Few authors deftly create characters as deeply human and mesmerizingly real as Haruki Murakami. Whether sketching biographies of quake victims in After the Quake, or capturing the derailment of a man's life in Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, he is an undisputed master of his craft. In his latest collection of short stories, Men Without Women, Murakami transports us into the lives of lonely men suffering heartbreak and self-inflicted isolation. So genuine are these characters and their problems that we forget they are not long-lost uncles we have yet to meet. While all eight stories are beautifully poignant, two are stand-outs. In "Scheherazade," Murakami paints an unpredictably tender relationship between a man under house arrest (readers assume) and his appointed caretaker.
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We live in exciting times. Ten years since the last J.R.R. Tolkien book was released (Children of Hurin), fans finally can get their hands on the latest installment: Beren and Lúthien, a chronological version of a love story that Tolkien peppers throughout some of his other works. For the non-Tolkien fans reading this, let me catch you up: J.R.R. Tolkien is dead (as of 1973). His son, Christopher Tolkien, acting as the world's foremost Tolkien scholar, has studied and compiled various drafts his father left. The 12-volume History of Middle-earth (known as "HOME" to fans) is perhaps the best example of this. Beren and Lúthien are two halves of a legendary love story and part of the world's lore. But
If you devoured a lot of pop culture over the last decade, you might wonder what Chuck Klosterman's latest volume, Chuck Klosterman X: A Highly Specific, Defiantly Incomplete History of the Early 21st Century, has to offer. My answer to this: perspective. In this collection of 38 essays culled from his work in publications like Esquire and Grantland, Klosterman analyzes various facets of pop culture ranging from zombies to Miley Cyrus, from Mountain Dew to Lou Reed. He explains, "Consumed in aggregate, this omnibus equates to a short book about music, a short book about sports, and a short book about everything else that could possibly exist." Disconnected as these subjects may seem, they are all filtered through Klosterman's unique voice. He's the anti-critic.
Let me start off by saying that the entirety of my basketball knowledge comes from Space Jam, so this is not a typical read for me. But I like trying new things, expanding my horizons, and so I thought: why not? And I'm glad I did, or else I wouldn't know what happens when a 7.5'-tall black basketball player and budding political activist meets a white Midwestern coach 37 years his senior in racially-charged 1967? For Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Coach John Wooden, this odd couple relationship becomes a memorable mentorship turned friendship. Set largely during his college years at UCLA, Coach Wooden and Me: Our 50-Year Friendship On and Off the Court, by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, is a touching tribute to Kareem's friendship with "Coach.
What happens when the idols are no longer active and the idol worshippers are all dead? This is the conversation while driving home from seeing The Pixies at The House of Blues in Boston. Take Bob Mould of Hüsker Dü and Sugar. He may still be an idol of 80s alternative rockers, but how much longer will that subculture exist? In a short time, the college radio jockeys of the mid-80s will be dead. Who will remember Bob Mould and worship his contributions, his influence? Niche music bloggers and a handful musicphiles, sure, but the mainstream has forgotten. In the context of religion, perhaps the death of worshippers portends the death of the god, or gods, too. Gods like being worshipped. It is how they derive