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#1 M. Leary

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Posted 25 July 2006 - 04:36 AM

I thought I would start a Murakami thread as I am sure he is widely read about these parts. After finishing A Wild Sheep Chase I have been left with more than usual share of questions that tend to aggregate while I read anything by Murakami. The storyline is reasonably simple and clean cut, but there seems to be this constellation of social and political issues around the book that I don't have a grasp on. Has anyone out there read this book with a more than cursory understanding of contemporary Japanese history and culture? This book is like a nice glass of wine. I detect notes of Ayn Rand, Raymond Carver, and something else, but I can't seem to place my finger on it.

A side note: about halfway through the book he references a billboard advertisement for whisky featuring a "middle-aged character actor" with a "furrowed brow." I wonder if Sofia Coppola read this book long ago and filed that image away in the back of her mind.

Edited by MLeary, 25 July 2006 - 04:37 AM.


#2 Andrew

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Posted 25 July 2006 - 04:40 PM

An author surely worthy of his own thread - he's been talked about once or twice before around here. Great timing, as I just started 'Sputnik Sweetheart' yesterday.

Sorry, I can't answer your specific question. Have you read Murakami's only nonfiction work, Underground: The Tokyo Gas Attack and the Japanese Psyche? From the reviews, it sounds like a fascinating read, and it might furnish some answers for you.

#3 Doug C

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Posted 25 July 2006 - 04:52 PM

QUOTE(MLeary @ Jul 25 2006, 02:36 AM) View Post

A side note: about halfway through the book he references a billboard advertisement for whisky featuring a "middle-aged character actor" with a "furrowed brow." I wonder if Sofia Coppola read this book long ago and filed that image away in the back of her mind.

Or maybe she stepped out of her hotel long enough to see any one of the Harrison Ford whisky ads in Tokyo.

Edited by Doug C, 25 July 2006 - 04:52 PM.


#4 M. Leary

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Posted 25 July 2006 - 05:13 PM

QUOTE(Andrew @ Jul 25 2006, 05:40 PM) View Post

it might furnish some answers for you.


Sounds like a Murakami plotline.

QUOTE(Doug C @ Jul 25 2006, 05:52 PM) View Post

Or maybe she stepped out of her hotel long enough to see any one of the Harrison Ford whisky ads in Tokyo.


I am pretty sure he was the face of Kirin for a while, but I may be mistaken. So far I have only found Orson Welles advertising "Nikka Whisky," Sammy Davis Jr. advertising "Suntory White." There is a long line of Suntori peddlers out there (including Sir Sean), I just can't find a comprehensive list.

But there is always this gem, Kurosawa directing a Suntori commercial with the help of Coppola.

Edited by MLeary, 25 July 2006 - 05:19 PM.


#5 Andrew

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Posted 26 July 2006 - 04:26 PM

BTW, Murakami has a collection of short stories coming out next month, entitled 'Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman.'

#6 opus

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Posted 26 July 2006 - 07:25 PM

The only Murakami that I've read is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which I found enjoyable, captivating, and frustrating... often at the same time. I've got Sputnik Sweetheart, though I've only read the first chapter or so.

#7 Andrew

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Posted 26 July 2006 - 09:38 PM

I've read 3 of his works: Wind-up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore, and Sputnik Sweetheart. I also started Wild Sheep Chase, but couldn't get into it. 'Bird' and 'Kafka' were the most engrossing stories for me, with wild, at times surreal, storylines and oddly interesting characters. In each of these tales, he's been quite masterful at capturing the sense of interpersonal and intrapsychic isolation that is such a part of 21st Century life.

#8 M. Leary

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Posted 27 July 2006 - 03:23 AM

I am still mulling over what I think about 'Bird' and 'Kafka.' I can't decide whether I like the way Murakami tends to conclude his novels by having a character actually wade through the symbolic universe that had been hinted at throughout the storyline (like Homer becoming computerized in that Simpsons episode). I like the way he allows us to peek at symbols through interior monologue, but sometimes wish his stories would close a few chapters sooner. A Wild Sheep Chase heads the same direction, wherein the story collapses upon itself in a bit of surrealist explanatory dialogue as a conclusion. As I said before though, I am still missing a few puzzle pieces that I don't have access to so I am probably speaking out of turn.


QUOTE(Andrew @ Jul 26 2006, 05:26 PM) View Post

BTW, Murakami has a collection of short stories coming out next month, entitled 'Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman.'


I caught one of these stories in the Guardian a while back, it was at least on par with his past short stories.

#9 Ijiwaru Sensei

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Posted 01 August 2006 - 08:00 AM

My favorite Murakami book so far has been Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World. As he deals with the conflict between Boku/Watashi's conscious and unconscious selves through a split narrative, he provides some rather subtle commentary on the emptiness of contemporary Japanese culture, particularly its fascination with materialism.

This book has the typical Murakami weirdness as it is at once a horror/action/sci-fi/fantasy/western/hard-boiled detective story. It's a 400 hundred page fun ride.


#10 Thom Jurek (unregistered)

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Posted 19 July 2011 - 08:15 AM

The first paragraph of Haruki Murakami's mammoth forthcoming novel IQ84 (in English translation) were officially leaked on Tuesday by the Millions.(When released in Japan, it sold 100,000 copies the first week.) Go here to read the entry and the graph. It will be published in English in Oct 25, 2011 as one unabridged volume (it was three in Japan).

Edited by Thom Jurek, 19 July 2011 - 08:31 AM.


#11 Andrew

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Posted 19 July 2011 - 06:58 PM

He had me at 'Janacek's Sinfonietta.'

#12 Christian

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Posted 08 November 2011 - 08:51 PM

I've taken a more recent Murakami thread, which included the two posts immediately above this one, and merged it with this pre-existing thread on the author.

#13 Christian

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Posted 08 November 2011 - 09:08 PM

I finished Norwegian Wood today -- the fourth Murakami book I've read this year. I had heard Wood is Murakami's most accessible novel, and also one of his most popular, at least in Japan.

I'm surprised to report that I ... well, I think I hated this book.

Maybe "hate" is too strong a word. I was deeply disappointed in the story. I never much cared about anyone in the book, and rarely felt any real emotion while reading it. The long discourses on sex struck me as a young man's fantasies -- they went on and on, and were quite explicit, although as with Murakami's other sex writing, rarely arousing. I've found my reaction to his sex passages surprisingly muted. I'm not sure what he wants me to feel during those passages; I'm happy not to find them titillating, and think that's Murakami's intent. Still, I wonder sometimes why his other novels have those scenes.

Speaking of those other novels, I'm coming around to the conclusion that Kafka on the Shore, which was my first Murakami and which we read as part of an A&F Book Club, is my favorite Murakami novel. Maybe I have a fondness for it because I read it first (although I had problems with the novel while reading it; the fondness developed as I read his other work). It seems a bit tighter than Wind Up Bird Chronicle. The fantastical/mystical elements that I stumbled over sometimes in Kafka now seem critical to what I think of when I think of the author. Norwegian Wood doesn't have this, and that, maybe more than anything else I mentioned above, hurts the book. I kept waiting for something unexpectedly bizarre to happen in Wood.

I'm now looking forward to the craziness of 1Q84, which has received mixed reviews from the Washington Post and New York Times. But those reviews describe a book that sounds like it contains the things about Murakami's work that I've enjoyed. Even if the nearly 1,000-page book has an inconclusive, or in some ways unsatisfactory ending, it sounds like the journey getting to that point is worth the effort.

But not yet. I need a break from Murakami for a little while.

Edited by Christian, 08 November 2011 - 09:10 PM.


#14 Andrew

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Posted 06 January 2012 - 03:54 PM

Is anyone else reading Murakami's latest, 1Q84? I'm a third of the way in, and quite enjoying it. Much of it is classic Murakami - not-yet intersecting storylines involving two main characters eking out eccentric, detached existences, with prose and settings that manage to be both hyperreal and surreal. There are some interesting new developments, however, as this book has a lot more to say about the creative process, with 2 major characters being novelists. There's also a much stronger emphasis on religious themes, particularly why people are drawn to oppressive cults, an intriguing turn given Murakami's previous nonfiction work, an oral history of Aum Shinrikyo's sarin gas attack on a Tokyo subway in 1995.

#15 Anders

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Posted 07 January 2012 - 02:33 PM

Is anyone else reading Murakami's latest, 1Q84? I'm a third of the way in, and quite enjoying it. Much of it is classic Murakami - not-yet intersecting storylines involving two main characters eking out eccentric, detached existences, with prose and settings that manage to be both hyperreal and surreal. There are some interesting new developments, however, as this book has a lot more to say about the creative process, with 2 major characters being novelists. There's also a much stronger emphasis on religious themes, particularly why people are drawn to oppressive cults, an intriguing turn given Murakami's previous nonfiction work, an oral history of Aum Shinrikyo's sarin gas attack on a Tokyo subway in 1995.


I'm also about a third into it. We'll have to compare notes when we finish.

So far one other thing that stood out to me is in comparison with THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATOO, the treatment of abuse by men in authority. Specifically, Rubin and Gabriel use the phrase "Men who hate women" at one point in their translation, which was of course the original Swedish title of Larsson's novel. I can't wait to see where the cult stuff is going. Also, Murakami is so good at revealing information that there were a couple of points at which I was quite stunned. Did you notice yet the fact that Aomame and Tengo are in parallel worlds?

#16 Andrew

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Posted 08 January 2012 - 01:05 AM

Yes, we should definitely compare notes.

In response to your blocked out query, by the end of Book 1, the question for me is whether
Spoiler


#17 Christian

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Posted 04 November 2012 - 09:34 PM

I just posted on Andrew's Facebook account that I'd started into the audio version of "1Q84," then came to A&F to (re)discover that he'd posted some thoughts on the novel here. Did you ever finish the novel, Andrew? (Or Anders?) I'm tempted to read your spoiler comments, but I'm only three discs into a 38-disc (!) unabridged audiobook and would like to get to the 1/3 point before I peek.

Let's see. That would be ... disc 12 or so? Yeah. So I've got a ways to go.

I wanted to not like this book. I've been warned by others here at A&F not to bother with it, that it's too strange, perverse. But I've got to admit: The early-going is gripping for the most part. I have no idea what's going on, but don't think I'm supposed to. I suppose I'll have a clearer picture somewhere around, oh, say, disc 22? Posted Image

Edited by Christian, 04 November 2012 - 09:35 PM.


#18 Anders

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 11:12 AM

I finished it. I liked it quite a bit. It's very much of a piece with KAFKA ON THE SHORE and AFTER DARK (which reads to me like a fantastic film treatment).

I might like 1Q84 best of those three because of the fascinating cult aspect. It's something that Murakami has some insight into, I think. But if you're not on board with Murakami at this point, you might not like it that much. There's nothing new for him here.

#19 Andrew

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Posted 05 November 2012 - 09:42 PM

I liked it, too, but found it dragged in places, and overall could've benefitted by losing a couple of hundred pages. Middle-of-the-road Murakami for me, behind Wind Up Bird and Norwegian Wood, and probably a notch behind Kafka, too.

#20 Christian

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Posted 10 November 2012 - 05:55 PM

A week later, I'm five discs into the story -- my usual pace. I like the Tengo storyline, although the book's cult aspect is, from what I gather, about to be introduced. I'm not sure what to think of the Aomame story, but I'm still early.