The Birdcage Archives

Thursday 25 March 2010

Kafka on the Shore

Hello Gentle Reader

Recently i was able to finish the pleasing novel "Kafka on the Shore," by a very talented Japanese novelists Haruki Murakami. The tale is as much metaphysical, and fairy tale quality as it is as serious and enjoyable read as well. At times i have always found that sometimes novels that deal with some form of philosophical, political, metaphysical, et cetera, undertones can often become a tedious read, because the author will focus more on those aspects of the tale/story rather then the plot as well. However Kafka on the Shore is anything but a boring and tedious read. Haruki Murakami keeps a very fresh, tale, and keeps his characters always appear to be new to you, and yet you grow some attachments to them at the same time.

Though the tale is surreal at times, and absurd, even rather shocking at times, yet a person (i am sure) will continue reading because they want to see how the events that had just happened are going to affect the future of one character or all characters. Its difficult to truly describe the feeling this novel will leave on a reader; because Haruki Murakami, is leaving a lot of the work of interpretation up to the reader themselves. what the reader gets out of this most fascinating novel is most likely going to be determined on how they read it, there opinions, and other factors that have surrounded the reader at that point in time, most likely will also influence the experience the reader is given after they read the novel.

One of the interesting aspects of the novel is that the first time a person reads the novel, they get a introduction into it. then years later, the person might read the novel again, and though the plot is the same, they get a new appreciation, some of the riddles makes sense, some of the more surreal parts or strange parts, fit into the puzzle of the novel a bit more gently rather then sitting on the edge of the puzzle, and looking awkward.

In many ways "Kafka On the Shore," is going to be like other novels of the world, that only get better and more entertaining as a person reads it. Haruki Murkami's novel will be like fine wine, as it gets older, it grows more dignified and shows a different side of itself, with every read; unlike other novels, that age like milk, and after the second time leave a soured taste in your mouth.

One thing i will say on this novel, is that, i wouldn't go in reading it, and start thinking that its about a young boy who runs away from home, to find his mother, has crazy adventures, and all the evil people are punished. its anything but that. Haruki Murakami made that quite clear, that sometimes evil people get away with their crimes, and the real people who get punished are the good people. As well as this novel does not really, tie in all the loose ends at the end, that becomes the readers job, and that's what makes Haruki Murakami's novel such a fun read, is its not going to do all the work for the reader, the reader is expected to make their own conclusions. there is a rather general plot, but the entire novel itself, is made to allow the reader to ask questions, and wonder. For anyone out there that doesn't like a novel like that, this is not one for you.

For those that do enjoy a novel that pushes you to think, and wonder, and yet are never truly given any answers, this is a novel for you. With a almost fairy tale quality (old fairy tale quality like the Brothers Grimm among others) and often absurd ideas, and surreal situations, and metaphysical questions, with a sense of reality this novel will have many questioning the novel over and over again.

Thank-you for reading gentle reader


Thursday 18 March 2010

Science Fiction and Literary Merit

Does Science Fiction have literary merit?

Margaret Atwood, George Orwell, Kazuo Ishiguro, Kobo Abe, William Gibson, Ursula K. Le Guin, and others have or are said to have written science fiction. Though the question is: does science fiction have any literary merit.

Literary Merit apparently goes to more "realistic," or "naturalistic," novels which may take place in the past or present, but are also fictional, and have themes that are rather relevant to the plot of the novel. When a person thinks of science fiction, its set in the future which can be either far far far into the future, or in the near-future. Science fiction usually deals with advanced technology, and sometimes rather bleak futures that are caused by the current events of the present. Totalitarian governments, loss of freedoms, the human races close extinction, and of course many other aspects that are seen as bleak. though i am sure some science fiction shows some Utopia's that are shining, clean, and full of happiness. Of course those aren't read much; as Leo Tolstoy put it:

"Happiness is an allegory, unhappiness a story."

Just because science fiction is set into the future does it mean that has less literary merit?

not really. I think what people fear about science fiction is its, often compared to Fantasy. The difference between Fantasy and Science Fiction though is as Brian Aldiss wrote in a Times article called: "Why don't we love science fiction?" (a link will be provided at the end) is the following (quoted by Brian Aldiss from the article):

"In a fantasy story," Aldiss says, "there's a big evil abroad, but, in the end, everything goes back to normal and everybody goes home to drink ale in the shires. In a science-fiction story, there may be a terrible evil aboard, and it may get sorted out, but the world is f***ed up forever. This is realism. Its certainly not beach reading, unless you can find a really nasty, shingly beach."

In other words does that mean Science Fiction have literary merit because its realism in the future? In my opinion yes. It does have literary merit. Aldous Huxley, wrote "Brave New World," George Orwell wrote "1984," they had literary merit, and can be (are) considered Science fiction.

Though one wonders why the Superiors of the Literature world, look down on Science Fiction as just another bunch of "penny dreadful," novels? Most likely because of their close proximity to Fantasy. Lewis Carroll the author of "Alice Adventures in Wonderland," and "Through the Looking Glass," are generally seen as nonsensical novels for children, and are completely illogical. however, underneath the child's amusement of the novel, of the cute quirky feelings we see a deeper hidden meaning that the child does not see but what we see. In many ways that is what Science Fiction might be like in many ways. It has the enjoyment of the plot, and also explores themes that might reflect human nature, culture, and society; yet instead of reading like a long drawn out text book, it comes across as reader enjoyable and scholar worthy.

"Frankenstein," by Mary Shelly, is often considered the first Science Fiction, and is often well regarded as a great novel. i do agree very much with that statement in many ways, for i have read the novel, many years ago. I do think that Mary shelly Had an act at creating a wonderful, tale of what it means to be human, and what it means to play the role of "God."

However, there are two different kinds of science fiction in my opinion. There is Science Fiction that has Literary Merit and explores themes of technology and sciences impact on society, the individual, families et cetera. Then there is the science fiction that would bore me to death, and remind me more of a Physics, Biology, Chemistry or general science text book from high school or even a more advanced course in the science department. You know the stuff that some really, really, really big science buff would read. But literary merit in the end and final point is not rare, or not even non-existent.

In closing, Science Fiction has literary merit, its just often pushed aside as second rate, compared to other literary genres. Though a few novelists and their novels, have pushed past that literary ghetto, and moved forward, to have influenced culture and literature itself. Its not impossible, and the merit and outstanding achievement is there, its just a matter of putting aside the prejudice and discrimination, one can see the themes and influence it can have.

Thank-you for reading Gentle Reader

Stay safe and stay smart


(the promised link)

wont copy on to my blog i apologize i'll figure it out how to get on here somehow. i apologize for the inconvenience


Thursday 11 March 2010

Does Margaret Atwood Write Science Fiction?

Hello Gentle Reader

It were to appear ever since the release of "Oryx and Crake," by Margaret Atwood; a famous and stunning Canadian author, that the great debate about whether or not Margaret Atwood writes science fiction has come about.

Yet a person now must wonder: "what is science fiction?"

Personally when I hear the term Science fiction, I think of complex theories, long winded stupid names, for technology, mankind’s pessimistic side of the distant future, as wells as mankind’s optimistic side of the distant future. Though there is more to it then meets the eyes that is for sure. Aliens, space squids, planets, space travel, time travel, "Star Wars," and "Star Trek," are among the quick idea's that pop into my head when I think of Science Fiction.

Though the question remains: "what is Science Fiction?"

According to this link here:

Science Fiction is:

"Literary fantasy involving the imagined impact of science on society."

"Science fiction is a genre of fiction. It differs from fantasy in that, within the context of the story, its imaginary elements are largely possible within scientifically established or scientifically postulated laws of nature (though some elements in a story might still be pure imaginative...”

"Fiction in which advanced technology and/or science is a key element; Technology which, while theoretically possible, is not yet practical."

Point taken; Science Fiction deals (generally) with individuals and societies, that deal with the impact of technology. Okay . . . that’s pretty vague in my opinion. Margaret Atwood's novel, does deal with the biological advancements, of a not too distant future, that is possible, of a super disease that could wipe out the entire world. Remember the swine flu scare? (No Mexico we still haven't forgiven you for that!) But at the sometime, it really doesn't primarily focus, on the characters interactions with technology in my opinion. It focuses on many different levels, with a lot of interaction with characters themselves, that don't even have to deal with technology all the time. Was "Oryx and Crake," science fiction? To some it may have been, to others not; and maybe to some I was even a "slipstream," novel that crossed the borders of two different literature worlds, and combined two elements to create a "genreless," novel.

Yet the debate has continued. Ursula K Le Guinn a science fiction and fantasy author (according to 'wikipedia) has even weighed on the debate. She disagrees with Margaret Atwood on the subject, and has said that she does think that Margaret Atwood does write science fiction (though not entirely) but cannot blame Margaret Atwood for not accepting the label and being thrown into the Literature Ghetto; by the Literary Bigots of the world.

However, a very famous novelists, who won the prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature in 2007 had written a series of science fiction novels, and has not backed down from choosing to do so. her name? Doris Lessing.

Is Science Fiction placed in the Literature Ghetto? perhaps at times, but life has always shown that there are exceptions, and leniency to terms.

Yet the question remains: "Does Margaret Atwood write Science Fiction?"

The answer I find myself saying is this:

Does it matter? The point is Margaret Atwood writes novels. Her novels, are special and beautiful, and are her own, as are Stephen Kings, as are Ursula K Le Guin, as are Doris Lessing, as are Yukio Mishima, as are Jonathan Carroll as are William Gibson. The real debate is not whether or not Margaret Atwood writes science fiction, the real debate is for these people in my opinion, is: Is Margaret Atwood selling out on us? Is she going to write bubblegum realism novels, for teenyboppers? Is she going to write the next Harry Potter franchise? that scares literary big wigs. they don't want a great author, going "Juvenille," in their eyes. they want a great author to remain where they are, and those Literature Bigots, see science fiction as a form of "Juvenille," literature. Which I highly disagree, some is yes. But not always. In fact, as Doris Lessing said in her own words:

"What they didn't realize was that in science fiction is some of the best social fiction of our time. I also admire the classic sort of science fiction, like
Blood Music, by Greg Bear. He's a great writer."

Whether or not Margaret Atwood writes science fiction, is the problem; or perhaps the world of Literature is afraid of the outcome. But what does count is that Margaret Atwood is a great writer, and will continue to be that way. She has her own way of writing, and in my opinion defies, the pigeonhole, jam jar labels of her work as "science fiction," or "literary fiction," by simply being her. The debate of whether or not she is a Science Fiction is not what scares people, its than they are afraid that she maybe, and may no longer be the Margaret Atwood that they have come to love. When truth is told she is still being her, they just don't like how they labeled her. The bottom line on the matter is no Margaret Atwood is not a science fiction author. Margaret Atwood is just writing because that’s what she loves to do. She explores themes, in her novels, and social situations, some of them may be in a not so far future, and some maybe, in the present, the point is, Margaret Atwood writes, and her work is her work. They are novels. They have themes. They have memorable characters. They make us think. Margaret Atwood is who she is, and even if she did write a Science Fiction novel, I would still enjoy her work, because it’s just Margaret Atwood being Margaret Atwood.

Take Care Gentle Reader's