Friday, October 24, 2008

After the Quake

Murakami is one of my most favorite writers. His style is smooth, hip, imaginative and succinct. He looks at aspects of relationships and kinds of relationships that are so easy to gloss over. His characters are so cool. They are all outsiders with trenchant observations about the status quo.

After the Quake: Stories is a collection of six stories written with insight and depth. The stories read fast. The collection is an entertaining, two commute (for me) read that I wished lasted longer. Murakami is one of a kind and convinces me to buy into characters like giant talking frogs that I normally wouldn't.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Secret Life of Bees

The Secret Life of Bees is a pleasant read and perfect for my train ride. It's the story of a 14 year old, engaging runaway, who finds refuge with a loving family of African American women. It fits in the genre of wise women nurturing wounded women. Its backdrop is the late 60's racial conflict of the South, where those in power want to keep Jim Crow laws.

The main character Lili flees a cruel father and rescues her Black housekeeper who got arrested when she was going to register to vote. They find the family of sisters, who keep bees and pray to the Black Madonna. These sisters have their share of idioscracies and offer support to their neighbors. The two men in the story are very much on the sidelines.

The book reads fast and follows in the tradition of other novels that celebrate women helping women.

I pulled the book off my sister's shelf when I saw ads for the movie. I bet Queen Latifah et al will be good, but I'm not racing to the theater as the story wasn't that original. I'm sure I'll get the DVD though.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

The Starbucks Experience

Though I resist most franchises, Starbucks won me over when I was living in Asia. It was an oasis of home and of calm. The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary Into Extraordinary by Joshpey Michelli is a quick and fairly interesting read describing how the ubiquitious coffee chain has pioneered creative and caring service. I found it interesting to learn how local barristas cope with customers who come in with their own milk or who want the most bizarre concoctions (e.g. "15 pumps of chai, 2 pumps of cinnamon, with nonfat milk poured into a cup and all steamed together"). There are stories of true caring for the customer that you just rarely hear of. Also policies that promote cooperation rather than restrictions on the customers or neighboring stores.

Michelli's story is 100% positive. He does note some troubles Starbucks has had but then shows how they turned some lemons into lemonade. Am I too skeptical to think things can't be that rosy? I do think it's a good company and one businesses should study.

Friday, October 03, 2008


I heard Lapchareonsap, the author of the short story collection, Sightseeing.He intrigued me as he spoke of growing up in Thailand and the U.S. crossing the ocean time and again.

The stories in Sightseeing show "Thailand off the tourist route." In fact some like one about a teenage Thai-American boy who dates an American tourist, much to his mother's displeasure, the critical aspects of tourism and disdain some locals feel for foreigners. You get a feeling that you're seeing the Thai's without their party manners, what they experience daily as they go through the ritual of the army draft, care for elderly parents, tension in friendships with Cambodian refugees. The stories are pretty well written though nothing outstanding. The collection's strength lies in the subject matter.

It's good light reading on the train home after work or law school.