Friday, 23 January 2015
"All I did was go to the library to borrow some books....."
The Strange Library is the first book I have read by the masterful Murakami, an author that I have always meant to read.
For my first encounter, this short story was engrossing, intriguing and a feast for the eyes. Along with the story were absolutely stunning images and interesting, odd facts, all on donated marbled pages from archives found in The London Library. This was an element that really made the book, for me, beautifully strange. The typography over pages was very effective, instantly bringing a childlike innocence into a warped dark world which made me think of Alice in Wonderland and helped link me to the main characters joint feeling of bafflement and intrigue to the situation he found himself in.
I don't want to give a synopsis of this as I feel you should read it fresh for yourself, but I will say a few words that come to mind when thinking of the book;
Lyrical darkness, cartoon-character-moodswings, fairytale-carnivalesque-oddity, subversion, playfulness, fright, magic, wide eyed interest. Oh and don't forget sheep and birds.
I recommend this as a quick, indulgent on the eyes and stinging on the mind, read. It is a brilliant book, I can't wait to read more of his work. Definitely one to read at night if you want to scare yourself a little.
Wednesday, 21 January 2015
Tuesday 13th January was another great night at The Grinning Rat's Open Mic. It was really good to be back amongst friends and sharing the stage with a brilliant selection of local musicians, including the host herself, Sophie Jill Welham, Nick Brown, Megan Hughes, Jordan Hay and our local events promoter and poetry enthusiast Amy Wragg. I was very lucky to be asked to be the showcase performance for the evening and was given the opportunity to play five of my own songs, plus a few covers, with the wonderful accompaniment of Jonathan Coy. I hadn't planned to, but I ended up performing one of my poems 'A Circle is an Open Shape' as well which went down positively.
Friday 16th I was at the Cult Cafe Bar on Ipswich Waterfront supporting the marvelous Hattie Briggs. Hattie, who has a lovely, pure voice, is currently on a mini-tour of East Anglia and has recently announced she will soon be touring with Sean Lakeman and Kathryn Roberts this spring. Her CD My Sheperd's Hut is lovely, I have been listening to it a lot since last week. I personally love Hattie's song Old Eyes which, on realising it was written about her dog, appealed to me even more. My own set went well, a mix of my own and covers, with a few requests from the audience too. It was great to see to so many friendly faces in the audience, thank you to all for coming and thank you to Mike and the team for having me to perform again.
As I have mentioned before, I do like picking books sometimes by their covers. My eye is caught by something and oops, there I go, veering course in the bookshop.
This was very much the case with The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman by Denis Theriault. I was immediately drawn by the front cover with its delicate cherry blossom, it's intriguing title and it's modest size - of late I have been reading sizeable books and in all honesty I was excited by the thought of enjoying this in one sitting. I then saw the stamp of Radio Two Book Club which, for me, is always a good sign. To further my interest, I found the main characters name was Bilodo ( my Tolkien inspired brain immediately jumped to Bilbo and again, took it as a good indication) and I was also happy to find that the story based around a communication of Haiku poetry. Being an enthusiastic, if not sometimes haphazard poet myself and an avid letter writer, these final details sold the book to me.
The Peculiar Life of a Lonely Postman revolves around just that, the life of a young, introverted postman, Bilodo, who, for thrills, reads other peoples mail. It is through this past time that he stumbles upon a beautiful exchange of Haiku poetry between two people called Gaston and Segolene. Swept up in her penmanship and elegant words, the postman soon begins to fall in love with Segolene, a woman he has never met. When a sudden, tragedy occurs, Bilodo takes action so as to keep his new found obsession of Segolene and her poetry safe, but it is through these actions that his life crashes down around him.
I felt that I met Bilodo in an odly charming manner, very similar to how I felt when I first read Jonas Jonasson's The Hundred-Year-Old-Man-Who.....' This makes sense when I realised that both books were published by Hesperus.The delivery of the first page lines 'In the meantime, he was a postman. He was twenty-seven years old' was brilliant, specifically after the mention that Bilodo, if the opportunity was made available, could master any hypothetical stair-scaling Olympic event. It clearly showed Bilodo as a young man caught in an ageing routine, living a rather seemingly solitary life and yet a man who has an underlining potential, mystery and want for more.
It was my first time reading Theriault and I am happy to say I would highly recommend him as an author. Often compared to Murakami and Julian Barnes, his craftsmanship of writing is very entrancing, yet understated, very poignant, yet, at times blunt. He en captures a truly human quality, a very honest voice, with a great sense of longing but that which makes you question the lines of privacy, right and wrong and what defines companionship. At times I couldn't believe the lengths that Bilodo was going to, teetering on the perverse and insensitive but then suddenly he would say or write something endearing and pity for the poor postman would overtake; especially during moments with the eager waitress Tania.
I particularly liked the imagery, use of metaphor and the lyrical aspect of the book; the scenes during which Bilodo moves into Gaston's apartment I felt a real sensuality with the surroundings and a very vivid image and clear understanding of how much Bilodo craved to be in his world and close to Segolene but also the reality of how wrong it was at the same time. Coinciding with this, I am a fan of the old fashioned Haiku and love letter and it was through these that again the reader was elevated into this height of poetic love that Bilodo had for Segolene. It was really enjoyable to see how the Haiku's progressed to Tanka alongside the progressing relationship of Bilodo and Segolene and back again;
“And so the history of the haiku’s birth repeated itself : stripped of superfluous words…the naked essence of the poetry emerged.”
I was also pleased that there was a Q & A at the back where Theriault discussed his writing process, inspiration for the story and also the history and philosophy of the Haiku and its ancestor, the Tanka.
A quote that stuck with me was regarding different types of writing and how Theriault describes them;
"The screenwriter is never far behind the novelist, but he stays in the shadows, it is necessary to make good literature."
Overall, a small book with big worth. I have to say that the ending left me wanting more? I appreciated the metaphorical link and how it supported the books Zen philosophy but I was expecting just a little more.
Still, I will be lending this to many friends for when they want a train ride companion, Haiku inspiration or a short, truly evocative story about a well meaning, if not slightly deluded,
young postman named Bilodo.