here are the links for Kenechi’s Hemingway pick, For Whom The Bell Tolls and for Anais’ book recommendation of Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Yes, we do have a rating scale based on Bradberries! For the history of this goofy system, see Anais’ post “Read Short Stories or Ray Bradbury Cries.” If you want to design a Bradberry, we’d love to see it. Anais has the urge to create a Bradberry collage… Imagine, Bradberries on your desktop! You gave last week’s story, “The Magic Chalk” by Kobo Abe, 5 Bradberries.

On a scale of 1-6 Bradberries, how do you rate “The Old Man at the Bridge“? Tell us in the comments below or via voicemail, and we will give you the final tally on the next episode.

Next week’s story is  by The Most Handsome Drowned Man In the World by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I hope you enjoy it!

The Magic Chalk – Kobo Abe – Literary Roadhouse Ep: 8

Discussion Notes: The Magic Chalk

Next Week’s Story is The Old

Man at the Bridge By Ernest Hemingway.

This podcast is available on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spreaker. Please take a few moments to leave a review ( For Spreaker follow/heart us). It helps us immensely.

This week’s story was an interesting one that prompted discussion on the difference between magical realism and fantasy, and why a reader might like one and not the other. When Anais made a point about fantasy having rules within the world and magical realism breaking rules all my brain tingles went on high alert. Great conversation, interesting story and deeply varying experiences as readers. The messy video is on our Youtube page, and the glistening audio podcast is above. Anais also wrote an excellent post on Kobo Abe that included an enlightening interview with a PhD student of Japanese Literature.

Our rating scale just got a lot more epic. Listener, Todd Williams, sent us a lovely email with a bradberry designed just for us! Thank you Tom, we love it. For the history of this goofy system, see Anais’ post “Read Short Stories or Ray Bradbury Cries.” If you want to design a bradberry, Anais has the sudden urge to create a bradberry collage… Imagine, bradberries on your desktop! You gave last week’s story, “The Laughing Man” by J.D Salinger, 4.5 Bradberries.

On a scale of 1-6 Bradberries, how do you rate “The Magic Chalk“? Tell us in the comments below or via voicemail, and we will give you the final tally on the next episode.

After Anais’ quiz, we selected “The Old Man at the Bridge” by Ernest Hemingway as next week’s story. I hope you enjoy it, I’m sure Gerald will.

The Laughing Man – J.D. Salinger – Literary Roadhouse Ep: 7

Discussion Notes: The Laughing Man

We selected “The Magic Chalk ” by Kobo Abe for next week’s story.

This podcast is available on iTunes, Stitcher and various podcatchers. If you can take a few moments to leave an iTunes and/or Stitcher review, it would help us immensely.

Oh J.D. Salinger, you made us scratch our heads. Today we sort out how a story with such great language and well drawn characters left us the minute we finished reading it. It was interesting listening to each of us come to different conclusions on the theme and meaning of The Laughing Man. We also broached the question, ‘is the podcast or the fact that we’re writers affecting how we read?’ The messy podcast is on the Youtube page, and the glistening audio version will be available Wednesday morning. Don’t forget to check out our Author’s Spotlight on J.D. Salinger to learn more about the author.

We do have a rating scale. For the history of this goofy system, see Anais’ post “Read Short Stories or Ray Bradbury Cries.” You gave last week’s story, “The Hasselblad” by Jocelyn Johnson, 3 Bradberries.

On a scale of 1-6 Bradberries, how do you rate “The Laughing Man“? Tell us in the comments below or via voicemail, and we will give you the final tally on the next episode.

After Kenechi’s horrible no good very bad quiz, we selected “The Magic Chalk ” by Kobo Abe for next week’s story. Anais was especially excited to read this story as Wikipedia described the author as a surreal nightmarish Kafka… I think perhaps this tells us too much about Anais.

The Hasselblad – Jocelyn Johnson – Literary Roadhouse Ep: 6

Discussion Notes: The Hasselblad

Next week’s story is The Laughing Man  by J.D. Salinger.

This podcast is available on iTunes, Stitcher and various podcatchers. If you can take a few moments to leave an iTunes and/or Stitcher review, it would help us immensely.

On today’s episode,  we try to sort what it was we loved about this week’s story, and what gave each of us pause… well, with the exception of Kenechi since he’s, well— Kenechi. The interesting thing was how Anais, Gerald and Maya all had a similar feeling, but for different reasons. Listening to why Kenechi enjoyed the story more fully was enlightening to both the story and our differences as readers. The messy podcast is on the Youtube page, and the glistening audio version will be available by morning. Don’t forget to check out Jocelyn Johnson’s Author Spotlight to learn more about her.

We do have a rating scale. For the history of this goofy system, see Anais’s post “Read Short Stories or Ray Bradbury Cries.” You gave last week’s story, “Amundsen” by Alice Munro, 4 Bradberries.

On a scale of 1-6 Bradberries, how do you rate “The Hasselblad“? Tell us in the comments below or via voicemail, and we will give you the final tally on the next episode.

Next week’s story is The Laughing Man  by J.D. Salinger. The story is also available as a, much easier to read, pdf starting on page 25.

Defining Magical Realism

Tomek Sętowski Tomek Sętowski

I’m not one of these readers who has been fascinated by magical realism for two decades. I first heard the term last year, in reference to Haruki Murakami. I’d only read Norwegian Wood and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, so I brushed the term off. It was only when I started to research his other novels that the term kept reappearing in reference to both Murakami and some of the most popular Latin American writers. It was hard to find a single definition, but eventually I brushed it off as little more than, a way non-western, non-white’s see the world. To put it crassly, “the Magical Negro’s hip literary Latin cousin.” This negative misperception was only intensified when I heard a podcaster wonder aloud, “why are we reading Murakami, we are supposed to be reading literary fiction not ethnic fiction.” It wasn’t an auspicious beginning to my relationship to the word or the literary community as a whole.

Then I began work on a novel that was blurring the line between the normal reality and the reality of someone whose ancestral religion was invading that reality. My novel was in the current world with current beliefs. There was nothing in it that felt like fantasy. Hearing your ancestors talking to you wasn’t something made up to me. It was an intrinsic part of my familial DNA. It was real, yet… it wasn’t. Anyone not familiar with African traditional religions could look at the story and wonder if it was fantasy. It wasn’t though… I was trying to show how I see the world, not create a new one. So I went digging and found a branch of Magical realism used for African literature called Animist realism. The hole kept getting bigger, and yet I still bristled over the word as a book written from a Christian point of view wouldn’t be considered Magical realism. “What is this thing,” I thought. After falling into a deep internet hole, I almost have a definition.

Where things are between remotely possible and impossible.

— Christina Garcia

The term Magical realism was first used in reference to art in the 1925 by the German art critic Franz Rohs. It was used for works that looked at reality in such a hyper real way that it was almost surreal. Rather than the magic of the subconscious, this was art that attempted to express the magic inherent in our world.

Isabelle Allende Isabelle Allende

The term moved quickly from being applied to the visual arts to literature influencing Latin writers such as Jorge Luis Borges, Gabriel Garia Marques and Isabelle Allende. These writers are where I’ve heard the term most frequently used as Latin American literature is currently enjoying international popularity, but the matter of fact portrayal of magical events lends itself easily to many cultures.

What happens when a highly detailed realist setting is invaded by something too strange to believe?

— Matthew Strecher

As I researched the definition of Magical realism, I discovered that many of my favorite and most spiritually challenging films were in fact classified as magical realism. I can’t forget sitting in a theater at 17 years old watching Like Water For Chocolate, or the way my skin tingled after watching Amelie. My way of seeing the world was permanently changed because for once, I recognized the way I saw the world through another artist’s eyes.

So what is Magical realism? I’m sure there are doctoral theses written on the subject. For me, it is any art that shows reality in such wonderful focus that it retains the magic of reality. It is a book or movie or film version of waking up and seeing the world before you are so awake as to remember what is real and not real. Ask me what magical realism is 50 times and I’ll give you 50 answers. I’m still deciding, but I’m also enjoying the journey to figuring it out.