Men without Women – Haruki Murakami : Book Review

It must’ve been ten years back. Looking into my jar of memories, I cannot find the exact calendar. Amidst the blurry mess that my subjective hearing and sort of cognizant, destructive amnesia made of my past, I somehow find a few solid, well formed artifacts, like one finds a ring from a papier-mâché of rose petals, water and milk during some Indian marriage ceremonies. Those memories are especially vivid- like me attending an awkward Physics Lab exam in my college years, or getting engrossed in the pond-fishing in our school complex when I was ten, or my first actual date with a representative of the opposite sex. I don’t then remember other stories; of me almost drowning when I was a toddler, of countless Durga Pujos I’ve spent, of some long dead relatives who are just a face in yellowed out album pages now. My existential crisis is only worsened by authors like Haruki Murakami, who continues to write stories of unknown sadnesses, and introduces me to another ocean that I need to conquer, only this one more grayer than the last, more hands to drag me down under, to choke my last bits of sanity.

I’ve been remarkably slow in reading books this year. I started well, however, finishing 4-5 books under the first one and a half months. That’s almost blazing speed for someone who reads and re-reads, and is painstakingly slow in the process. Then I was hit by a barrage of personal events: I got married, moved to a bigger apartment, and have been trying to settle down in the quagmire that is married, docile life. So when I began reading Murakami’s latest and greatest, I wanted to get back to the habit, and to keep my promise of finishing twenty five books in 2017, not realizing what I was getting into.

Men without Women is a concept. A man meets multiple women in his life; some he becomes friends with; some he makes love with; and then there are some that just exist, right on the border of his attention span, waiting, faceless existences that at times get slight warmth of notice. The man may have similar situations where he’s the mannequin, just another voice in the ether, but that often doesn’t bother him until he becomes a ‘Man without Woman’. A man who has no woman in his life – no Scheherazade to tell eccentric stories of lampreys and breaking into others houses. No once known, now a blur woman that had a thing for wonderful sex and elevator music. Not even a woman with burn scars and a woman with her breasts undulating while she rode another man in front of her husband. This profound state of systemic decay, a rather dystopian conclusion of human sentiments is ‘Men without Women’. There’s not only tragicomic sadness at play here, but Murakami plays from strength to strength narrating stories that has a familiarity, a loneliness that is often found in his works. Dr. Tokai finds love all of a sudden in a sea of nonchalance. Kafuku wants to know the lovers of his late wife to make a complete picture of a woman he never really knew fully. Kitaru, one day, vanishes, leaving his friend and his girlfriend in complete darkness – these stories are intertwined in curious cases of emotions. Men with Women, fascinated by Men without Women.

The stories, except the last one, circle around in a narrow boundary. Murakami keeps a strong bind here – a mixture of solitude and vivid abstraction with his undenying love for old music and movies. This book is so much more than a collection of stories – it’s a homage to Ernest Hemingway, a direct tribute to Franz Kafka and ‘Metamorphosis’ (one of my favorite stories in the book), and also a nod to a lot of forgotten people, standing in the queue, waiting for their turn to tell stories. I as a writer find this amazing, but I may be biased, so leaving this to personal interpretations is the best choice.

Are all men to become ‘Men without Women’ eventually? Is there an indication here, a forecasting of our lives? Yes, and no. Like a lamprey hunting for its halibut to cling on, our relationships are also clingy. Subconsciously we wait for the right moment to jump and press our jaws into one another’s body, and suck emotions from each other – that’s how we survive. The book tells you the exact thing. Don’t believe for a moment that you can swim through this madness of becoming Men without Women.

You can’t.

The hope of a city amidst pop art, cubism and neverending psychedelia

Drip. Drop. The darkness takes shape

like a building, or the sky – shifting

in between often. Lights and lives

twinkle into existence at their whim,

and then flee into ether.

Somewhere, a camera whirs

and grainy diaries are made

from whoosh-hushes at the Phoochkawallah,

dreams by a gray river, rickety trams

with nostlagia ; failed poets and cathedral bells

collide. A chime of untold stories

on an Empire State, a state of Empire~

Once, centuries ago, now

buried under slogans, curry draped

melancholy, mom’s food – vapid 

relationships of body and a maggoty 

mind, screaming for air,

breathing high, sniffing low, stifled

by undercurrents.

Distant Memories

There was a time when we sang lullabies.

Artificial – be it, yet magically believable emotions

ran wild on our skins, in our

hearts. Those

were eons ago. Now you and I

are just a mix of yellow wallpapers

and history books; the purpose lost, the intent

buried, the spark dead.

We are just timid memories, not asinine, not pungent

not the least repulsive. We are bubbles that forgot

to breathe unto air.

We are just a notion of us, of what was, and

what could never be.

What remains of Edith Finch : What really remains

Indie games are winning.

In an era where major AAA gaming franchises are either strained cash cows or a mass-marketing grand fiasco, indie games are continuing to hold the benchmark flags high. Video games to me are story driven pieces of art, an amalgamation of smart level design, breathtaking atmosphere and intuitive combat. At its core is story and gameplay mechanics. Somehow this notion seems to be unknown to even accomplished studios and people helming them (Peter Mollyneaux comes to mind). As a result we end up getting a lot of games that are unfinished. Either great story, or great combat, or a memorable soundtrack, but very few times coming together to create an unforgettable experience.

Last year, Firewatch became the raging point of discussion amongst the gaming community. A walking simulator as critics labeled games like these, Firewatch told a story that was emotional and lacked any fluff whatsoever. It was blunt and extended the right amount. Conservative in its frame narration and removing any sort of superhuman notion (which games like CoD and Battlefield have been famously known for), the game provided a riveting insight into the human psyche, painting a picture that was to last quite a while. Firewatch to me was the best game of the year, followed closely by another gem, Inside.

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What remains of Edith Finch is a different take on the Firewatch genre, but it keeps the core ideas same and evolves on the concept. Telling the story of a decaying family from the perspective of its youngest member is quite a task to take on, and this game hits it out of the park. This is not so much a game as it is an experience, a soul wrenching at that. There is an unbridled joy in freedom of expression, in freedom to choose life and death and the realities that surround us, and visiting every Finch, knowing their fate through their own words is both harrowing and spectacular. The monsters that consume them eventually are their own creations : fame, desperation, despair, fear, delusion, craving — and most of all, a relentless pursuit of their realities.

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The ending to it all was not as sad as I thought it would be, but the individual stories left a deep mark on me. After I finished this short game, the haunting, minimal soundtrack kept on harping on familiarities that I didn’t want to dig up. Somewhere I longed for my family, my own bunch of loonies with their own fallacies and their own perceptions.

This is where Edith Finch succeeds in telling a story, and being an art. It makes you think : of all possibilities that could have been, and whether we maketh our destinies or our destinies maketh us. At one point I contemplated on whether I should write it all down and get it off my chest, but this in its current state is absolutely worth experiencing.

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What remains of Edith Finch ends up telling us whatever remains of us and people we care for, in a way I have never seen told before through the world of gamepads and keystrokes.

Best Game of 2017, yet.

Nothing really matters

Ultimately, nothing matters.

All these efforts you put in to make your life happy, your loved ones content – just burns down one day, in one moment’s brisk wind, and then the ashes pile up on you and you choke. Mercy, never comes. What comes is a fourth degree burn, looking at the watery eyes and a face in so much pain that your soul writhes. Yet you are a creature of habit, a slave of conscience that is bound to make mistakes. And ultimately those mistakes form your hell, your doom, whatever you call it.

Better snuff the lights, man, it’s getting too bright in here – said nobody, yet at times the scorching rays of the sun char your skin and you can’t protest. Not because you’re mute – you’ve given it all and you’ve come short. The end result is that you’ve become such an asshole that now the world you built around you has thrown you out to the dogs. You, you alone has to fend of the harshities of life now, all alone, watching your loved ones in pain because of you and then not because of you. Both of them hurt equally, and make you bleed.

Ultimately though, nothing matters. You’re but a cosmic mistake, a blatant blasphemy on this speck of a planet, a vile scoop of soul sundae. Your arguments are invalid and out of date and shape. The long walks through the shopping malls through jungles of amused people makes you realize that they don’t matter either, that they just exist as background noise, to give your story of imperfection some color and a palette, as do you for their novels. Friends are just as convoluted messes as you are, some fake, hiding under a facade, and then some that are truly lost, believing they can save a drowning existence.

But you’ve already drowned. The tar is in your lung, the rotten carcass is already showing. You’ve just put on a new coat. You’re already dead, you just don’t know it yet.

My head becomes lighter, my visions dizzy. The water drops, warm and still poisoned with feelings – from the eyes I am watching. Those eyes mean everything to me, but I know in the end everything is going to consume me, like love does, and leave nothing but dust.

I’m slowly walking towards nothingness, and she is too.