Last summer, I set myself the slightly insane task of reading two novels a week purely for pleasure, in other words, not related to my degree course. Originally, this ‘project’ was only meant to last for my sixteen week summer break and had been something I had been looking forward to for a long time as I had had only limited access to English language books when I was studying in Paris for a year (the time when I really should have started writing a blog). I expected that I wouldn’t be able to continue the pace during term time. However, nearly ten months later, possibly at the expense of getting a decent result in my degree, I am still managing to read two novels a week, having possibly borrowed more fiction from the university than the non-fiction I am supposed to be reading for my course. Some people ruin their degrees by drinking too many Jagerbombs at toga parties. I, however, may ruin my degree by spending too much of my time reading 653 page novels by Jonathan Franzen instead of journal articles about political analysis. And if my blogging word count starts getting higher than my project word count…well, that’s when I’ll know I have a bit of a problem.
At the moment I am reading ‘Dance Dance Dance’ by Haruki Murakami. As a New York Times reviewer once said of Murakami: “Critics have variously likened him to Raymond Carver, Raymond Chandler, Arthur C. Clarke, Don DeLillo, Philip K. Dick, Bret Easton Ellis and Thomas Pynchon – a roster so ill assorted as to suggest Murakami is in fact an original.” This is so very, very true. It seems impossible to think of something original and unique to say about this original and unique novelist and I am ashamed to say that I only properly discovered his work last October when I finally got hold of a copy of ‘Norwegian Wood’ from my local library. Since then, I have now read seven of his novels and I’m hoping to get my hands on a copy of ‘1Q84’ very soon. I didn’t know before I started reading ‘Dance Dance Dance’ that it is actually a sequel to ‘A Wild Sheep Chase’ which is probably my least favourite Murakami novel out of those that I’ve read so far. That one was just a bit too surreal for me. ‘Dance Dance Dance’, however, has been much easier to get into despite the ‘plot’ being something of a slow-burner as seems to be typical of Murakami’s style.
I think I really will have to give up reading two novels a week when I start my postgraduate course in September. That is, unless I am able to find a meaningful way to slip in my thoughts about Japanese surrealist fiction into my essays about European Union foreign policy. Sadly, this somehow seems unlikely.