Tag Archives: Knopf

Review: Novelist as a Vocation

Novelist as a Vocation

Novelist as a Vocation
By Haruki Murakami
Translated by Philip Gabriel & Ted Goossen
Knopf, 9780451494641, November2022, 224pp.

The Short of It:

Fans of Murakami will enjoy this personal look at writing from his point of view.

The Rest of It:

If you’ve been around me for awhile then you know how much I love Murakami. I wait around, endlessly for new books to be translated and when they are, I have been known to beg and plead for a review copy. This was no exception.

Novelist as a Vocation is a collection of short essays about how he came to be a novelist. It touches on process but it’s more about the internal dialogue he had with himself about becoming a writer. One day, he just decided he was going to write a novel. He didn’t feel all that equipped to do so but he was a dedicated reader, and knew what he liked to read and felt that he had stories to tell. That’s it.

Some of his earlier works were not a big hit, at first. His short fiction pieces that were published in the New York Times is what made his name known in literary circles and from there, his fan base grew. His odd characters and fantastical story elements have found a place in my heart His writing is what I call a “palate cleanser”.  I read all types of books but when I need a reset, I reach for Murakami. I often have to settle for a re-read since the translation process usually means books are about 3-4 years apart.

I was surprised at how much he shares in this new book. He is usually pretty private. An everyday guy, doing everyday things, who just happens to be an award winning author but he lets us in with this one. As readers we see his insecurities at play. I do believe that being vulnerable is what makes his stories so unique.  His imagination and character development have no boundaries. I love this about him.

If you are curious about Murakami and have never read one of his novels, pick up Kafka on the Shore or The Windup Bird Chronicle. These two books will give you a very good idea of his writing style. After that, you will want to know more about him as a novelist. That’s where Novelist as a Vocation comes in. Recommend.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

Review: Crying in H Mart

Crying in H Mart

Crying in H Mart
By Michelle Zauner
Knopf, 9780525657743, April 2021, 256pp.

The Short of It:

If not for the food talk, I’m not sure I would have liked this one as much as I did.

The Rest of It:

What many of you may not know is that Crying in H Mart is a memoir.

In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she tells of growing up one of the few Asian American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother’s particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother’s tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food. ~ Indiebound

The relationship that Zauner and her mother shared was strained at best. Asian mothers are known to be critical and Zauner’s mom was certainly that, but she was also ill and dying and yet, the two were still like oil and water except for when it came to food. The food of Zauner’s childhood takes center stage here and there is comfort to be had as she takes the reader by the hand and walks them through the aisles of H Mart. Literally. I was so taken by the mention of those foods that I sought out an H Mart near me (35 miles away) so I could experience what she described in the book. Unfortunately, I visited the story in the evening so all the food stalls were closed. I did leave with some Korean snacks though for our book club meeting.

It was hard to have empathy for Zauner. She seemed a little bratty although she was a young adult when her mom was diagnosed with cancer. Her exasperation over her father’s handling of the diagnosis was difficult to read at times. People handle grief in different ways so her demanding him to react a certain way made for tense reading.

I do feel that she wrote this with a bit of space between herself and her story. At times she felt very disconnected from the story she was telling. Self-preservation? Perhaps. However, it kept me from getting fully invested in the story. I liked it, and felt she had something to say but not sure it came across as intended.

It was good for discussion though and the snacks were great.

Source: Purchased
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.