Nov. 2015 Advocate: The Retirees’ Voice


When I like an author, I read all of their books

by John Kirk, CSM economics professor emeritus & member of DART (District Association of Retired Teachers)

I began teaching at CSM in the Fall of 1969 and ended 42 years later in the Spring of 2011. Since that time, we have been taking care of pets, tending our own garden, looking after our aging parents, doing crossword puzzles, learning how to use iPhones, iPods, iMacs, iPads and other electronic devices, going to a few Giants’ games, answering way too many robocalls on our land line, reading the daily New York Times, waiting for the mail delivery, going to the Farmers market, reading a number of magazines, supporting left-of-center political causes, attending some ACT and Berkeley Rep plays, visiting 6 Hands Winery in the delta, spending time hiking and fishing in the Sierra, reading many novels, and other things like that that retired people do.

On the issue of reading novels, I happened to notice a review of, at the time, a new book by the Japanese author, Haruki Murakami, entitled, 1Q84. It got my attention because I have always been interested in the genre of dystopian novels — Huxley’s Brave New World, Orwell’s 1984, Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle and Player Piano, Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, Zamyatin’s We — and 1Q84 is an obvious reference to 1984. So I put a hold on the book at the Redwood City Public Library.

The book fascinated me. It was so very different from any other book I had read. In college and graduate school, I took enough Literature classes to earn a minor in English primarily to offset the dryness of the courses in my major — Economics. I didn’t earn the highest grades in those literature classes because although I could identify how I felt about the particular novel we were studying I could not always delineate what techniques the author employed to make me feel that way.

When I like an author, I often make a point of reading every book he or she has written. I do this not because I think that each work is going to be as good as the last, but because I am compulsive. For example, I have read every book by Hermann Hesse, Kurt Vonnegut, Franz Kafka, E.M. Forster, and most of the books of Karen Joy Fowler (retired CSM Math teacher Mike Burke’s sister) and James Joyce (I have been slowly reading Ulysses for the last 45 years and am only on page 405 and haven’t got past page 2 of Finnegans Wake).

So too with Murakami. After 1Q84, I plowed through the following list of Murakami’s books (not in any particular order: Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Dance Dance Dance, The Wind-up Bird Chronicle, South of the Border/West of the Sun, Norwegian Wood, A Wild Sheep Chase, Sputnik Sweetheart, Kafka on the Shore, After Dark, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage, The Strange Library, and his many collections of short stories: The Elephant Vanishes: Stories, Vintage Murakami, Blind Willow/Sleeping Woman, After the Quake.

I just put a hold on a recently published book of two short novels which he wrote early in his career entitled Hear the Wind Sing/ Pinball.

Why don’t you try one of his books? Let me know what you think.