My entire life, reading has been a constant. Before I could read, I would follow my mom around the house, clutching books to my chest, begging her to read them to me. (Thanks mom!) Once I could read myself, the rest was history. I would devour books, read through everything the local library stocked, and went on to study English Lit & Creative Writing in college. But this past year has been a crazy one, and I didn’t read nearly as many books as I’m used to.
I’m happy to say that this month has taken a radical turn in the reading department. At the start of July, I decided to finally finish a book I’ve stopped and started for two years now: Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami.
I decided to read on the train to work every day. I’d pull the novel out of my backpack as I boarded the train every morning and evening, slipping to the back of the car and leaning against its doors. After the first few days, I realized that it not only transported me to a beautiful, crazy fictional world (and right off of the crowded, fluorescent BART)–– but that reading for thirty minutes in the morning and evening made me feel more centered and balanced than anything else. I think connecting with hobbies and experiences that inform who you are as a person can do that.
Which leads me to this post. After reading Kafka on the Shore, I decided to pick up a novel by Virginia Woolf. I tried reading it one morning, but I could not focus. The narrative just didn’t have the chops to whisk me away to another world, like Murakami’s did. (No hate on Woolf, she’s phenomenal– just maybe not for my morning commute). So if you like being immersed in the magical landscape of someone else’s mind, keep on reading. I’m about to explain why I find Murakami so compelling, and why you might too.
When I first read Murakami through a literary lens, I was totally fascinated by how his narratives straddled the line between psychological realism and magical realism. The former caught my eye in a short story seminar freshman year– using details and moments so hyper realistic, they’d convince the reader it was all real. It creates a deeper level of engagement that I love and definitely worked to emulate in my earlier years of writing. Recognizing that was also my first foray into Narratology. Magical realism is something else, and something very special. It takes the everyday and imbues it with a sense of magic; of something more that what the rational world tells you is possible. Reading it reminds me of my wild imagination as a kid, and all the places it used to take me. Strangely enough, it also aligns with my belief of how tight knit human actions are with the surrounding natural world— something I think I managed to bring up in virtually every paper in wrote in college (ha!). It’s invigorating, and has informed my style of writing in a way I can never ignore.