Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami.

I love Murakami, his novels have this sense of impending danger, it's as though you are pulled into the pages of a nightmare which actually feels it could be plausible at the start. Obviously the stories are not real, but he takes everyday scenario's and turns them into an evil nightmarish situation . In this one we start off in a lift. Is it going up, is it going down, is it moving, will the doors ever open?

Over the festive period I have been thinking of finishing off a couple of pieces of artwork. One is a series of photographs of coloured paperclips to turn into fabric to make scarves with, the second is a Venetian mask. (I bought three blank masks in 2007 and finally started decorating them this summer. I have done a cat inspired by Gustav Klimt and a dark burgundy feathery number, this final one is to be all white, with feathers and a unicorn skull.) 

So in a mind-boggling moment I picked a book at random from my bookcase and started reading. Then I became slightly unnerved when paperclips and unicorn skulls started featuring on the pages I was turning! When I got to page 76 I laughed "I couldn't shake the feeling that things weren't normal. Was I being staked out by paperclips?...First animal skulls, now paperclips." As I read on I started to realise that this book was dealing with streams of human consciousness, OK what was that book I read last month? The Conspiracy Against the Human Race...which dealt with streams of the human consciousness! This was probably more mind-blowing than any other Murakami novel I have ever read and I thought whether we like it or not odd things do happen which have a resonance within ourselves. 

Anyway, once I had recovered from the fact that this random book had so many similarities to things I'd be up to recently, I started looking at what the book was actually about. It was an interesting read, and one that provokes deep thought. Hard-Boiled Wonderland is one world, the End of the World is another. When you think about it, everyone has an End of the World. It is not necessarily our death bed moment either, it can be the end of one thing before we start on a new journey. Any event can lead to an End of the World moment; how many times do we hear the phrase "it's not the end of the world" when a mistake is made, maybe it is, maybe it's the end of one world as we know it and the start of a new one! The mind is full of chaos, we try self-improvement, but this is in our conscious state, what about our other world, our unconscious one? Can we alter that too? Can we have two states of mind, can we have two worlds in our head?

The book unites the thoughts of the East and West, at times there is a sadness and other times farcical situations. The human condition is shown on all levels, from deep kindness and compassion, to being underwhelmed and detached from the materialistic components of life. There are some very poignant passages. I've heard people tell me they are no good at anything. This is untrue. everyone is good at something. "Everyone must have one thing that they can excel at. It's just a matter of drawing it out, isn't it? But school doesn't know how to draw it out. It crushes the gift. It's no wonder most people never get to be what they want to be. They just get ground down." 

The above remark is made following a discussion about whether school made a difference to a person's life; that you could go to school and come out unable to speak foreign languages, play musical instruments, play the stock market or even ride a horse! It makes you question whether only the popular children benefited from school, and the run of the mill children came out with a general education but no life affirming skills. Would you be better off if you learnt from growing up in the real world instead? 

If you like to philosophise about matters this is the book for you. I love books which are a little strange, that make me think, that make me disappear to the dark depths of my mind. An animal can live happily without being consciously aware of death, but as a human we need it, or do we? Can we survive if our conscious state has been removed. I found this a beautifully written novel at times imitating sci-fi and in parts describing a wonderful Utopian life. I was more than happy to be "led around, even led astray, by my own mind."