Out – Natsuo Kirino

This one is not for the faint of heart. The novel introduces a constellation of characters at the start, and it is difficult to see how they are all going to fit toget25365her. But fit together they do, as each plays a role in the covering of a brutal murder.

Less mystery and more thriller, Out almost reads like a journalistic expose. I never got the sense that the author wanted to me to root for any particular character, and she wasn’t shy about introducing unflattering elements – a lot of the point-of-view characters are ones that most of us would be unwilling to call friends. In many ways, the hard-to-identify-with characters became the most interesting. [Author] does an excellent job teasing out motivations and painting a picture of an often bleak and depressing Tokyo.

Out’s Tokyo is less a futuristic and culinary wonderland, and more of a bleak automaton, chugging along only due to the efforts of struggling working class people. I really enjoyed Kirino’s strengths for creating atmosphere, and her willingness to embrace some pessimism rather than attempt to staple on happy endings for all the characters.

It is a relatively hefty book. (The copy I obtained from the library clocked in at about 500 pages.) That disclaimer aside, I poured through this one like water – it was gripping and I never lost momentum.

The Danger of a Single Story – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I have to admit to a mixed impression of TED Talks. Some of them seem more flash than substance. But then there are talks like this one, which is at once funny, real and moving. Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who was kind enough to gift to the world the fantastic novel Americanah, owns the stage in delivering this moving talk.

The talk is called “The Danger of a Single Story” and in it, she discusses the limited worldview we create for ourselves when we only have only one narrative for a culture. Frankly, she says this better than I ever could, so I’m simply going to post my favorite excerpt below, but I encourage you to watch the whole talk. It’s absolutely worth the 18 minutes.

“All of these stories make me who I am. But to insist on only these negative stories is to flatten my experience and to overlook the many other stories that formed me. The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story….

I’ve always felt that it is impossible to engage properly with a place or a person without engaging with all of the stories of that place and that person The consequence of the single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.”