Haruki Murakami

Book review: Killing Commendatore

Killing Commendatore.Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

Ah, Murakami. My old buddy. Ole pal.

His works are among the first I came to when I began reading weirder literature, and so I feel great affection for him. I loved his strangeness, and then – later – I loved his plainer works, his more natural narratives. And perhaps, above all, his non-fiction titles.

And every time he puts out a new one, I snap it up. Because in each title is the kernel of hope that I’ll be dazzled the way I was when I first grabbed hold of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Kind of akin to how I keep buying albums by bands I idolised in university, in the hope that their albums will spark the joy I’ve been seeking since undergrad days.

Book review: Wind/Pinball: Two Novels

Wind/Pinball: Two NovelsWind/Pinball: Two Novels by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So, here we have two of Murakami’s earliest books placed back in print after thirty years. This reprint helps those outside Japan compare the gnomic author’s beginnings to his current work, without resorting to organ-sale prices for the original Kodansha English Library printing.

I was excited to read these, I must admit, largely because what’s presented are until-now missing parts of the author’s series of Rat novels. The problem is that they seem to offer not much more than a basic introduction to the characters, and a collection of random observations. There’s a lack of focus that’s frustrating (even by Murakami standards) and I assume this is why the books were out of English circulation for so long – apparently the author felt them unworthy of translation after the initial in-Japan run. (more…)

Book review: The Strange Library

The Strange LibraryThe Strange Library by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This slim volume is an illustrated, extended short story. It’s not quite beefy enough to be a novella, but it is worth checking out, largely because it’s an example of Murakami’s weirdness corralled into a smaller space. You won’t find thousands of pages to leaf through here, but the world created is no less striking than that of 1Q84 .

(And there’s even a sheep man! Alongside the enormous talking bird, that is.)

The story tells of a gone-wrong trip to the library. We know that Murakami’s translation of crime fiction has informed his other work – this feels as if the author had inhaled the inherent creepiness of Roald Dahl instead of the gruffness of Raymond Chandler. It could be a kids’ book, except I’m uncertain how many children would be convinced to read by the prospect of imprisonment by a brains-slurping librarian. (more…)

Book review: 1Q84

1Q841Q84 by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

1Q84 is a meandering work. It’s not a quick read, though that’s not because it’s difficult: rather, it’s because Murakami takes his time savouring plot elements. He chews the characters over. In some ways, it’s Murakami-by-numbers – there’s ear fetishism, music fetishism and other standard tropes – but it also bears an unexpected shout-out to his non-fiction writing. Underground‘s explanation of cult terrorism certainly appears to have influenced the story here – it’s hard to see some of the cult imagery here without Shoko Asahara coming to mind.

At heart, this is a love story. It’s surrounded by weirdness, and it slips between worlds, but it’s the tale of two people and their journey to find each other. Sounds twee, but Murakami has always been about solitude and its alternatives. (more…)

Book review: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage: A novelColorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage: A novel by Haruki Murakami
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A caveat, before we begin: Murakami is one of my favourite authors. So chances are I was bound to dig this anyway. But I must confess – when I begin every new work of his, I find myself questioning whether I really like what I’m reading. Whether I understand it. I’ve read his stuff so long I feel that liking it out of the gate is almost a default setting – but I was happy to feel slightly conflicted, at least, with this new one.

I’ve yet to slog my way through IQ84 so I can’t say exactly how Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His years of Pilgrimage compares to its predecessor. But if we divide the author’s work into “weird” and “normal”, then this falls into the latter. If anything, it reminded me of a variation on some of the themes touched on in Norwegian Wood – though “love, loss and youth” is a pretty wide remit.

Some claim Murakami is a one-trick pony, but I don’t really buy it. (more…)