I have this strange feeling that I’m not myself anymore. It’s hard to put into words, but I guess it’s like I was fast asleep, and someone came, disassembled me, and hurriedly put me back together again. That sort of feeling. ~Haruki Murakami
I believe intellectual growth is maximized when the brain is stretched beyond the limits with which it is comfortable pushing understanding into areas that may be uncomfortable. That stretching can be in a single direction, along a dedicated strand of knowledge for deep understanding, say, like a PHD of physics. Or, the brain can be stretched in many dimensions creating a person with a wide breadth of knowledge.
Single direction learning sacrifices breadth to maximize depth of knowledge while multi dimensional stretching sacrifices depth for breadth.
I prefer the latter, prefer to have a wide spectrum of knowledge, for, I believe, a person with wide spectrum knowledge is a more well rounded individual, a more interesting member of society. Also, I get bored rather quickly so pursuing knowledge along a single strand would quickly become drudgery.
One way I pursue breadth of knowledge, width of understanding is to read books by a wide variety of authors. I intentionally seek out works originally penned in languages other than English. These books are pregnant with cultural nuances which birth in me understanding much different than if I read only books authored in my own culture. It is these books that most stretch my understanding of reality.
This past year I discovered a Japanese author, Haruki Murakami, who has quickly become a favorite. Over the past year, I read 6 of his books and am currently on a 7th:
- After Dark by Haruki Murakami
- After the Quake by Haruki Murakami
- The Windup Bird Chronicles by Haruki Murakami
- Vanishing Elephant by Haruki Murakami
- Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami
- Dance, Dance, Dance by Haruki Murakami
- A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami (Active)
His style has surreal tendencies in the vein of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and frequently writes in the first person. The first person writing caught me off guard initially but has since become quite comfortable. I feel like I am behind the main characters eyes, like I am in the story. I believe this is a peculiarity of quality first person writing
I am continually amazed at Haruki’s descriptions. He captures subtleties of human actions that help make the characters concrete, he expresses emotion in pictures that capture my focus and leave me with a sense of awe, all while crafting intricate stories that flow seamlessly from beginning to end but never along a straight line. He meanders, takes tangents, settles in eddies before crashing against rocks then tumbles over the falls before finally coming to a rich and satisfying end.