"I cannot live without books." -- Thomas Jefferson

Monday, April 6, 2009

Haruki Murakami

Two years ago, Haruki Murakami called out to me from every corner of New York City. I spent a lot of time wandering Manhattan and Brooklyn picking up used books from guys who set up tables selling their entire libraries. Treasures and trash. Forlorn novels tossed out of tenement windows, pages yellowed and fused. I lugged my growing backpack of books into subways and bars and cafes. Everywhere I went strangers came up to me and whispered Murakami. Then they vanished.

Eventually I took the hint. I picked up a copy of the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, payed full price and everything. I walked and read. Strange things happen to you when you read Murakami. You find that you're in Tokyo. You find that you are routed in the real world of skyscrapers and trains. You look for your missing cat. You drink beer. You meet a lot of strangers who seem to understand you better than you do yourself. You shrug it off and delve into japanese history, take longer walks. Cats begin to speak. Your sex-life gets very, very interesting. The stories in the news directly effect you. Violence knocks at your door. Mysteries grab your arms and pull. Ghosts appear. Eventually you come to grips with the fact that the place you are in can by no standard definition be called reality.

The way I got into Murakami was something perhaps only Murakami would write. I'm very glad I got into his world. It is stunning, shocking, lovely and haunting.

I recommend Kafka on the Shore for starters, though, you really can't go wrong.


Caroline said...

You are a total badass. The drawing and the post rock.

Jonathan Mendelsohn said...

This is a great post, and I agree with much of what you said. I think Kafka on the Shore might just be Murakami's masterpiece. But then, a romantic, Norwegian Wood is probably my all time favourite of his novels. But then I am a sucker for sad love stories. Like Miles Davis on paper.

I was so lucky as to discover Murakami whilst living in Japan. Talk about the surreal within the surreal. My initial experience of reading him was the feeling of being in a waking dream. No, that's not it. More like his work started to invade my dreams - that he literally had me dreaming differently.

He is my favourite living writer. He is an inpsiration. I find his books are like fantasy but for grown-ups and literary. Funny but deep, adventurous but melancholy. He's said that balance is what he most seeks out in his work. Indeed.

If curious, I've written a bunch about him at my site - Probably Because I Have To (www.jonathanmendelsohn.blogspot.com), including the experience of getting to see him speak at the New Yorker Festival a couple years back.

Again, thanks for a great post.