ONE OF FIVE NEW VINTAGE FUTURE CLASSIC READING GUIDE EDITIONS
In 1978, Haruki Murakami was 29 and running a jazz bar in downtown Tokyo. One April day, the impulse to write a novel came to him suddenly while watching a baseball game. That first novel, Hear the Wind Sing, won a new writers' award and was published the following year. More followed, including A Wild Sheep Chase and Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, but it was Norwegian Wood, published in 1987, which turned Murakami from a writer into a phenomenon. His books became bestsellers, were translated into many languages, including English, and the door was thrown wide open to Murakami's unique and addictive fictional universe.Murakami writes with admirable discipline, producing ten pages a day, after which he runs ten kilometres (he began long-distance running in 1982 and has participated in numerous marathons and races), works on translations, and then reads, listens to records and cooks. His passions colour his non-fiction output, from What I Talk About When I Talk About Running to Absolutely On Music, and they also seep into his novels and short stories, providing quotidian moments in his otherwise freewheeling flights of imaginative inquiry. In works such as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, 1Q84 and Men Without Women, his distinctive blend of the mysterious and the everyday, of melancholy and humour, continues to enchant readers, ensuring Murakami's place as one of the world's most acclaimed and well-loved writers.
After his wife disappears, unemployed 30-year-old paralegal Toru Okada gets embroiled in a surreal, sprawling drama‘part detective story, part history lesson, part metaphysical speculation, part satire‘that marks Japanese novelist Murakami's (Dance Dance Dance) most ambitious work to date. As Okada searches for his wife (in an abandoned lot near his home, and in a city park), he encounters characters who are dream-like projections of his own muted fears and desires‘among them, a precocious, death-obsessed, 16-year-old neighbor and Okada's brother-in-law, a sinister politician. Peculiar events and strange coincidences abound. A mysterious woman calls Okada regularly, insisting on phone sex. A mystical experience at the bottom of a dry well leaves him with a blue stain on his cheek. Although Okada seems to be sleepwalking through his adventures, new acquaintances feel compelled to share their life stories with him and offer wild tales of violence and passion, tales that contrast strongly with the numbness that settles like a DeLillo-esque cloud over the novel's events (one character, witness to gruesome wartime torture, speaks of having "burned up the very core of my life"). As Okada discovers, these disparate characters are linked by the memory of the 1939 massacre of Japanese troops by Soviet tanks at Nomonhan on the Manchurian border, and this massacre comes to symbolize the senseless violence and political evils, past and present, that haunt Japan in the second half of the 20th century. Ingeniously, Murakami links history to a detective story that uses a mannered realism and metaphysical speculation to catapult the narrator into the surreal place where mysteries are solved and evil is confronted. (Oct.)
Kumiko Okada has a satisfying career and comes from a wealthy family. Toru, her husband, is a lawyer. Little mars this young Tokyo couple's life other than the disappearance of their cat. From that minor event, however, their life together devolves into a confusing web of intrigue. Kumiko disappears, telling Toru not to look for her. Then a collection of mystics, clairvoyants, and healers enter Toru's life. Reeling, he begins to spend hours in meditation at the bottom of a dry well, becoming a healer of sorts, until his work brings him into conflict with Kumiko's powerful brother-in-law‘a conflict cast in moral terms, with Kumiko's soul in the balance. This very long journey is much less magical than simply strained. There are detours into the history of Japan's occupation of Manchuria and accounts of Japanese prisoners' lives in Siberian coal mines. Though interesting in parts, taken as a whole, this latest from Murakami (Dance, Dance, Dance, LJ 1/94) labors diligently toward some larger message but fails in the attempt.‘Paul E. Hutchison, Bellefonte, Pa.
Murakami writes of contemporary Japan, urban alienation and
journey's of self-discovery, and in this book he combines
recollections of the war with metaphysics, dreams and
hallucinations into a powerful and impressionistic work *
Murakami weaves these textured layers of reality into a shot-silk garment of deceptive beauty * Independent on Sunday *
Critics have variously likened him to Raymond Carver, Raymond Chandler, Arthur C. Clarke, Don DeLillo, Philip K. Dick, Bret Easton Ellis and Thomas Pynchon - a roster so ill assorted as to suggest Murakami is in fact an original * New York Times *
Deeply philosophical and teasingly perplexing, it is impossible to put down * Daily Telegraph *
How does Murakami manage to make poetry while writing of contemporary life and emotions? I am weak-kneed with admiration * Independent on Sunday *