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Book Review – The Strange Library

Wtf did I just read. 

The Strange Library chronicles the nightmarish experiences of a young boy in the city library.

And it made zero sense.

I think the one goal of this novella must’ve been to leave its reader super fucking confused. 

It didn’t end, it just abruptly stopped with little to no commotion and, as I turned the last page, thinking it was completely done, there was one more passing thought that left me more confused than before. And I started reading the passing thought thinking, oh, okay, here. He’s finally going to reveal why this library basically ate a small child. 

BUT NO!

I didn’t get that. I got even more befuddled, like someone had kicked my head in. And then I thanked God I hadn’t wasted more time on the novella than I already had.

I think the one thing that struck me more than anything else about this weird piece of literature was the blatant lack of emotion. 

There was no emotion. The young narrator didn’t react in any way–it seemed–to the horrible circumstances he’d found himself in. I would have been horrified, begging the heavens for rescue, devastated for my life, which wouldn’t go on, and all that I had done, which would never see a heroic end. 

He was none of those things. He was accepting almost, as if library’s basically terrorized children everyday. 

This novella might have been salvageable if there had been something, anything, in the vain of expression. Give us a beating heart. Gives us shaking breaths. GIVE US SOMETHING!!

When I first picked up the novella and read the back, I was thinking something along the lines of The Pagemaster. Something cool and fun. A mini adventure of sorts. 

But it was just all sorts of random and confusing and fifty shades of fucked up, and the drawings, while unique and enticing in a totally creepy way, didn’t really seem like they were necessary. I didn’t get anything from them. I didn’t look at them and get a picture of the scene I had just read in my head. I looked at them and wondered what the hell it was, because it was impossible to distinguish.

And another thing, I wonder if this book is built on symbolism. Because there are inanimate objects that basically have roles in the novel. And if it is built on symbolism, I’m extremely disappointed. I like to think of myself as the type of person who can at least decipher one or two symbols in a novel. 

Take The Catcher in the Rye for instance. I picked up on the ducks, but totally missed the red hunting hat. (I know, I know).

I don’t know whether Haruki, the author, just emphasized these objects for no apparent reason whatsoever, or if he totally missed the mark on symbolism, but I am gravely dumbfounded, and a little horrified by how strange and uneasy this novel left me. 

It’s possible this work is deeply seeded in metaphor, and that’s why I got tripped up so, but it still felt entirely pointless. Is it really about a library? Is it more about his mom’s waning health? It’s almost like… WHO FUCKING CARES? Because we don’t get to know or grown to feel for the character because we’re never let into his head. 

It read a bit like the first draft of a manuscript a critique partner had sent me. The language was boring and the plot left a lot to the imagination and lacked basic exposition. 

I’m not going to judge his other works based on this weird novella, because I’m positive they’re amazing, but I am a little curious as to how one finds themselves not only dreaming this up but actually going through the process of getting it down on paper. 

15/38

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