Haruki Murakami fella, it's easier to understand why his fans are as loyal and passionate as they are. He's pretty freakin' good. As of this writing, I've finished 1.87 of his novels (all of Norwegian Wood, and most of Kafka on the Shore), which admittedly, is a small sample size of his work. But I've got a few more in the queue before his magnum opus 1Q84 comes out Oct. 25.
And so reading two of his novels in a month has made me think some thoughts. Profound, eh? So here are some unrelated (and rather unacademic) thoughts about reading Murakami, from a new member of his legion of fiercely loyal fans.
— Murakami is a clear influence on Ida Hattemer-Higgins, who penned my favorite novel of the year, The History of History. (my review) Unfortunately, I didn't realize that when I read The History of History this spring, because I hadn't yet read anything by Murakami. Had I known that then, I'd be much deeper into Murakami's catalog by now.
— As further evidence that Amazon is trying to systematically destroy the world, it has Kafka On The Shore labeled as "Reading Level: Young Adult." Nice one, jerks. What's next? Twilight is a "Modern Classic"?
— Have you seen that blurb and book review cliché "effortless prose?" What the hell does it mean? Presumably it attempts to convey the idea that the prose appears to have required little effort to write because it flows so smoothly. Of course, that idea's absurd. Even though it's hyperbolic, we know the writing required tons of effort. For Murakami's fiction, however, that cliché just feels apt. It just does. To read Murakami is to devour 100 pages without any notion of time passing. I'm not a particularly speedy reader, but I've read 404 pages of Kafka On The Shore in five days. That pace is a new record for me. How much of the credit for how smooth Murakami reads in English goes to the translator, I have no idea. But someone did something really well to make reading "difficult" fiction so easy.
— Anybody else planning to re-read 1984 in anticipation of 1Q84? Yeah, me too.
— John Updike wrote in the NY Times that Kafka On The Shore is a "real page-turner." He also called it an "insistently metaphysical mind-bender." Those two descriptions next to each other make as little sense to me as the term "effortless prose" used to. But Updike is right. The novel's both. Murakami's all about blowing up traditional notions of fiction, it seems.
— Both titles of the novels I've read of his are actually song titles. Norwegian Wood is a Beatles song, and the plot draws from the first few lines. Kafka On The Shore is a fictional song, the lyrics for which roughly form the "rules" of the novel. As someone who obsessively reads the lyrics of songs I like, I love this story-telling/titling strategy!
— Here's a simple syllogism:
Haruki Murakami likes music.
Because I like music, I like novelists who like music.
Therefore, I like Haruki Murakami.
— Here's another one:
Haruki Murakami seems to like baseball.
Because I like baseball, I like novelists who like baseball.
Therefore, I like Haruki Murakami.
— Next up on my Summer of Murakami list is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and then Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World...and then 1Q84, which is about a thousand pages. Yes!
Do you think thoughts about reading Haruki Murakami? Let me hear 'em. Please comment below!
(Also, though I have absolutely no idea how I'm going to do this yet, look for some somewhat coherent thoughts about Kafka On The Shore on Thursday.)