Haruki Murakami

Book Review of Men Without Women

men without womenAfter a hectic week, it was beautiful to spend a few quiet moment each night with the prose of Haruki Murakami, one of my favourite authors.  Short stories is such a fitting way to experience his odd stories of longing and love.

All of these stories explore – oddly enough – Men Without Women.  Some have loved and lost, others have chosen solitude. Some wonder about what the future brings and one or two are even hopeful.  But all have the emotional depth and clear, crisp lyricism readers have come to expect.  A standout for me was ‘Gregor Samsa in Love’ which imagines the famous character from Kafka reawakening in his old human body which feels soft, alien and vulnerable.  ‘Kino’ touches on the supernatural world that often runs through Murakami’s writing. ‘Scheherezade’ explores the power of storytelling and the capacity of words to create something like love.

Another refined and masterful collection by someone who feels full of quiet but real passion.  This is how I would write if I could.

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Book Review of White Apples

carroll applesSome books are a door opening. Others are a door closing. I don’t really know which this is yet – but I don’t suppose it matters.  It’s a door.

White Apples was a book recommended by someone with clearly exquisite taste in literature. It is a beautiful Murakami-Esque journey into and beyond death.

Vincent Ettrich, a charming womaniser, was rescued from beyond the veil by his true love – a woman who has left him many times. Why? Because she is carrying his child. And this is no ordinary child – but one who is destined to save the world. But in order to do this, he needs his father to teach him what he learned in purgatory.

Magnificent, gruesome and glorious, this is a book about destiny and how we can choose it. The characters and – strangely – many of their situations felt so familiar to me. It’s been a long time since I have related to something this much – which sounds just about as odd as it was. Hard to put down.

Book Review of Murakami’s Wind/Pinball

tumblr_nsidhfBxhH1rxrxxxo1_1280Haruki Murakami’s publishing firm is no doubt trying to capitalise on the Japanese author’s incredible success in the English speaking world.  Here, they have taken two of his unpublished novellas from the very beginning of his writing career, and bundled them together in a special edition for fans.  And while I am not complaining – Murakami is a genius – this really is probably for fans only.

Of the two stories, Wind (or Hear the Wind Sing) is the superior.  It focuses on themes of isolation and alienation, exploring the relationship between our unnamed narrator and a women with four fingers on one hand who he continues to run into.  His typical beauty and strangeness runs through the gentle narrative.

Pinball is far more unusual,  where another – or possibly the same – unnamed narrator discusses his relationship with a pair of twins who turn up and move in with him one day, and his fascination with a particular pinball machine.

Through both narratives intersperses events from the life of The Rat, a staple in a few Murakami novels.

Definitely not his best work, although Wind is vintage Murakami and a beautiful read.

 

Book Review of The Strange Library

w527705A young student walks into the library just before closing, with questions about the taxation system of the Ottoman Empire.  He encounters a strange librarian who tells him he will be unable to leave the library until he memorises the contents of three old books on the subject.  Once imprisoned, he meets a man dressed like a sheep and a transparent mute girl of incredible beauty. Worried about his mother and his bird at home, the boy joins with the girl and the sheep man and together they plot their escape.

This short novella, aimed mainly at fans or young adults, has many connections to Murakami’s other work and its true to it on tone and style.  Most of us die-hard fans will be looking for more, but this is certainly a collector’s item, made even more beautiful by the illustrations.

A lovely jaunt into the world of Murakami.

Book Review of Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and his Years of Pilgrimage

colourlessMurakami is best known for his magical realism, novels that transcend the everyday world and enter universes that only he can imagine.  Yet despite this, his writing speaks volumes about the plain old human condition – characters who are isolates and seek to reach out to those around them. In Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki, like Norwegian Wood, he leaves behind the magical realism and focuses instead of the inner world of his main character.

Tsukuru Tazaki is a loner – but he wasn’t always.  He was once in a tightly-knit group of five, who grew up together in Nagoya.  Each member of the group, excluding Tsukuru, had a surname associated with a colour.  This made Tsukuru always feel a little on the outer, the colourless and dull member of the group.  One day, after he has left Nagoya to study in Tokyo, he finds that all his friends have abandoned him.  They never speak to him again. Sixteen years later,  he meets a woman he believes he could be close to. She encourages him to find out what happened all those years ago, and finally put his years of pilgrimage to rest.

Its a finely crafted novel of deep personal insight.  Many call Murakami the finest novelist of our time, and this is yet another exquisite example of his spare but purposeful prose.  I prefer the novels with a bit of magical realism, Kafka on the Shore being one of my favourites of all time, but this was still a hauntingly beautiful read.  My only sadness is that it will be years before we get another.

 

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

images-1Two types of people will be attracted to this text – fans of Murakami’s writing, or runners. Iread it for the first reason. Hoping for an insight into this unusual mind who is able to create such fantastical story lines.

While you are given an insight into Murakami’s as a writer – and also of him as a man of some insight – he never talks about where he gets his ideas.
Read only if you are into running.

 

IQ84

 

This was a bit of a monster, in that it took me so long to get through it.And while Haruki Murakami is pretty much a total genius, this one was a little bit of a slog.

The plot is his usual brilliance – two young Japanese people are drawn into a parallel world where the “Little People” create  many “Air Chrysalis” for some strange agenda.  Chapters are told alternatively from each of the perspectives of Tengo, a young mathematician and aspiring writer who agrees to ghost write a disjointed but fascinating novel detailing the work of the “Little People” mentioned above, and Aomame, a personal trainer and assassin who went to school with Tengo and was drawn to him as a fellow outsider.  While nothing more than a brief clasp of each other’s hand occurs in school, they remember each other as adults and secretly yearn to see the other again.  But it is only in the parallel world, a different form of the 1984 the novel is set in (which Aomame dubs ‘IQ84’) to bring them together.  Realising their need to find each other and discover a way out takes up much of the novel – although there are long periods whereby Murakami could have sped this process up which frustrated me a little.  But this is simply not his style.  he takes his time, exploring all recesses of his characters minds, and even demonstrating them doing the minute day-t0-day activities he seems to love so so much.

The mystery of what is going on will keep you going after a confusing start, and it is (as always) worth pursuing the narrative through to the end.  Don’t expect any hard and fast answers – this isn’t Hollywood after all.  Just enjoy the ride into a very strange but beautiful mind.