Did I tell you I am usually horrible at luck games but often lucky when it comes to contests and such?
This means if I go to a casino, I’d never win money. The slot machines will eat up my money so much so that I’ve given up. I don’t take that kind of risk with my money. That is why I don’t like family holidays which centre around Genting Highlands. A total waste of time and money.
And then there’s the chill.
I don’t tolerate cold very well (not that heat gets any better). At least with heat, I can shower or I can switch on my room aircond. With the cold, I can’t even feel my feet and hands and wrapping up like a Michelin man makes me look like a whale. Or a blimp.
So over the years (actually many years) I’ve won a number of prizes. My biggest win was a 5D4N trip for two to Bangkok and Pattaya in 2001. This was a funny win – it was like God was playing a trick on me. You see it was a Campbell Soup contest and I’d been bitching about how awful their ads were. I’d entered their slogan-writing contest for the fun of it and when I won third prize, I was like – “Really?”
Usually the contests I’d win were those which needed creative slogans. I love those. Those contests give me an edge because I love playing with words and making sentences rhyme. He he.
This year, I won myself two prizes – one was a set of miniature Monin syrups (it was a contest from Flavours magazine of which I am a loyal subscriber – been one for the past 7 years) and the other was a 900-page book by Haruki Murakami.
Of course the book has a special place in my heart.
I’d entered the contest because I had bought 2 Murakami novels from Borders here in Queensbay Mall early this year. I have never read Murakami before this although a lot of people have been gushing about this Japanese writer. He was something else. The something else bordered on mysticism and awe and an incredible sense of otherworldliness. And this was just about the writer!
When I read the books I’d bought, I went “eh?” They were dark and sombre, and had underpinnings of unfulfilled teenage angst and puberty blues. The kind of story where you reminisce about past loves and sexual encounters and wonder if you made the right soul mate choice.
Yes. It was strangely very much like Japanese films.
But the magic of Murakami is that he is able to hook you so freaking bad that you cannot put his book down. Even if the theme is dark and melancholic. It’s not like a page-turner like The Da Vinci Code because you want to solve the mystery. It’s a page-turner because it grips you and never lets you go. The characters become friends. You just want to know what happens.
And a lot happens within a Murakami book.
So it was with such glee that I collected my prize, Murakami’s latest bestseller, IQ84 from Borders when they called me up a few months ago. It was heavier than most books with a cover that was not exactly cheerful and happy. (When is Murakami cheerful and happy? I bet the man never smiles.)
And I immediately put it away.
I did that because I knew if I got started on page 1, I’d never do anything else. His stories are fantastical journeys, where things are not what they seem. Where women turn out to be assassins and where modern culture infuses Japanese norms. He educates you about classical music, jazz, classic literature, wine, cats and wars. All wrapped up in love. That’s his classic theme.
Oh and there’s sex too. Lots of Freudian connotations. Nothing like a romance novel sex.
It’s like he put a hex on the book.
The moment you start reading, you cannot stop reading.
So things get undone, work gets left behind, laundry piles up, even hunger gets ignored if only to savour the next 20 pages of his book.
But two weeks ago, I decided to read my prize.
And I’m done with it. I spent a week blazing through the 900 plus pages. I had to.
How could I live with Murakami lying in wait in my store room just calling out to me?
Honestly, I am starting to love his work. If you ask me what genre it is, I don’t know. Murakami is hard to pigeonhole. His plots play with your mind, challenging you to accept fantastical imaginings and makes you re-look your world, if only to wonder if you are who you are.
They’re dangerous books because they will make you fall in love with the world again.
Because he writes about classical music, jazz, classic literature, wine, cats and wars. And love. And melancholy.
That’s not too bad because at this moment, we’ve perhaps become a bit too jaded for our own good.