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1Q84 (Books 1, 2 and 3) by Haruki Murakami January 15, 2012

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#1Q84 #Murakami #WIN

Long anticipated, the English translation of Murakami’s latest novel arrived this autumn to the expected fanfare and hype (not least from myself). Split into a slightly indulgent three volumes (presented in two books), the novel is typical Murakami, though probably not vintage.

That’s not to say it isn’t enjoyable. The comforting, familiar tropes of a Murakami world always bring a certain warmth: elegant Japanese cities and quaint small towns; specific descriptions of music, drinks and food preparation; stoic protagonists with (relatively) simple lives shaken by events outside of their control. Not to mention the supernatural element behind it all that’s never fully explained.


Norwegian Wood (2011) April 3, 2011

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It is, in many ways, the impossible adaptation. The popularity of his novels makes it surprising that there has been just one ‘Murakami’ film before. The fact that the plots often feature the oddly supernatural, or not very much actually happening, makes it less surprising. Yet, as Jun Ichikawa’s Tony Takitani showed, capturing the essence of what makes the novels means capturing the inner-monologue, the feeling that drives the story, is what’s most important.

A friend said to me once that Tony Takitani was the “most beautifully pointless film” she’d ever seen. Slow-moving, but gorgeously filmed, and full of emotion (at least that that readers of the original short story would have interpreted), its point was perhaps lost on those who fell asleep during the snail’s pace.

So what of Norwegian Wood, the most eagerly awaited of Murakami adaptations? It is, in many ways, as faithful an adaptation as we might get —  like Ichikawa, director Tran Anh Hung captures perfectly the incredible feel of a Murakami novel. The whole thing is like a crisp, gorgeous dream, every scene dripping with angst and emotion. That it’s as slow as Tony Takitani perhaps again shows its faithfulness to the source material.

(SPOILERS AHEAD and some of this might not make sense to those who haven’t read the novel) (more…)

‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’ by Haruki Murakami July 7, 2010

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Murakami What I Talk About When I Talk About Running cover

I like Murakami’s fiction, but I also like his non-fiction. Underground was an unexpectedly brilliant take on the Tokyo Gas Attacks and, as I previously wrote, an interesting form of journalism.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running isn’t quite as polished as that. It’s a collection of random thoughts and essays loosely strung together by a narrative about Murakami’s training.

Sometimes he’ll stick with the standard narrative — his training for the New York Marathon — but he’ll veer off wildly in between that as he tells you what he thinks, well, while he’s running.

For Murakami fans like myself, this is brilliant. What we like about the author is his view of the world, his opinions, his perspectives. Murakami touches on almost everything, from his career change to writing, to his childhood, love, music, different world cultures as he’s experienced them. Sometimes this will be matter of fact, but interesting takes on life in Hawaii or Boston. Other times he’ll flirt a little with climate change scepticism. And on occasion he’ll say something really insightful, like his approach to writing, how it makes him feel, or what, to him, is really important about life.

It’s beautifully written (and translated) but not especially well structured. He says he didn’t intend to write a proper book, hence the slightly odd ending of a disappointing New York marathon and a couple of chapters on the triathlon, which offers more of a traditional uplifting (in a sense) finish.

It’s the usual philosophical/existential/slightly ponderous, a little morose, mostly matter-of-fact Murakami that we loves, and short enough that its shortcomings don’t annoy or distract too much.

And yes, it did kind of make me want to run more. Although I will never be that motivated!

The Wind-up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami February 7, 2010

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Wind up bird cover

I just found this post languishing in the bottom of my drafts folder. Goodness knows how long it’s been sitting there for. It’s not even that good an analysis (which is probably why I didn’t publish it right away). But it seems a waste to trash it, so here you go.

Last night I finished a book for the first time in months. I’m very pleased with myself, especially since I love reading but never seem to make time to do it these days. Such is the legacy of working in news — you never want to fricking read anything!

The book I finished was always going to be a Murakami novel. They’re the only things that can sustain my interest these days it seems! Wind-up Bird is supposedly Murakami’s opus. Certainly it feels pretty hefty at close to 600 pages, with multiple characters flitting in and out and lots of random changes of storytelling and viewpoint (though, yes, most Murakami is like that). And Kafka on the Shore was certainly as long as well.

Did I like it though? I did. Yes, I did feel that it was a tad too long — the story just seemed to drift for the final 200 pages or so, unlike Kafka, which built nicely to a crescendo. But the majority of the novel really sucks you in: the usual dreamy Murakami descriptions, the lonely, down-to-earth hero, the troubled woman he has to save. The quirkiness of the characters is also something to be admired. Sure, there are weirdo’s in all his novels, but few with the charm of May Kasahara, or the tangibility (is that a word?) of Creta and Malta Kano.

I was satisfied with the ending too. A good Murakami ending: happy, but not totally resolved.

‘South of the Border, West of the Sun’ by Haruki Murakami October 28, 2008

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A relatively short Murakami novel at less than 200 pages, but I really feel brevity enhances a Murakami story. I’m a big fan of his short stories and having just previously finished his opus A Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, I have to admit I was suffering a bit of reader’s fatigue.

So maybe it’s the brevity of the story, but South of Border shot right into my favourite Murakami stories, heck, maybe even one of my favourite books.

(Slight spoiler warning. Maybe don’t read if you really don’t want to know) (more…)